The last time Virginia Tech played an FCS opponent on short rest, they won. 42-3 against Furman during Frank Beamer's final year. They did it the time before that, too. 42-7 over Austin Peay, in what would wind up being the best week of the 2012 season.
I just figured that it would be important to remember, considering everyone's first thought regarding "Hokies against an FCS opponent on short rest" is about that one game in the rain that ruined the 2010 season. And coming off such an emotional win in FedExField, Tech fans and players alike want nothing more than to paste Delaware Saturday afternoon in Lane Stadium.
So without further ado (or another mention of the game that won't be named), let's get to this week's lines.
Over/Under 6.5 receptions for Cam Phillips
Brian: This line seems high, but at the same time it feels super attainable. In fact, in the first draft of this column, I had it even higher. Until we see better play from everyone else, Cam is both Jackson's big play threat and safety blanket. He's the guy to throw at when blitzed, when looking for a deep ball, and then trying to pick up a tough third-and-six. Now, you'd hope that the Hokies can get off to a quick start and put Cam and the rest of the starters on ice for most of the second half, but seven catches in two-and-a-half quarters still seems realistic. Give me the over, and at least one more touchdown to boot.
(Also: this'll sound like revisionist history, but last year I constantly told my Tech friends that Fuente had an NFL guy in his receiver room. And that guy was Cam Phillips. Love his potential not just for the rest of 2017, but when he heads to the league next April.)
Pierson: Cam will get a ton of looks early as the Hokies try and jump out to a comfortable lead. It honestly wouldn't even surprise me if Cam hit the midway point of this line on the first drive. Phillips finished Sunday night's win with seven catches, but it could have been a much higher number. JoshieJack was understandably conservative in the first half as he settled into his new role atop the depth chart, but when he did throw it, his trust in Cam was clear.
I expect that level of trust to remain for a few more weeks until the Hokies start to face stiffer competition.
Do I suspect the staff will go out of their way to integrate Cam's supporting cast on Saturday? Absolutely. But I also suspect that Cam will continue to be the focal point of a developing passing attack in the early stages. I'll take the over.
Over/Under 3.5 times Josh Jackson is called a "sneaky athlete" or other similar backhanded compliments.
Brian: First of all, please don't try to make "JoshieJack" happen. It will severely impact our friendship.
But getting back to it, poor Charlie Conway. Some guys become defined by their headshot in the beginning of the game. Wyatt Teller, for instance, looked like a maniac with his mullet in his headshot, and was treated as such by announcers last year. So no matter how well our guy Josh plays, I don't think he'll be able to escape those chubby cheeks.
"Sneaky athlete" is going to be a phrase that'll go down on Hokie bingo for the rest of the season. Things along the lines of "you know, he's not Jerod Evans, but Josh Jackson is faster than you'd think!" Over. Over now, over the rest of the month, over the rest of the year. All because of that baby-faced picture each broadcast shows while introducing the rest of the offense.
Pierson: OVER. You can bet your first, second, third...all of your children that the pre-game and first quarter talk will be solely focused on Josh Jackson's debut performance against WVU. I mean, let's be honest. Are the commentators going to wax poetic about Delaware's inspired 22-3 victory over in-state foe Delaware State last weekend? Maybe they'll spend 30 seconds talking about Danny Rocco's return to the Commonwealth (neat), or how the Fightin' Blue Hens have a tailback named Thomas Jefferson (still won't beat the Hokies). Jackson will be the story, and each early bootleg, scramble or designed run will be followed by a comment about his surprising athleticism. All hail the arrival of the newest lazy talking point, which will rank below the all-time leader: Jarrett Boykin's XXXL hands.
Line time! Who has the most carries? Josh Jackson (EVEN), Steven Peoples (2-1), Deshawn McClease (3-1), Travon McMillian (5-1)
Brian: There are two reasons why Jackson's odds are so low. In their brief stint in Blacksburg, both Justin Fuente and Brad Cornelsen have shown a reliance on quarterback runs to sustain the offense. We all thought it would go away with the departure of Evans, but how did many of the key first downs get picked up? With Jackson and his legs.
Secondly, the staff hasn't shown a commitment to any one running back. And so while Jackson may not have a 20 carry day, if he runs it 10-12 times, will that be more than 35-40 other carries split amongst four running backs and a few receivers? He doesn't have to run a ton to be the leader in the category.
