AllNCAA Sports

2023 Virginia Tech Hokies Football Preview (8-23-23)

By: Joey Raymond

Headline Photo Credit: Katie Lovell-LMS Network

Most football fans see a 3-8 record and sit back and think to themselves, “Man, they did not have a good season last year.” However, take a step back and take a prolonged look at the Hokies season last year. Yes, I won’t deny they had a rough season, but break down their season by game though. Let’s only look at losses right now, starting with the fact that the Hokies got blown out by West Virginia, North Carolina, Pitt, and Duke. Those were bad losses and no one is denying that. Let’s look closely at the other four losses though. We’ll start with Old Dominion, where the Hokies dropped an embarrassing loss albeit, but still only lost by three points. Next, we move to the loss against Miami. The Hokies came out in that game, cold as an iceberg, and yet, still managed to fight back in the fourth quarter before it was too little too late, losing 20 to 14. Again, only lost by one score. Then, we head to Raleigh, where the Hokies faced the NC State Wolf Pack. The Hokies seemed to kind of have things figured out in this one (sort of) and dominated the third quarter, but yet again, came up in the loss column losing 22-21. This time only by one point, rather than by one score. Lastly, the Hokies’ final loss came against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. Dominating the second quarter, but again, struggled to close it out and gave up the win in the fourth losing 28 to 27. Again, another one-point loss. That’s four games that in theory, the Hokies could’ve easily turned into wins if luck was on their side. If the Hokies win those games, they become a 7-8 team and make a bowl game.

Photo Credit: Katie Lovell-LMS Network

That brings us to this season. The consensus around Blacksburg these days is that Brent Pry is still the man for the head coaching job. This is in large part due to two things. The first is that Coach Pry tends to say the right things when speaking to the media. Secondly, and most importantly, in the eyes of Hokies fans, he has killed it on the recruiting trail and in the transfer portal. On the offensive side of the football, Pry hit the transfer portal hard. Starting with the wide receiver room, a room that the Hokies needed a ton of help in, they picked up Ali Jennings (Old Dominion), Da’Quan Felton (Norfolk State), and Jaylin Lane (Middle Tennessee). That added a solid trio of receivers to throw to in a Quarter Back spot that also saw a transfer in Kyron Drones (Baylor). He’ll compete with returning starter Grant Wells for this year’s starting job. They also added a running back in Bhayshul Tuten (North Carolina A&T) to make a solid one, two-punch with Malachi Thomas. The hope is that will add some offensive firepower to a team that struggled to score last season.

Defensively, the Hokies only got deeper. Last season was fairly good for the Hokies’ defense. They were the highlight of a team that had a lot of struggles. Regardless, Brent Pry still added some depth in some areas bringing in guys like Antwaun Powell-Ryland Jr. (Florida) to help on the edge, and Derrick Canteen (Georgia Southern) to help in the cornerback room. He’ll join a very impressive group and Coach Pry seems to think he’ll make a big impact this season. Now unlike last season, we’ll see a change in play callers this year on defense. Last year, Brent Pry felt as if he needed to make his mark on the defense and made the tough choice to call defensive plays during the game. This season, he’ll hand the reins over to defensive coordinator Chris Marve, who in a one-on-one interview with him on media day, seemed very optimistic about the defense. “We have some talent, some eagerness, some students of the game at every single position. So I’m excited to watch everyone develop, train, and grow,” said Coach Marve about what he was most excited to watch this season. The Hokies will have to continue to play at a high level defensively if they’re going to pick up more wins this season.

Speaking of this upcoming season, the Hokies may not have a “marquee” matchup this season, but they do have a lot of games against recognizable programs. Let’s dive into those matchups and take a look at some of the foes the Hokies will see this year.

Virginia Tech VS Old Dominion
This should be an interesting matchup as the Monarchs of Old Dominion head to Blacksburg to take on the Hokies after a 20 to 17 upset last year. Simply put, the Monarchs’ season was just as bad, if not worse, than the Hokies with a record of 3-9. Now to their credit, they did lose a couple of close ones, the same as the Hokies. However, the team got gutted by the transfer portal and they didn’t pick up much in return. My assumption would be the Hokies pull out a win in this one, but I also said that last year so who knows?

