Virginia Tech Hokies vs. Boston College Eagles Pick 8/31/19
Virginia Tech Hokies (6-7 SU, 6-7 ATS) vs. Boston College Eagles (7-5 SU, 7-4-1 ATS)
Date/Time: Saturday, August 31st, 4:00 PM
Where: Alumni Stadium, Chestnut Hill, MA
Point Spread: VT -2.5 / BC +2.5
Over/Under Total: 57
DILLON DOMINANCEThe star of the team on either side of the ball is junior running back A.J. Dillon, who last season earned 1st Team All-ACC honors after rushing for 1,108 yards and ten touchdowns in 2018. Dillon will be the clear focal point of the offense but may find the going a bit harder this season with only two returning starters to the offensive line, which will have big shoes to fill after the loss of 1st team All-ACC talents in guard Chris Lindstrom and tight end Tommy Sweeney.
ANTHONY’S SONGAt quarterback, the Eagles will look to junior Anthony Brown after he finished last season with 2121 yards passing and a 20/9 TD-INT ratio. He returns his leader in receptions and yards from 2018 in Kobay White, but unfortunately White is one of the only experienced starters after the team lost three of Brown’s top four targets to graduation. With opposing defenses focusing on Dillon, it should open up the field for Brown at quarterback if he can accurately sell play-action fakes and take advantage of the lack of attention given to their less than stellar target selection.
TROUBLE ON DEFENSEUnfortunately for Boston College inexperience also hits their defense with only three returning starters back for the Eagles. Their losses were heavy including 1st team All ACC cornerback Hamp Cheevers, the NCAA leader in interceptions last season with seven, along with defensive ends Zach Allen (2nd team All ACC) and Wyatt Ray (team leader in sacks with nine). The defensive line and defensive backfield are especial trouble spots, and the team will rely heavily on linebackers Max Richardson and Isaiah McDuffie to help offset the issues around them.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENTVirginia Tech comes into week one looking to immediately set the tone for a better year after ending 2018 with a 6-7 record, their first season to finish under .500 since 1992. Head coach Justin Fuente enters his fourth season as the Hokies head coach and has seen his win total decline in each year following a 10-4 record in 2016 that included a trip to the 2016 ACC Championship Game. This season he gets sixteen starters back and will be expected to get things back to the standard fans in Blacksburg have come to expect.
NO QUESTIONS AT QUARTERBACKJunior quarterback Ryan Willis returns after taking over the position last season from Joshua Jackson, and with Jackson now having transferred there is no question who the man will be at QB. Willis is coming off a year in which he posted a 24/9 TD-INT ratio while also contributing an additional four scores on the ground. He gets back four of his top five targets from last season including standout Damon Hazelton, who last year caught 51 passes for 802 yards and a team-leading eight touchdown receptions, along with junior tight end Dalton Keene.
BACKFIELD PROGNOSISUnfortunately for quarterback Ryan Willis and the Hokie backfield, the team returns only two starters to an inexperienced offensive line whose starting five includes three sophomores and zero seniors. The starting running back looks to be junior Deshawn McClease, who should be the focal point with Steven Peoples gone and will hope to become just the second VT running back to clear the 1,000-yard mark since 2011.
ON THE DEFENSEAfter finishing last year ranked 106th against the run, 85th in scoring and 98th in yards allowed per game the Hokies will be looking to make a quick turnaround and get closer back to the dominant defensive ways of the past. Ten starters are back, though they will surely miss tackle Ricky Walker, who was the only Tech player on that side of the ball to earn All-ACC first, second or third-team honors last season. The strength of the defense is in the middle, led by linebackers Rayshard Ashby and Dax Hollifield, with Ashby the conferences’ leading returner in both tackles and tackles per game.
THE FINAL DECISIONThere are plenty of similarities between the Hokies and Eagles that extend beyond conference relations, with both teams starting junior quarterbacks, both having a defense whose only strength is at the linebacker position and both sporting an offensive with only two returning starters. BC may have the most talented player on the field in running back AJ Dillon, but after that, the talent differential clearly favors Virginia Tech, especially on the defensive side of the ball with a whopping seven more starters returning than Boston College. The Hokies also have a proven track record of road success, having gone 36-15 over the past decade in away games, while the Eagles have had a difficult time defending their home base with just a 16-17 record over the past five seasons at Alumni Stadium. It remains to be seen where Virginia Tech will be when the AP poll is released, but another factor to keep in mind is how badly BC has struggled against such competition in recent history, having gone 1-22 in their last 23 games versus ranked opponents. The Eagles have just two wins in the past four seasons as a home dog, and with an improved Virginia Tech defense on the other side of the field that has the ability to slow BC’s biggest weapon in AJ Dillon, I believe the Hokies will start their season off on in the right direction and get the win and cover in Chestnut Hill.
Mike’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Virginia Tech -2.5