I think we'll see Peoples lead the way as a guy who can routinely pick up four yards. He may leave extra stuff on the field, but at the very least he's reliable. McClease's usage going forward will fascinate me. Other than Phillips and Jackson, he was the most dynamic player on offense for the Hokies. He's lightning quick, hard to bring down, and the perfect guy to split out wide. He's also tiny. Will his size prevent the coaches from using him more? And, since freshman Jalen Holston already burnt his redshirt playing special teams, will he get some carries? If so, should I have put him on the board?
(I didn't say we were good at this.)
Pierson: It shouldn't be Jackson. If it is, god help us. The quarterback surprised just about everyone on Sunday night with his running ability, but let's not kid ourselves. Jackson isn't the bulldozer Jerod Evans was and does not appear to have the physical makeup to withstand 10-12 carries per game over the course of a full season. Peoples took a brutal looking hit to his knee and didn't return. Supposedly he is ready to roll come Saturday, but — given the opponent and short week — I would be surprised to see him lead the rushing attack.
My (fake) money's on McClease. He was impressive when given the football against the 'Eers, pairing a good burst with some impressive second and third efforts. Like Jackson, I don't believe he's currently built to serve as this team's bell cow. But he doesn't need to, because Fuente doesn't believe in that approach. After two years on the sidelines, McClease is ready to roll and I expect the staff to give McClease plenty of run against the Blue Hens.
Over/Under 3.5 sacks by the Hokie defense
Brian: The lack of a pass rush was the most concerning thing coming out of FedExField. Yes, the Mountaineers tempo was hard to handle. Yes, as the game drew to a close everyone on both sides ran out of gas. But that can't distract us from the fact that Will Grier could have watched the Game of Thrones finale before finding an open receiver against the backup defensive line.
The starters are great. The size between Tim Settle, Ricky Walker, and Vinny Mihota is a unique issue for opponents to deal with. We know what Trevon Hill can do to an offensive tackle. But after that? Andrew Motuapuaka had a few moments, but Tremaine Edmunds did not. There wasn't a ton of blitzing from Mook Reynolds or Reggie Floyd. I'll go over, but I think it's a problem to watch over the next month.
Pierson: I think the more important question is, "Can anyone on the Delaware offensive line stop Tim Settle?"
(The answer is no, boys and girls)
Against West Virginia, the pass rush was...uninspiring. Bud Foster chose not to blitz, forcing the defensive front-four to win 1-on-1 and 1-on-2 battles. While I do believe that Foster will intentionally keep things vanilla against an FCS opponent, I expect him to blitz from time to time against a much less formidable offensive system. I'll take the over.
Does James Clark have a kick off return of over 50 yards?
Brian: I'm ALL IN on the James Clark hype train. At this point I don't know if the hype train exists outside my mind, but feel free to come aboard if you want. I don't care if he doesn't catch a single ball all year, I just want to see him make one cut and sprint through blockers towards midfield on kick returns.
I'm sure people will eventually tweak what they do on kick coverage to keep things away from Clark, but every time he had an opportunity he looked dangerous. He's better than Demitri Knowles, better than anyone from the last few years, in fact Tech hasn't had anyone this dangerous since David Wilson was breaking hearts and stingers back in 2010.
So yeah, I think he has another big one in Blacksburg on Saturday.
Pierson: Believe it or not, the Hokies haven't returned a kickoff or punt for a touchdown against an FCS team since Kyle Fuller's punt return against Appalachian State in 2011. Whether its scheme or athleticism, there is almost an expectation for the Hokies to generate at least one special teams score against an FCS opponent. Clark is incredibly fast in the open field and — in a limited sample size — looks like one of the more dangerous kick returners Tech has had in some time.
If there's one thing we learned from Demitri Knowles, it's that speed only gets you so far. Clark didn't exhibit the same hesitation that ultimately hampered Knowles, but we also need to keep in mind that the rest of the return team remains a work in progress. Can they continue to provide Clark with seams to explode past opposing defenders? We shall see. For now, I'm going to say no; I do not believe that Clark will have a return of 50-plus on Saturday. Just a hunch, though I hope I'm wrong.
Over/Under 1.5 Delaware turnovers
Brian: OVER OVER OVER OVER. I may be skeptical about the defensive line, but I love this secondary. We talked about the usual suspects, but when guys like Floyd and Divine Deablo are balling out, it's pretty damn tough to avoid mistakes against them.
In fact, I'll be bold and say we see a defensive touchdown on Saturday. Because did you see Hill after his interception? He cut back into the open field to find blockers. Now he didn't have enough juice to take full advantage (which is fine, since he's a 245-pound defensive end), but these guys are looking to create after a turnover.
Pierson: The one component that I could see holding this figure back, similar to the sack line above, is the potential conservatism of Bud Foster's defense. I have no doubt that the players will be ready to play and they will be flying around the ball early and often. It just wouldn't surprise me if the simplicity of the game plan limits the number of opportunities.