Photo Credit: Katie Lovell-LMS Network

​Virginia Tech VS Purdue
This is a pretty exciting matchup considering both of these teams on paper, right now, look pretty even. The Purdue Boilermakers had a great season last year with a record of 8-6 but finished first in the Big10 West division. This is a team that just got a new head coach though and they only returned 4 starters on offense. That’s something to keep in mind when you look at Purdue. This is one of the closer matchups for the Hokies and if they get their offensive situation figured out, I feel like the defense can hold their own and win a close game in Blacksburg. If this game was flipped the other way and Purdue was the home team, I’d give them the advantage, but they have to go and play in front of a really tough Lane Stadium crowd which makes me believe the Hokies have the edge here.

​Virginia Tech AT Rutgers
After the matchup with Purdue, the Hokies will take the road for the first time, heading to New Jersey to take on the Scarlet Knights. Bluntly put, last year Rutgers was not a good football team. They went 4-8 on the year, but their non-conference schedule was full of teams that had even worse years than they did. When they played a conference foe, they went 1-8. Their only win came against Indiana, which they only won by one score. My assumption would be the Hokies head up north and notch a win pretty easily.

​Virginia Tech AT Marshall
A homecoming for last year’s starting quarterback Grant Wells as the Hokies travel to visit the Marshall Green Herd. Keeping in mind that this Marshall team did upset Notre Dame last season, the Hokies have their hands full in this matchup. The Green Herd went 9-4 last year, and with the fact that they bring back a ton of returning starters, I’d say this could be where we see the Hokies snag their first loss of the season. Marshall returns the leading touchdown scorer on the ground in Rasheen Ali, as well as bringing back key starters on defense in Steven Gilmore and Micah Abraham in the backfield. Even if the Hokies can figure more out on offense than they did last year, they still currently have glaring questions at quarterback. I’ll pick Marshall to get the win in this one.

Photo Credit: Katie Lovell-LMS Network

Virginia Tech VS Pittsburgh
The Pitt Panthers are a formidable foe. Pitt went 9-4 last season and finished 2nd in the ACC Coastal. Pitt has turned itself into a perennial powerhouse in the ACC under head coach Pat Narduzzi. The Panthers do have some starters to replace, but that’s never hindered them before. They truly have a “next man up” mentality. Pitt is returning a majority of their key pieces and honestly, I still believe that Pitt is one of the best teams in the ACC. I don’t think they’re getting as much love as they should be. They’ll come into Blacksburg and face a tough crowd, especially if the Hokies are indeed 3-1 coming into this, but I still think that Pitt pulls out a hard-fought win. This’ll hand the Hokies the second loss of the season.

Virginia Tech AT Florida State
The optimist in me wants to believe this will be close. The realist in me knows that with the talent of Florida State, the Hokies have little chance. Florida State is currently ranked 8th in the nation according to most polls. They’ve blossomed under head coach Mike Norvell. Who, in my opinion, is the perfect example of what happens when you give a coach time to rebuild a program from the ground up? They have 6 players on the ESPN Top 100 Players list, which is the most in the country. They’re playing this game in Tallahassee, which is one of the toughest venues in all of college football. The Hokies will be competitive I’m sure, but overall, Florida State will win out pretty easily.

Virginia Tech VS Wake Forest
The Demon Deacons are one of the best-coached teams in the ACC under coach Dave Clawson. Last season was kind of a middle-of-the-road season as far as he’s concerned though and this year it looks like it might be more of the same. They’re losing six of their starters this year, and even though they are bringing back a lot of depth, none of them have emerged as “the guy”. With that being said, you could say the same about several position groups for the Hokies. I expect that this will be the closest matchup on paper that the Hokies have all season. The Hokies or the Deacons could come out on top in this one, but I’ll give the home team the slight advantage and pick the Hokies to pull out the super close victory.

