Can the Hokies navigate a tough ACC slate?
The 2020 season will be interesting for all, but for Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente it could be quite important. After slogging to a 6-7 finish in 2018, Fuente's Hokies made progress by going 8-5 last fall. What resulted was a courtship this offseason by Baylor, though Fuente decided to stay in Blacksburg.
Because of off-the-field turmoil, several notable transfers, and ho-hum results over the past two seasons, there are members of Hokie nation that wouldn’t have minded if the Virginia Tech coach moved his family to Waco. There are others that aren't happy that Fuente even listened to overtures from Baylor. Regardless, the situation puts some pressure on Fuente entering the 2020 season.
Fuente's team returns a good deal of talent on both sides of the ball but they had the misfortune of drawing Clemson when the ACC modified its schedule to feature 10 conference games. Here is how some of us at Athlon feel the season will break down for the Hokies.
Virginia Tech Football Game-by-Game Predictions for 2020
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Of Virginia Tech’s five losses in 2019, four came by nine points or less. While the switch to an ACC-only schedule won’t be easy, coach Justin Fuente’s team should be a factor in the race to get to Charlotte for the conference title game. Quarterback Hendon Hooker provided a spark for the offense after taking over as the starter, and the offensive line ranks among the best in the conference thanks to the return of four starters and the arrival of Brock Hoffman as a transfer from Coastal Carolina. Caleb Farley’s decision to opt out was a significant loss for new defensive coordinator Justin Hamilton. The Hokies are still in good shape on this side of the ball, as eight returning starters are back to anchor this group. The schedule features tough road trips to Louisville, Pitt and North Carolina. Additionally, the revamped slate includes a home date against Clemson on Dec. 5.
Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR)
It's going to be an interesting season for Virginia Tech. The natives are getting restless when it comes to Justin Fuente, who has to break in a new defensive coordinator and will be without All-ACC cornerback Caleb Farley, who has opted out. But the Hokies bring back a lot of experience and the hope is that the offense, Fuente's specialty, will take a step forward with Hendon Hooker leading the attack. The schedule also is fairly manageable with Clemson, Virginia and Miami all coming to Blacksburg. Ditching the divisions probably hurts Virginia Tech more than it helps so hopefully the fan base will be able to celebrate another winning season even if it doesn't result in a shot at the ACC title.
Jon Kinne (@JonRKinne)
A lot of Hokies have seen considerable action during their time in Blacksburg and this year they could be bolstered by the transfer market. If they can develop a running game behind an offensive line that should be much improved, Hendon Hooker will be able to lead a capable passing attack. They need more from wide receiver Tre Turner, but he along with fellow wideout Tayvion Robinson and tight end James Mitchell, should make for good pass-catching options. The defense, despite Caleb Farley's decision to opt out, has a bunch of returning starters and will be exceptionally strong at linebacker.
Virginia Tech will likely be in a bunch of close games and while the Hokies will win their share, they will lose some as well. Louisville is dangerous and Clemson was added to their schedule. Justin Fuente's crew could have been an ACC Coastal contender under normal circumstances, but with no divisions this season and this schedule, they look like a 7-4 team to me.