ODU has really struggled out of the gate. However, I think that the Monarchs have this game identified as their Super Bowl and I expect them to deliver their best effort.
Still, ODU is outgunned on paper, and in the little bit of video I have been able to watch, the Monarchs are going to struggle at the linebacker and defensive back position on defense. The one area where they will turn to try and stop the Hokies offense will be using an active, stunting front to confuse the young Hokies offensive line.
From a match up perspective, I will be focusing on the young left tackles for Virginia Tech (Silas Dzansi and Christian Darrisaw) against ODU defensive end Oshane Ximines. Ximines is a similar player to Florida State's Brent Burns. He excels with time and space to gain leverage advantages against blockers. Old Dominion will align Ximines wide and stunt him frequently in an effort to confuse the blocking scheme and draw beneficial match ups.
Ximines gave Yosh Nijman a difficult time in pass protection last year as well.
As I noted in the William & Mary and Left Tackle comparison film reviews, Dzansi and Darrisaw both have areas for improvement which Ximines can exploit. Dzansi is the longer, more athletic tackle of the pair and will be starting on Saturday according to the depth chart released by Virginia Tech on Monday. However, Dzansi tends to give ground on his pass protection bucket steps. This allows a player like Ximines more space to use his quickness and create angles for leverage. Dzansi also is inconsistent with his hand placement and pop, which allows Ximines to more easily exploit those angles.
Darrisaw is more aggressive and takes away that space more effectively, However, ODU will sometimes align Ximines wide as a 9 technique (outside shoulder of a real or imagined tight end) and Ximines has good burst off the snap. Darrisaw may have some trouble getting to an angle where he can cut off that wide rush, and his lack of wingspan puts him at a bit of a disadvantage. The good news is that, if ODU adopts this alignment, it will create a big window to run counter treys and kick out Ximines. The Hokies had success kicking out ODU's other DEs on counter trey concepts last season.
If ODU can't control the line of scrimmage on defense, I think Saturday will be a terrific opportunity for the Hokies to get a big win in an important recruiting market and get to play a bunch of young players in the process. However, as we have seen many times, terrific defensive line productivity mitigates many ills. This will be a great learning laboratory for the young Hokies defensive line before ACC play kicks off.