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East Carolina Pirates vs. Virginia Tech Hokies Preview and Prediction

Ken Ekanem

Ken Ekanem

When Justin Fuente was hired to replace Frank Beamer as Virginia Tech's head coach, some wondered what type of identity the Hokies would develop. Would Virginia Tech be the offensive juggernaut that Memphis was under Fuente? Or would the Hokies remain a stout defensive unit led by longtime coordinator Bud Foster?

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On Saturday against Boston College, they were both. The offense piled up 476 total yards and the defense held the Eagles to just six first downs in a 49-0 whitewash. This week the Hokies host an East Carolina squad that has beaten Virginia Tech two years in a row.

This will be the Pirates' third straight game against a Power Five team after defeating NC State 33-30 in week two and then falling to South Carolina 20-15 last Saturday.

East Carolina at Virginia Tech

Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 24 at 12:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ACC Network/WatchESPN

Spread: Virginia Tech -11

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Three Things to Watch

1. Virginia Tech turnovers

In the first two games of the season against Liberty and Tennessee, Virginia Tech fumbled 10 times, losing nine. Against Boston College, the Hokies did not fumble at all. It’s no coincidence that Virginia Tech had its best offensive performance of the year. Tech did have an interception, but at the time of the pick the score was 35-0 and the game was well in hand. If the Hokies hold onto the ball they should have success against the Pirates.

2.  Jerod Evans

Quarterback has been a problematic position for Virginia Tech in recent years, but those issues seem to have been resolved. Evans, a prized junior college recruit, completed 16 of 23 passes for 253 yards and five touchdowns – along with the aforementioned interception – against a very stingy Boston College defense. When called upon, he also made plays with his legs, picking up 48 yards on nine carries. An East Carolina defense that has allowed 218 yards passing per game will face a stern test in Evans and his receiving corps.

3. Philip Nelson vs. Virginia Tech's pass defense

The East Carolina signal-caller, who came to Greenville from Minnesota by way of Rutgers, has gotten off to a fast start. Through three games, Nelson has completed 79 percent of his passes with seven scores and three picks. But when he looks across the line of scrimmage on Saturday, he will see the nation’s top-ranked pass defense. Granted the Hokies have yet to face a really good passing offense, so this will be a challenge for them as well. But Virginia Tech has Ken Ekanem up front creating pressure and a very good secondary led by Chuck Clark and Brandon Facyson.

Final Analysis

After a slow start to a season that began with a tight win over Liberty and a loss to Tennessee, Virginia Tech came to life in flattening Boston College. Even though East Carolina is not a member of a Power Five conference, the Pirates are probably a better team than the Eagles. And after two consecutive victories over the Hokies, the Pirates come in with the belief that they can win this game. However, Virginia Tech is getting more comfortable in its new offense each week. At home in Lane Stadium, Jerod Evans guides the offense and the Hokies' defense takes control early, making it a fun afternoon in Blacksburg.

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Prediction: Virginia Tech 31, East Carolina 13

— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.