Obviously, there were issues brewing below the surface. But from 30,000 feet, Sept. 22 was the day that Virginia Tech's 2018 season seemingly went off the rails. Sitting 2-0 with a blowout win at Florida State in their pocket, Justin Fuente's third season in Blacksburg looked like it would be at least as successful as his first two.
But on that day, Virginia Tech fell to Old Dominion, quarterback Josh Jackson was injured and lost for the season, and a transfer wave began. The result was a 6-7 season that featured several embarrassing defeats in large part due to an uncharacteristically bad defense.
The Hokies did win their final two regular-season games to extend the nation's longest active bowl streak to 26 years. With a large number of players back on both sides of the ball, their 2019 sights are set much higher than simply qualifying for the postseason. But are those goals realistic? Here's what two Athlon editors and one of its college football contributors think about Virginia Tech this fall.
Virginia Tech Football Game-by-Game Predictions for 2019
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
The 2018 season was an unusual one for Virginia Tech. The Hokies were hit by injuries and roster attrition, which pushed the team to its first losing season since 1992. While coach Justin Fuente’s team still has some roster holes to fill and is thin along the defensive line, I expect this program to rebound in 2019. Quarterback Ryan Willis should challenge for all-conference honors with one of the ACC’s top offensive lines and receiving corps at his disposal. While some concerns on defense remain, coordinator Bud Foster won’t allow a repeat of last year’s final statistics. The guess here is the Virginia-Virginia Tech showdown in Charlottesville decides the Coastal Division title. Regardless of how that game transpires, the Hokies will be a much-improved team this fall.
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
This will be an interesting fall in Blacksburg, as Justin Fuente looks to rebound from his most challenging season as a head coach. The good news is that Virginia Tech plays in the ACC Coastal and is capable — even with its flaws — of winning the division. The bad news? This doesn't look like a vintage Tech team; the offense lacks proven playmakers and the defense is coming off its worst season of the Bud Foster era. More bad news: Virginia Tech's two most difficult league games, against the two teams it figures to battle for the division title, are on the road — at Miami and at Virginia. The Hokies also must visit Notre Dame. I envision an improved record for Fuente's team, but not quite good enough to edge out Virginia for the Coastal crown.
Jon Kinne (@JonRKinne)
With an offseason full of turmoil, the players that remain at Virginia Tech want to be Hokies. Defensively, coordinator Bud Foster has undoubtedly spent the entire offseason formulating a plan to make the Tech defense a dominant force in his last year at the helm. Tre Turner and Damon Hazelton lead an exciting group of receivers for quarterback Ryan Willis and if the running game takes even a small step forward, the Hokies could really make strides on offense.
Plus, there's the schedule from heaven. They do get Miami on the road and they have to go to South Bend. But the crossover games are at a re-stocking Boston College team and Wake Forest at Lane Stadium. Much is expected of Virginia this year, but since the Cavaliers haven’t won in this series since 2003, it's hard to pick against the Hokies in the season finale. As a result, I sense a huge bounce-back year with Virginia Tech finishing 10-2.