With all that being said, this has to hit the over, right? Blue Hens QB Joe Walker struggled mightily as a sophomore, completing only 48% of his passes for an 86.7 yards per game average. Yeesh. New head coach Danny Rocco should inject some much needed life into the passing game, but I would expect a talented secondary to be licking their chops. Fold in some hard hits from the front seven and you've got the makings of a turnover laden afternoon. The Hokies have forced at least two turnovers against the last four FCS teams they have faced. I'll take the over.
Over/Under 0.5 missed field goals by Joey Slye
Brian: I don't want to be a jerk. I don't want to be over reactive either. So all I'll say is that I want to see him get back to nailing the easy kicks like we've seen over the last few seasons. But kicking is a head game, and who knows where Slye is mentally (or what another miss would do to his psyche.)
Pierson: Under. I can't keep taking the over on every line. It just feels like bad luck. Did you ever have a teacher that KNEW everyone would be paying close attention to patterns in the Scantron form, so they intentionally made the answers snake downward just to mess with everyone? A-B-C-D-C-B-A...
Slye's always been known for his big leg, but accuracy hasn't always been his strong suit. Usually reliable from inside of 40 yards, his two misses on Sunday night were stunning. Slye will surely miss more kicks as the season wears on, so let's all come to grips with that reality. Where I would begin to get concerned is if he misses again against Delaware. What would that do to his psyche? As Shayne Graham noted in his AMA, "90% of
kicking is between the ears." Seeing every kick on Saturday split the uprights should help right the proverbial ship (at least for now).
Matchup Over/Under: 55
Brian: It's foolish to assume that the offense is some sort of juggernaut after one game against a rebuilding West Virginia defense. There are still a bunch of holes that the staff needs to figure out, especially out wide, which could limit a few scoring chances. I think Fuente will use a bunch of young guys, try to make sure the running game's in order, and not put Jackson in a position to take a lot of hits. If he does all of that, the score may not be as big as some people would want. I'll take the under, and think we'll see something along the lines of 45-7.
Pierson: With a one game sample size, I have absolutely no feel for this offense. Josh Jackson made some big plays, but he still has a lot to show me. I have come to terms with the fact that the running game will be forever enigmatic. Oh, and there's the whole receiver shortage. It's hard not to sit down to watch the Hokies play an FCS team and expect offensive fireworks. But sadly, despite the occasional highlight play here or there, they are often difficult on the eyes. That may be a bit unfair; maybe I'm guilty of viewing this type of game through the lens of unrealistic expectations against an overmatched opponent.
Lest we forget last season's opener, where the Hokies dropped 36 on Liberty but turned the ball over 4 times. Yes, the Liberty game was the first under Justin Fuente. But another major difference this time around is that the Hokies already have a Power 5 win under their belts. They've been preparing for a big time opponent for weeks and should be in the right place, mentally. I would not be surprised if this hits the over by the time the Marching Virginians are performing the Hokie Pok...wait...by the time some famous person is leading "Let's Go Hokies". Argh.
I need to see more from this offense before I truly believe in this year's squad to hang points at will. Give me the under.
Spread: Virginia Tech (-34.5)
Brian: Though I'm taking the under, don't get it twisted. I don't think this is remotely close to a 2010 TEAM REDACTED situation (or even a Liberty situation from last season) where a combination of mistakes and sloppy execution make things closer than anticipated. Last year the Blue Hens went 4-7, and fell 38-21 to a clunky Wake Forest squad. The year before that, Delaware had four wins and fell to UNC 41-14.
The Blue Hens will improve under Danny Rocco, but I don't think those steps forward will come in Blacksburg. My only questions when talking Tech are not about how close this game will be, but rather how many issues they can correct against a physically inferior opponent. I'll take them to win by five touchdowns, but I don't feel super comfortable doing so.
Pierson: Given my general uncertainty with the Tech offense, I feel rather confident in the defense's ability to lock down the Blue Hens. Last season they were a mess offensively (you're welcome for not making the obvious "offensive" joke). And while they've theoretically upgraded their coaching staff, their personnel is largely the same. 35-38 points from the offense should be sufficient, and I view that as an attainable total. The weather is looking mighty fine for Saturday, which should make for a good track and hopefully cut down on the cramps. I'll take the Hokies and lay the points.
Disclaimer: Some of these are real betting lines, but many of them are fake and none of this is real advice that should be taken seriously.
Second Disclaimer: The over/under and spread were provided by our resident degenerate, Joey Coogan. If you have problems with either line, please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.