After last week's embarrassing, demoralizing, pick-a-depressing-adjective loss to Georgia Tech, I'm ready for just about any outcome Saturday.
I won't dwell too much on the Georgia Tech loss, as Joe pretty ably summed up my feelings on it. In short, I came into the game thinking it was entirely conceivable that the Hokies could lose that one, but I was stunned at how thoroughly unprepared the defense looked for an offense it plays every single year.
But that loss is long in the past, at least in fast-paced college football terms, and the Hokies have an interesting matchup ahead of them, with the Coastal still very much on the line (though a bit less so than it was this time last week).
Could the Hokies pull out a big win over one of the best BC teams in years? It wouldn't surprise me at all, especially considering that Justin Fuente has lost back-to-back games precisely once during his time in Blacksburg so far.
But could the Eagles use their surprising talent to drive a stake through Tech's season?
Absolutely! There's a reason why the Hokies are considered a 2- to 2.5-point underdog, even though they're at home. Heck, being at Lane has actually been far from a boon to the Hokies, considering they're 1-2 in Blacksburg on the year.
So I'm preparing mentally for anything from a thrilling blowout win to a crushing blowout loss Saturday afternoon.
I've given up on trying to predict a single thing about this team from week to week, so you'll find no bold predictions or hot takes in here from me.
Well, maybe a few. We'll see.
Evaluating the Eagles
On the heels of one of the worst defensive performances of Bud Foster's career, the Hokies don't get much in the way of a break.
Steve Addazio's Eagles have been known for their defense far more than their offense during his time in Chestnut Hill, but he's slowly but surely turned things around over the years.
BC is a perfectly respectable 37th overall in yards per game — six spots ahead of Tech, in fact — and the Eagles could well give a floundering defense plenty of trouble Saturday.
Part of the reason why is running back A.J. Dillon, who's averaging more than 133 yards per game at the moment, and has plainly inspired the respect of the coaching staff.
Williams, you might remember, ran for 166 yards and two touchdowns in his last game against the Hokies, a 34-27 win in Massachusetts. So, with a comparison like that, Dillon is certainly someone the Hokies should be worried about.
Even still, Tech managed to hold Dillon to 35 yards on 10 carries in last year's win over the Eagles. In fact, it was quarterback Anthony Brown who led BC in rushing on the day.
The question is whether or not the Hokies can focus on stopping Dillon while leaving Brown alone this year, especially with a defense that just looked so pathetic against the Yellow Jackets.
Last year, Brown threw for just 166 yards, while completing 13 of his 30 passes. This year, he's averaging nearly 174 yards per game, completing about 58 percent of his passes, up from 52 percent and 137 yards per game a year ago.
And it seems he has a far better group of skill players to work with from a year ago.
Foster says he thinks BC has speed as the skill positions this year that maybe it hasn't had before. Allows Loeffler to open up the offense a little bit and take a few more shots. #Hokies— Andy Bitter (@AndyBitterVT) October 30, 2018
BC indeed has two senior wide receivers and a senior tight end to throw to, and Kobay White has proven to be a star in the early going. The question is whether it will matter against a Hokies defense that has shown promise, but just got embarrassed.
Does last week's performance against GT presage more issues against the Eagles? Well, Justin Fuente doesn't seem willing to say so, for better or worse.
"You can watch technique, the effort, execution and those sorts of things, but to put it in perspective, I don't know of any offense in the league when they are playing any other ACC team breaks down Georgia Tech film because it's just so different," Fuente told reporters Monday. "The defenses line up just so different, so there's no correlation because the defenses are just so different schematically. It's a one-time game that you've got to get lined up and go play in a different manner. So now, we'll get back to playing a normal style this week."
Hokies fans surely hope he's right.
It doesn't help matters that both DT Jarrod Hewitt and LB Dylan Rivers have been deemed "day-to-day" by Fuente this week, after both missed time against Georgia Tech.
The team didn't have much in the way of an update on Hewitt Tuesday, which is quite relevant given that he's been a key starter as Vinny Mihota's recovered from an injury.
Luckily, Mihota saw his first substantial playing time of the season against the Jackets, recording four tackles in all, though Hewitt's ability to provide depth at the position is still quite relevant.
Rivers is the more interesting case. He's been decent in spots, but there is no question that Dax Hollifield has loomed over his whole season.
Foster said the coaching staff will see where left outside linebacker Dylan Rivers is in terms of recovering from an injury suffered against Georgia Tech. Foster added he feels good about true freshman Dax Hollifield filling in for Rivers, if necessary. #Hokies— Norm Wood (@normwood) October 30, 2018
Hollifield was one of just a few players to jump off the page in the early going against GT, to me at least, so it strikes me that he won't be the biggest issue if he needs to start against BC.
The bigger question is how the team will fill in for Khalil Ladler, who was tossed from the game for an (interesting) targeting call, and will miss the first half of the game.
The Hokies can certainly cope without him for a half, but without, say, Mook Reynolds and the redshirting Devon Hunter, the options at whip are a bit thinner than they might've been otherwise.
Foster admitted Tuesday that he wasn't sure how exactly the team might replace Ladler for the first half. I expect how they answer that question will play quite the important role indeed in setting the early tone for this game.
Staying Alive in the Coastal
There was quite a bit of doom and gloom about VT's chances in the Coastal following the GT loss, and with good reason.
Even still, ESPN's David Hale provided a neat bit of perspective on the matter.
Per ESPN FPI, here are the odds for ACCCG:Clemson-UVA, 40.4%Clemson-VT, 27.5%Clemson-Miami, 15.6%Clemson-Pitt, 8.1%Clemson-GT, 6.0%BC-UVA, 1.0%all others, < 1%— 🎃Haunting of Hale House👻 (@ADavidHaleJoint) October 29, 2018
Clearly, the numbers show that the Hokies are not the favorites here, as we all expected.
But I think they are illustrative of the fact that it's not some foregone conclusion that the Hokies are out of the hunt here.
Consider that Pitt, which controls its own destiny with a matchup against UVA looming this weekend, is still a major factor here. And that Miami, who plays Duke, GT, VT and Pitt to close this year, also has a fighting chance.
Most of all, though, consider that the Hoos could easily drop a game on the road at the Yellow Jackets two weeks from now. Many people have suggested that the final game in Blacksburg will prove to be the deciding factor in the Coastal race, but anyone following this division for any significant period of time knows that writing off any even seemingly insignificant game is a fool's errand.
Will the Coastal slip away from Tech if the Hokies blow this game against the Eagles? Quite possibly. But it also isn't set in stone that UVA will win this thing, as hard it is to believe all the pundits are predicting, if we make it to Sunday and the Hoos remain on top of the division.
At least we can rule out one particularly intriguing Coastal outcome.