​Virginia Tech VS Syracuse
Ah, the legendary Thursday night game that virtually shuts down the entire town of Blacksburg. This game is always a high-energy matchup for both teams regardless of who it is. Syracuse comes into this one after a rollercoaster of a year last season. Plagued with injuries, Syracuse still managed to collect a pretty solid season. They snagged 6 wins in the first 6 games of the season before they met Clemson and it all unraveled. After that game, they didn’t win another until the last game of the year against Boston College. If Syracuse can stay healthy, they have a ton of depth that can help them. Depth is a glaring question mark for the Hokies, so even though I think it should be close, I think the Orange pull out a win on Thursday in Blacksburg.

Photo Credit: Katie Lovell-LMS Network

​Virginia Tech AT Louisville
The Cardinals are a pretty interesting case. They have a brand new football coach after a pretty good season last year. Nothing insanely flashy, but they did gather 8 wins. Jeff Brohm has proven to be quite the head coach during his time at Purdue. He is inheriting a team that has a lot of really good bones. His defense will be the name of the game though, as he only returns 2 starters on offense. With Brohms’ proven track record of turning programs around, I can only assume good things out of the Cardinals. The Hokies will need to be producing against a really tough defense, but the Hokies couldn’t produce against bad defenses last year. This will be two defensive powerhouses going back and forth, but ultimately I have the Cardinals winning this thing.

Virginia Tech AT Boston College
Heading up to Boston has always, for one reason or another, been a hard time for the Hokies. However, Boston College was not a good football team last season. The Eagles struggled last season and even lost against the Hokies last year. New year, new hopes for the Eagles though as they are returning a ton of players to the roster this year. The offensive line depth got much better as they added a couple of transfers. The question is honestly the same one for the Hokies; Can a 3-something-win team turn it around and snag some big wins? I think that this year is a test for both of these programs. Overall, I do think that based on the talent of returning players, the Hokies pull this win out in Boston. It’ll be really cold and a tough environment, but the Hokies should be able to pull this one out.

​Virginia Tech VS NC State

Another team that was riddled with injuries last season, but still had a pretty good year. The NC State Wolfpack went 8-5 last season, with a 4-4 conference record. This offseason, the pack went out and got QB Brendan Armstrong to help that quarterback room, which last season saw the biggest level of injury. The Wolf Pack returns a massive amount of starters, so they have a ton of depth. Last year’s game against the Hokies went the pack’s way and considering everything I’ve seen says NC State got better this offseason, I would imagine this year’s game doing the same. I do, however, believe that the point difference in this matchup will be more than one point though.

Virginia Tech AT Virginia

After a shortened 2022 season, both the Hokies and the Hoos are looking to gather better records this season. The Hoos finished 3-7 last season and are an interesting team coming into year two under head coach Tony Elliot. After last season, the Cavaliers saw a massive exit from both sides of the football, but especially on offense. The Hoos only return two offensive starters this year. Now, “The Commonwealth Clash” is always a competitive game. Something to keep in mind though is the Hokies’ utter dominance in this series. From 2004 to 2018 the Hokies won this game 15 times straight before Virginia was able to turn the tide, and even then they lost the following season and haven’t won it since. When you think about that and the huge loss of starters, I’d say the Hokies probably win again, notching another win under their belt.

Photo Credit: Katie Lovell-LMS Network

Final Prediction: Virginia Tech goes 6-6 in 2023

Overall, 6-6 would be an amazing year for Brent Pry in year 2. He’s got a lot of work to do to get there, but the potential of this team says that they could get there. They have a lot of young talent that could prove to be playmakers, it’s just a matter of when. The consensus of Blacksburg right now is that Brent Pry is the man for the job. He says and does things that the fan base wishes the last regime did. We’ll see if this pans out but I hope that Brent Pry is the guy. We’ll see as the year goes on if the Hokies can live up to my prediction of six wins. Because ultimately, college football and ACC football are better when Virginia Tech is good.