2019 Virginia Tech Hokies Football Predictions and Odds to Win National Championship
Man, can bad seasons ever sneak up on you in this sport. Through his first two seasons at Virginia Tech, Justin Fuente was looking like a genius. He won 10 games his first year, then nine, and had reinvigorated a great program that lost a little mojo in the last couple of years of the Frank Beamer era. And heading into last year, expectations were again high. Another season of double-digit wins seemed like a real possibility. Even a likelihood.
And through the first two weeks things were on track. Then things went sideways in dramatic fashion. A horrifying loss. Injuries. Drama. Youth. On and on it went. A program that has made a bowl for 26 straight years - a very impressive streak - came as close as you can to ending the streak without actually doing so. And now we are left to figure out whether last year was just an anomaly or the beginning of the end of the progress the team was obviously making.
2018 in a Nutshell
27.5. That's the number that will haunt Virginia Tech fans for a long, long time. After a big win at Florida State, and a massacre of William & Mary, the team was a very strong 27.5-point favorite at Old Dominion. And they felt like they would be a bargain at that price after just winning their first two games by a combined 66 points. So, of course, the Hokies lost by two touchdowns. And QB Josh Jackson was lost for the season to a broken leg. It was the beginning of the end of any hopes for a respectable season. They rebounded to win at Duke but then they got rolled up by Notre Dame. Then they beat North Carolina but then got beat up by Georgia Tech. Then Boston College. Then Pitt. And Miami. They were 4-6 and in serious trouble. Only an overtime win against Virginia, and then a win over Marshall, got them back to .500. They didn't stay there for long, though. They drew a berth in the Military Bowl against Cincinnati and lost that to fall to 6-7 - the first time the program has had a losing record since 1992.
Key Additions and Departures
The Hokies did not have a player drafted this year. That's not the kind of place a program like this wants to find itself in. But that doesn't mean that they don't have significant departures to deal with. Josh Jackson is gone, leaving senior Ryan Willis, who was decent enough as starter after Jackson was injured last year but isn't flashy, as the man under center. Eric Kumah, the second-leading receiver last year, is one of two receivers who transferred out of the program, but the receiving corps remains in good shape. In fact, if injuries aren't a factor again this year, then they could have one of the top receiver groups in the conference. What Willis lacks in creativity or mobility, he makes up for with a huge arm, so the receivers could be in for a solid year. Top rusher Steven Peoples is gone, but he wasn't explosive, and the next two runners are back, so the running game should be fine. It's going to be a young and inexperienced offensive line, though, so much of what this offense can do will depend on how quickly the offensive line can come together.
Last year's defensive performance was a total debacle. Defensive coordinator Bud Foster is one of the better defensive minds out there, but last year his group finished 85th in scoring defense and 98th in total yards allowed. They were very young - nine defensive starters in the bowl game were in their first two years with the program. That is some of the problem. But the bigger problem is that they were very sloppy. They got in their own way far too often. The most consistent performer on the defense was DT Ricky Walker, and he's gone. They have 11 guys back with starting experience on that side of the ball. And Foster is back for his 25th year as DC. It remains to be seen if coach and players can fix what ailed them last year without a major injection of new blood.
The recruiting class ranks 26th in the country and third in the conference, which is fairly consistent with where they were last year. Two of the top three recruits were guards, so there is little chance we will see them this year. The focus for many of the other top recruits was on athletic versatility, so it remains to be seen how much of a role they play in the short term. Youth is not something the team is generally lacking right now, so they probably won't be in a hurry to use too many of the youngsters too soon.
Biggest Area of Concern
It's the defense. They were just so bad last year. There is another year of experience with most players, and it's not like there wasn't some talent there. But things were just so ugly that it feels uncertain that they will be improved. And they need to improve significantly.
Virginia Tech Hokies Schedule Analysis
They open at Boston College, but the focus of all fans will be on the rematch with Old Dominion that comes next. Then comes a game against Furman and one against Duke. If this team has fixed even part of what was wrong last year, then they should open 4-0. A game at Miami should be manageable, and then Rhode Island and North Carolina are as well. The first -- and really only -- test that feels like it will certainly be too much is a trip to Notre Dame. Wake Forest, at Georgia Tech, Pitt, and at Virginia. That last game is always particularly important to Hokies fans - Tech has a 15-year winning streak against their rival. This is a decent enough schedule. If things fall apart again for the Hokies, then they won't have their schedule to blame. Of course, their schedule last year wasn't any tougher.
2019-20 Virginia Tech Hokies Betting Odds and Trends
BetOnline has the Hokies at +10000 to win the national title, which ties them with USC as the 21st choice among the 27 teams listed. Bovada has them as the co-third choice to win the ACC at +2200 along with Florida State and Syracuse. Clemson is the prohibitive -375 favorite, though, so oddsmakers don't see the conference as any kind of race.
2019-20 Virginia Tech Hokies Predictions and College Football Picks
I expect the Hokies to improve substantially. They hopefully won't have injury luck quite as bad, or quite as much drama surrounding them. And they are a little older. They aren't a threat to do any serious damage, but eight or nine wins is a reasonable target.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
Get all of this Weeks College Football Picks
Get all of this Weeks guaranteed Expert College Football Picks