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Virginia Tech Football: Ranking the Toughest Games on Their Schedule

Virginia Tech Hokies College Football

Virginia Tech Hokies College Football

Virginia Tech loses its all-time leading receiver in Cam Phillips and a stalwart offensive lineman in Wyatt Teller. On defense, the Edmunds brothers need to be replaced along with Andrew Motuapuaka, Greg Stroman and several other key contributors.

Virginia Tech Hokies head coach Justin Fuente

Still, Jusitn Fuente's Hokies have to be considered a real contender in the ACC Coastal Division. Part of the reason is that there are quality players returning on both sides of the ball. But just as importantly, the schedule looks favorable for a solid record in 2018.

From 12 to 1, here is a ranking of the toughest Hokie games this fall.

12. Sept. 8 vs. William & Mary

It is on a short week following the Labor Day season opener. But it is also against an FCS squad coming off a 2-9 season.

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11. Sept. 15 vs. East Carolina

This is a make-or-break year for Pirates’ head coach Scottie Montgomery after two 3-9 campaigns. ECU was dead last in total defense in 2017 and lose its top two tacklers. Wide receiver Trevon Brown is a weapon though who will throw him the ball is still up in the air.

College Football Rankings: East Carolina

10. Sept. 22 at Old Dominion

It will be a big deal when the Hokies venture to Norfolk to battle the in-state Monarchs. ODU took a step back last year after a Bahamas Bowl appearance in 2016. Jeremy Cox is a solid running back but quarterback Steven Williams must make strides as a sophomore.

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9. Nov. 23 vs. Virginia

This year, it’s more than just the 14-game losing streak to the Hokies. Virginia loses two elite defenders in Micah Kiser and Quin Blanding along with productive quarterback Kurt Benkert. And this year's game is in Lane Stadium. That does not sound like a recipe for Cavalier success.

Virginia: college football picks against the spread

8. Oct. 13 at North Carolina

The Tar Heels should be better than their 3-9 disaster of last season. How much they improve will depend on the quarterback play -- be it Chazz Surratt or Nathan Elliott -- and if UNC can finally figure out a way to stop the run.

North Carolina Football Schedule 2019

7. Nov. 10 at Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh has had deficiencies in pass coverage and lose safety Jordan Whitehead. But seven starters are back on defense and freshman quarterback Kenny Pickett showed considerable promise in leading Pitt to an upset of Miami to close the season.

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6. Sept. 29 at Duke

Quarterback Daniel Jones needs to be more consistent, but he is a talent that has a fine target in T.J. Rahming. The defense is led by All-ACC contenders Joe Giles-Harris at linebacker and cornerback Mark Gilbert. The Hokies go to Durham in a tricky spot, the week before the much anticipated Notre Dame visit to Blacksburg.

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5. Oct. 25 vs. Georgia Tech

In his second year leading Paul Johnson’s offense, TaQuon Marshall should be an even more productive quarterback and he has KirVonte Benson to give the ball to once again. New defensive coordinator Nate Woody wants to create a unit that relies more on attacking than reacting.

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4. Nov. 3 vs. Boston College

Running back AJ Dillon could be a Heisman sleeper as the year develops. He will be running behind a good offensive line and if quarterback Anthony Brown can soften up opposing defenses just enough, Dillon will put up monster numbers. Defensive end Zach Allen is one of the best in the ACC at his position and the Eagles' secondary should be strong.

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3. Oct. 6 vs. Notre Dame

The Fighting Irish are coming off a 10-3 season and will be making their first-ever appearance at Lane Stadium. Drue Tranquill, Te’Von Coney, and Julian Love anchor a solid defense and quarterback Brandon Wimbush hopes to be as much of a threat throwing as he is running the ball.

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Notre Dame

2. Sept. 3 at Florida State

The Hokies will open the season in grand fashion with a game at Doak Campbell Stadium on Labor Day evening. New Seminoles head coach Willie Taggart needs to figure out the offensive line and must put pieces in place on defense. But Cam Akers is a dangerous running back and Nyqwan Murray will catch plenty of throws from Deondre Francois (or James Blackman).

College Football Top 25 Rankings: FSU

1. Nov. 17 vs. Miami

While many Power 5 programs schedule FCS teams the week before Thanksgiving, the Hokies and the Hurricanes will battle in a game that very well may decide the Coastal Division. Miami has one of the best linebacker groups in the country and will be bolstered by the healthy return of star receiver Ahmmon Richards.

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Miami

Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast: Games. Games. And more Games!

-- 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.