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Hokies' Game Preview & Prediction: Virginia Cavaliers

By Sam Stromberg | November 24
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Kyron Drones throws a pass in Virginia Tech's 30-13 victory over Wake Forest in mid-October (photo via Peter Casey/USA Today).

Date: Saturday, November 25, 2023

Game: Virginia Tech (-2.5) @ Virginia (+2.5); o/u52.5

Location: Scott Stadium, Charlottesville, Virginia

Time: 3:30pm

Channel: ACC Network

The Commonwealth Cup is upon us. Virginia Tech travels to Charlottesville for its regular season finale, fighting for bowl eligibility against a UVa team that is far better than its record indicates. The Wahoos have been playing good football as of late, coming down to the wire against a top ten Louisville squad and beating a solid Duke team. The ‘Hoos also beat a nationally ranked UNC team back in October. Tony Elliott certainly raised some questions early on in the year, yet has found himself leading a UVa program eager to get a big win over its in-state rival Virginia Tech.

It’s rivalry week. Expect nothing short of a dog fight on the Bermudagrass that lays in the center of Scott Stadium.

Virginia Cavaliers (3-8, 2-5)

On Offense…

With QB Tony Muskett being banged up throughout the year, freshman QB Anthony Colandrea has been given the keys to offense, and has done a pretty good job driving. Colandrea adds a dynamic element to this UVa offense through the air and on the ground. He reminds me a little of the Hokies’ Pop Watson. Not as quick, but similar in size, and probably a better passer.

There is a chance Muskett starts on Saturday. Given Colandrea’s recent success, I think it would be quite foolish. Expect AC to get the start.

On the ground, RB’s Perris Jones, Kobe Pace, and Mike Hollins will all get touches. The Clemson transfer Pace seems like the premier back at this point in the year. I think Jones is the best of the three. And Hollins is generally used in short down and distance or goal line situations.

The ‘Hoos posses one of the best WR’s in the nation in Northwestern transfer Malik Washington. At 5’8”, Washington mostly lines up in the slot, yet is dangerous all around and certainly in open space. Washington is second in the nation in receiving with 1,311 yards on the year.

The 6’4” Malachi Fields is the team’s second leading receiver and a 50/50 ball type of guy. The aforementioned RB Kobe Pace is also involved in the pass game. TE Sackett Wood Jr. may get a few targets.Truthfully though, the pass game revolves merely around Washington and Fields.

UVa has a dynamic offense. Virginia Tech must contain Colandrea in the pocket. Missed tackles in the backfield will prove to be detrimental. Containing Washington will also be no easy task, given what NC State’s KC Concepcion (a similar player) did last week to the Hokies. However I do like Canteen (in the slot) or Delane — whoever it may be -- lined up opposite to Washington. Those two have been impressive this year.

On Defense...

The biggest strength of this UVa defense is the LB unit. True freshman LB Kam Robinson has been a force through the middle. Alongside Robinson is James Jackson at Will. Both guys have combined for over 140 total tackles on the year and should play the whole game.

The weak spot of this UVa defense is the DL. The line has not been great, failing to generate pressure, but the veteran DT Aaron Faumui is back for another year. They’ve suffered some injuries on the line, including DE’s Kam Butler and Chico Bennett. Bennett is back, but surprisingly hasn’t been that effective. We will see how Parker Clements and Xavier Chaplin perform — as their play hasn’t been great either.

Jonas Sanker has been a tackle machine in the defensive backfield, leading the team with 97. The 6’1” 210-pound Charlottesville native plays a hybrid safety position and has also forced three fumbles in 2023.

But overall tackling has been an issue for UVa in 2023 — mostly in the second level. Tech has a chance to exploit this heavily with RB Bhayshul Tuten, who ranks top five nationally in missed tackles forced. I think the Hokies can find success stretching Tuten out, forcing corners and safeties to make some plays on the edge.

Losing CB Fentrell Cypress to FSU was certainly a blow. But overall, CB play has been decent for the ‘Hoos, led by senior CB Tayvonn Kyle. The ‘Hoos are giving up about 220 pass yards per game, good for being ranked in the upper half of all FBS teams.

Final Prediction

As I said, I’m expecting this to be a dogfight. UVa is certainly capable of beating the Hokies. Colandrea will make some plays. Kam Robinson will make some plays. Can the Hokies stop Malik Washington? Some Wahoos I’ve encountered feel OK about their chances.

But I say that Tech establishes a run game with Tuten and Drones, throwing in a few deep shots to Felton, and asserts itself, yet again. as big brother. The Commonwealth Cup goes no where.

Virginia Tech 31 - Virginia 23

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Been a Hokie fan ever since I can remember. Immensely passionate about journalism and Virginia Tech sports. Go Hokies!

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