When the Buckeyes return home after the their week 1 battle against Navy, they’ll do it against an unfamiliar foe, as Frank Beamer and Virginia Tech will make their first trip to Columbus for the first time in either school’s history.
Frank Beamer has etched himself in the annals of college football coaches history with his unique brand of Beamer ball, hallmarked by great strong defense coupled with awesome special teams play and an offense that will do just enough to win ballgames. Hmmmm… where have we heard that before?
This game will also mark the first time since 2010 (Marshall) that the Bucks will open at home under the lights.
The Hokies are coming off a very disappointing 8-5 2013 season. In Tech’s defense, they did lose games to Alabama, Duke, and finally a 42-12 loss to UCLA in the Hyundai Sun Bowl. Va Tech finished second in the ACC-Coastal division and their loss to Duke inevitably cost themselves a trip to Charlotte and the ACC Championship Game. However, they were able to beat their arch rivals from UVA 16-6 to end their regular season… and we all know how important it is to win the rivalry game.
On offense, Va Tech loses quarterback Logan Thomas (some Hokie fans will tell you that’s not a bad thing) and welcome in Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer. Brewer will battle 3 other qb’s this fall to see who ends up taking the snaps in Blacksburg.
Tech’s ground game should be better, if only because it would be tough to be worse. The Hokies had one of the most inept rushing attacks in Frank Beamer’s 27 seasons in Blacksburg last year, averaging only 119.8 yards per game. But sophomore Trey Edmunds (675 yards, 10 TDs) is back after suffering a broken leg in the regular-season finale, and 224-pound freshman Marshawn Williams might be the answer to the Hokies’ short-yardage woes. It’ll help if Tech’s underperforming offensive line, which returns five players who started games last year, can come together under Stacy Searels, the unit’s third coach in as many years.
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The top three receivers, Joshua Stanford, Willie Byrn and Demitri Knowles, are back. All three caught at least 40 passes last year, but it’s the tight ends who have offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler most excited. Ryan Malleck returns from a shoulder injury that cost him all of 2013, Kalvin Cline is looking to build off a solid freshman year, and converted quarterback Bucky Hodges, a 6’6″, 243-pounder with 4.5 speed, will be a matchup nightmare for opponents.
Defense is where Virginia Tech has made its money over the years. For almost 27 years, defensive coordinator Bud Foster has had his “lunch pail mentality” and it has led to some of the best defenses in the country. Foster lost his best player to the NFL in Kyle Fuller as well as seven other seniors who’ve been anchors for the Hokies; Foster has some reloading to do with a group that ranked fourth nationally last season.
The first team separated itself in the spring, especially up front where Luther Maddy turned down a chance at the NFL to be the anchor the Hokies need on the interior, and 257-pound tackle Corey Marshall has been a handful because of his quickness. Dadi Nicolas and Ken Ekanem have been bookend pass-rushers with good burst off the edge.
The secondary is solid, with beyond-their-years sophomores Kendall Fuller and Brandon Facyson locking down the cornerback spots. They combined for 11 interceptions as true freshmen. Seniors Kyshoen Jarrett and Detrick Bonner man the safety positions, rounding out the most experienced unit on the defense. It’s not the biggest defense Foster has had, but it might be among the quickest, one that has the potential to be plenty disruptive.
This game will be closer than a lot of people think. The Hokies are no strangers to opening up with big games as they’ve played Alabama (’13), Boise St (’10), and Alabama again (’09) as openers in recent past. All of those games were at neutral sites so let’s home the bright lights of the Shoe and 108,000 (after the expansion this summer) screaming Buckeye fans is enough to stop the Hokies.
My prediction……..Ohio State 31 Virginia Tech 17.
Stop back next Thursday as I’ll preview the week 3 match up versus the Golden Flashes of Kent State!