In hindsight, Virginia Tech's schedule in 2018 provided plenty of opportunities. Notre Dame was going to be a bear, but the Hokies faced two Group of 5 teams and an FCS foe in non-conference action. The random ACC crossover game was against a Florida State team that didn't go bowling, and the Coastal was such that 7-7 Pittsburgh emerged as the champion. Despite these advantages, Tech slumped to 6-7.
A year later, the schedule looks very similar. Notre Dame remains, with the game being played in South Bend this time around, but the non-conference slate features one Group of 5 and two FCS teams. The Hokies get Wake Forest from the Atlantic and the Coastal remains wide-open. The table is once again set for success. Can the Hokies take advantage?
Let’s look at each opponent on the Virginia Tech schedule, from worst to first.
12. Oct. 12 vs. Rhode Island
The Rams improved by three games last year, finishing at 6-5 and 4-4 in the difficult CAA Football conference. But this is an FCS program that has struggled for years and will need to replace quarterback JaJuan Lawson.
11. Sept. 14 vs. Furman
After finishing 6-4 last season, the Purple Paladins come into 2019 ranked as the No. 16 FCS team in the land by Athlon Sports. Like Rhode Island, Furman will need to find a new quarterback but should boast a strong running game with a stingy defense.
10. Sept. 7 vs. Old Dominion
The Hokies won't forget Sept. 22, 2018. That's the day that winless ODU knocked off then-unbeaten Virginia Tech. That won't happen again, especially since this game will be at Lane Stadium and the Monarchs return just six total starters.
9. Oct. 19 vs. North Carolina
Mack Brown has given energy to a North Carolina program that has gone 5-18 over the past two seasons. But the Carolina offense will be extremely young and the defense has to figure out how to stop the run, something the Tar Heels haven't done effectively since 2012.
8. Nov. 16 at Georgia Tech
No one in Blacksburg was sorry to see Paul Johnson retire. The former Yellow Jackets head coach had beaten Virginia Tech four of the last five years and last season embarrassed the Hokies on a Thursday night at Lane Stadium. Georgia Tech will face an adjustment period with a change to Geoff Collins's spread offense.
7. Nov. 23 vs. Pittsburgh
The loss of running backs Qadree Ollison and Darrin Hall, as well as much of the offensive line, will make repeating as ACC Coastal champs difficult. Head coach Pat Narduzzi always wants his defense to be aggressive and a solid secondary should provide a challenge for the talented Hokie receivers.
6. Sept. 27 vs. Duke
The Blue Devils lose some star power in quarterback Daniel Jones along with linebackers Joe Giles-Harris and Ben Humphreys. But they get star corner Mark Gilbert back from injury and will rely heavily on talented running back Deon Jackson.
5. Nov. 9 vs. Wake Forest
The last meeting between the two schools was an ugly 6-3 Demon Deacons win in 2014. Wake brings back 1,000-yard rusher Cade Carney as well as two capable quarterbacks in Sam Hartman and Jamie Newman. But only four defensive starters return and the Deacons must find weapons to replace the production lost when wide receiver/return specialist Greg Dortch turned pro.
4. Aug. 31 at Boston College
The Hokies and the Eagles open up conference play on the first full Saturday of the season. BC does lose stars off each level of the defense, but offensively they could be more dangerous than usual and an improved passing game could take pressure off All-American candidate running back AJ Dillon.
3. Nov. 29 at Virginia
The streak very nearly ended last Thanksgiving weekend. But a late touchdown on a Hezekiah Grimsley fumble recovery tied the game and the Hokies beat the Cavaliers for the 15th straight time on an overtime field goal. The 2019 game will be in Charlottesville and UVA brings back quarterback Bryce Perkins and seven starters off a very good defense.
2. Oct. 5 at Miami
This always shapes up as a big game in the ACC Coastal and lately it has gone the way of the Hurricanes, as they have won four of the last five. New head coach Manny Diaz knows his defensive unit inside and out and will lean on his talented linebacking corps to make this team go. Now if they could only get a competent quarterback, things might really take off.
1. Nov. 2 at Notre Dame
For a half last October, Virginia Tech hung with the playoff-bound Irish. But then the floodgates opened and Notre Dame cruised to victory. With Ian Book leading the way on offense and a talented group of ends and defensive backs making it difficult to pass, Notre Dame expects to be in the national picture once again.
— Written by Jon Kinne, who has been part of the Athlon Contributor Network for three years, covering the ACC and Notre Dame. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.