For the second week in a row the Hokies will play in an ESPN Primetime Thursday night game. Last week Virginia Tech was upset by unranked North Carolina as a 14.5 point favorite. The Hokies will try to prevent losing their third consecutive game this week on the road at East Carolina.
The No. 22 Hokies are 5-3 this year (3-2 in the conference), but are just 3-5 at the pay window. Odds makers have assigned them as a hefty 13 point road chalk over East Carolina since the Pirates have struggled against top-notch opponents so far this year. East Carolina is also 5-3 SU and only 3-4 against the spread but has neglected to be competitive versus above average opponents like West Virginia and North Carolina. They will certainly be facing one of their toughest opponents on Thursday night against the Hokies.
In his first year as the clear cut starter at Va Tech, quarterback Tyrod Taylor has neglected to come forth as the star that everyone believed he could be. He is only averaging about 175 yards passing per game and has only thrown 9 TD passes in 8 games. Taylor hasn’t really been much of a menace on the ground either as he has only rushed for 150 yards this year. For this Hokie offense to really explode, Taylor has to come forward and play to his potential. There is no question he will have to play well in order to win for Va Tech to win this contest and cover the spread. Expect East Carolina to stuff the box with players and force Taylor to beat them by throwing the ball.
However, despite Taylor’s failure to command at the quarterback position, Virginia Tech boasts one of the leading running attacks in the nation led by freshman running back Ryan Williams. Va Tech is averaging 190 yards per game on the ground but will be facing a stout rush defense in East Carolina. The Pirates are only yielding an average of 108 yards per game via the rush and 3.4 yards per attempt. A strong factor as to who wins this game will be who wins the battle of the trenches. If East Carolina can hamper Virginia Tech’s rushing attack and put the ball in Taylor’s hands, they have a chance at pulling the upset.
On the other side of the football, the Pirates are not an offensive juggernaut in their own right. They rank 63rd in the land in points scored and 80th in total yards. East Carolina is a team that is built around running the ball and playing strong defense. Their running attack is averaging right around 150 yards per game. This East Carolina offense could present troubles for the Hokie defense who has consistently struggled stopping the run all year long. They are ranked 79th in the nation in rush defense, yielding more than 150 yards a game on the ground. Much like when Virginia Tech has the ball, the battle in the trenches will be critical when East Carolina is on offense as well.
This should be a hard fought football game between two teams who pride themselves on defense and running the football. As mentioned previously, whoever wins the battle upfront will be the winner of this game. The other key to this contest will be which quarterback steps up and plays well. Tyrod Taylor and Patrick Pinkney have not been great to say the least. Pinkney has tossed just 8 TD passes and 9 INTs. It could come down to whichever signal caller makes the least amount of mistakes. Both will have to handle the game, protect the football, and deliver on third and long spots to win the ball game.
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