Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Sunday, October 9, 2016 at 9:03 PM
The first couple weeks for Virginia Tech under new head coach Justin Fuentes left something to be desired. The Hokies started with an unimpressive non-cover win over Liberty, 36-13 as a (-23) favorite. After a promising start against Tennessee, Virginia Tech lost that one 45-24 and couldn’t cover as a (+11) dog. The last three weeks have seen a dramatic turnaround that was punctuated by one of Saturday’s surprising results, the Hokies’ 34-3 win at North Carolina while getting (+3.5).
Tech’s three-week run began innocently enough against Boston College. It spoke volumes that in spite of BC’s anemic offense, Virginia Tech was a fairly short (-6.5) favorite. It was market disrespect and the market paid the price. Tech won 49-0.
That was followed by a home date with East Carolina. The line for this one jumped to (-14.5), but it wasn’t enough. Virginia Tech won 54-17. Then came Saturday’s trip to Chapel Hill. Tar Heel quarterback Mitch Trubisky was drawing good reviews from careful observers. The Hokie defense forced him into a 13/33 passing for 58 yards. That’s a shocking 1.8 yards-per-attempt for a good quarterback.
It was vintage Bud Foster, the longtime Virginia Tech defensive coordinator. Foster was passed over when school legend Frank Beamer retired following last season, as the school opted to go for the young, offensive-minded Fuentes. It may turn out that persuading Foster to stay on as coordinator was Fuentes’ biggest win. Virginia Tech’s run defense has been dominant. In the three-game win streak, no one has rushed for over 100 yards and the Hokies rank 11th in the nation in scoring defense.
We should point out that Fuentes’ specialty, the offense isn’t doing too badly either. They rank 26th nationally in points scored and the new head coach appears to have a quarterback who can run his system in Jerod Evans.
Evans is completing a respectable 63% of his passes, but the real key is his ability to make big plays while still avoiding mistakes. The yards-per-attempt is excellent, at 8.7 and the TD-INT ratio of 15-1 speaks for itself.
Virginia Tech’s biggest games are still ahead. After a road game at Syracuse, they’ll play two big Thursday Night games in succession. The first one will be in Blacksburg, against Miami. The second will be at Pitt. Those games, on October 20 and October 27, are Tech’s opportunity to put a stranglehold on the ACC’s Coastal Division heading into November.
It should be noted that the Hokies are still available at 4-1 simply to win the Coastal, a division that does not include Clemson, Louisville or Florida State. VT already has a rout of division rival North Carolina under their belt, giving them a leg up in the race and a decent price to boot.