Virginia Tech and Ohio State passed their opening week tests, but a tougher challenge is ahead on Saturday night in Columbus. The Hokies are one of the favorites in a wide-open Coastal Division and handled FCS opponent William & Mary 34-9 in Week 1. Virginia Tech’s offense showed signs of life in the opener, but it’s tough to glean too much from overpowering a FCS opponent. The Buckeyes began life without Braxton Miller – at least for 2014 – with a 34-17 win over Navy. With Miller sidelined due to a shoulder injury, Ohio State has to lean on its defense and skill players to help redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett.
This will be the first meeting between Ohio State and Virginia Tech. These two teams are scheduled to meet on Sept. 7 in Blacksburg next season.
Virginia Tech vs. Ohio State
Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Ohio State -11
Three Things to Watch
1. The Quarterbacks
Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett and Virginia Tech’s Michael Brewer have traveled an interesting road to the starting job this year, and both quarterbacks are making only their second career start on Saturday night. Barrett was pushed into the starting job after an injury to Braxton Miller and completed 12 of 15 throws for 226 yards and two scores in the win over Navy. Brewer was slated to be Texas Tech’s starter in 2013 but a back injury limited his availability for most of the season. He transferred from Texas Tech after graduating and won the starting job in the fall. Brewer completed 23 of 30 passes for 251 yards and two touchdowns in the opener against William & Mary. Both quarterbacks are surrounded by talent – yes it’s young – at the skill positions and play behind questionable offensive lines. However, both players have a good defense on their side. Neither quarterback needs to throw for 300 yards for their team to win on Saturday night. Which quarterback – Brewer or Barrett – will make the fewest mistakes and turn in an efficient outing to lead their team to victory?
2. Virginia Tech’s OL vs. Ohio State DL
Again, we have to point out questionable competition, but there were some positive signs for Virginia Tech’s offensive line in Week 1. The Hokies averaged 5.3 yards per carry and did not allow a sack against William & Mary. After taking a positive step forward in the opener, the matchup with Ohio State is a much better barometer test for the line. The Buckeyes won’t have end Noah Spence (suspension), but this unit is arguably the best defensive line in the nation. Tackle Michael Bennett and end Joey Bosa are two All-American candidates, and this unit averaged three sacks per game in 2013. Keeping Brewer upright and clearing rushing lanes for talented freshmen Shai McKenzie and Marshawn Williams on the ground will be a challenge for Virginia Tech’s line. However, this is a good opportunity for the Hokies to show how far they have progressed on offense after managing only 22.5 points per game last year.
3. Young Talent at the Skill Positions
There’s a couple of areas we could go with this last key to watch, but there’s a plethora of talent at the skill positions for both teams. In the opener against William & Mary, newcomers for Virginia Tech accounted for 422 yards. Brewer threw for 251 yards, McKenzie and Williams accounted for 147 yards on the ground, tight end Bucky Hodges caught six passes for 38 yards and a score, while true freshman Isaiah Ford grabbed four passes for 43 yards and a touchdown. On the Ohio State sideline, there’s also plenty of help for young quarterback J.T. Barrett. Curtis Samuel, Ezekiel Elliott and Dontre Wilson each rushed for over 40 yards against Navy, and sophomore Michael Thomas led the team with three catches. With both teams having an inexperienced signal-caller, it’s important for the players at the skill positions to provide help on Saturday night.
If you are looking for offense, this is probably not the game you want to watch. The over/under by Vegas is set at 47, and with two quarterbacks making only their second start, points could be at a premium. Virginia Tech’s offensive output in Week 1 was promising, and this group should get better with more time for Brewer, McKenzie, Williams and Ford to develop. However, it’s tough to win in Columbus, and the Buckeyes’ defense will control this game, allowing Barrett to ease into his second victory as Ohio State’s quarterback.