The 2023 Virginia Tech football season is upon us, and year two of the Brent Pry era seems to be exactly where it was last year in terms of making predictions. In my 2022 season preview article last year, I made this very comment: “Most, if not all of the games are winnable. Although unlikely, 9-3 is not out of the question. However, 4-8 is a possibility too. If the players can compete, execute, protect the football, and stay healthy, there is no reason Virginia Tech can’t go bowling this year.”
That comment applies to the 2023 season as well. This is a different team with higher expectations, but honestly, this schedule has only one “gimme” (ODU) and one “highly unlikely” game (FSU). As we were reminded last year, though, there is no such thing as a “gimme” in college football, so the Hokies have to play every game better than they did last season. If they do, they can win every game on the 2023 schedule.
Essentially, every game outside of ODU and FSU is a game that would surprise no one in Hokie Nation if Virginia Tech wins. Conversely it would surprise no one if they lose either. So let’s call those “50-50” games. If Tech can win 50% of the 50-50 games, they will earn a bowl bid.
Last year VT lost most of those 50-50 games en route to a 3-8 season. But honestly, to give rebirth to a favorite Beamerism, “we were a couple of plays away” from bowl eligibility. The Hokies were 1-4 in one-score games. One score. One play. Change one play in a few games and the outcome is different.
Think about it – one bad snap leads to a three point loss at ODU. Even with 15 penalties and five turnovers, the Hokies still win if that snap is caught. Even if the kick is missed, ODU does not score the touchdown and Tech wins 17-13. One bad play.
VT also lost late leads to GT and NCS – aided by penalties and turnovers – and lost each game by one. Statistically, the Hokies were outplayed by Miami, but the final was only a 6-point Hurricane win. If the Hokies don’t fumble on their first possession, maybe Miami doesn’t score their second touchdown?
Virginia Tech won the turnover battle against Liberty and held on to win that one. So the Hokies went 1-3 in games they “should” have won and 1-4 in games they “could” have won. Flip that and 3-8 becomes 5-6 or even 6-5. Add the UVa game (which was cancelled for good reason), and last season could’ve ended with a post-season bid.
So yes, the Hokies were very close to being a bowl team last year. Will they be that bowl team this year?
Playmakers were brought in to address roster holes on the offense, and that unit should show significant improvement (can it really be worse?). However, the offensive line is very young and inexperienced. Depth is also a concern. If there are troubles up front, those playmakers won’t have anywhere to go, so this season can really rise or fall with that O-line.
The defense should be solid. There are a lot of returning players, and despite the new starters at linebacker, there is talent. Hopefully they can be a little more disruptive as an overall unit this year. And hopefully they won’t be on the field as much as they were last season!
So enough rehashing…let’s get into the 2023 Virginia Tech football schedule and predict where the Hokies will finish:
Old Dominion at Virginia Tech, September 2
This is going to be the blowout that Hokie fans expected last year. Not that the Tech O is suddenly going to explode, but there will be revenge on the mind of many, and the game is in Lane Stadium. The Hokies have won 11 of their past 13 home openers, and they will extend that to 12 of 14 this year. ODU only returns seven starters from a bad 3-9 team in 2022, and their 2023 quarterback will be a transfer from Fordham (it will be the “Grant W Show” – Grant Wilson of ODU vs Grant Wells of VT!). They lost their top players at quarterback, running back, tight end, and wide receiver. To add salt to that wound, their best receiver was Ali Jennings III, who now lines up for the Hokies and will likely torch his old teammates. Jennings caught 5 passes for 122 yards against the Hokies last year, so the obvious call is to say he will do better against he old team this year. Even if he doesn’t, Tech loaded up on skill players through the portal, and they will take it to the Monarchs (outside of tackling machine Jason Henderson, that is). I’m going with my prediction from last year, minus a score from the woeful ODU offense. Virginia Tech 27 – Old Dominion 7
Purdue at Virginia Tech, September 9
This is Purdue’s first trip to Blacksburg, and only the second ever meeting between the two schools. The Boilermakers are coming off a Big Ten West championship, but the celebration is over, as they have a new coach and a new quarterback, as well as a lot of new faces on defense. New head coach Ryan Walters was the defensive coordinator at Illinois last year, where the Illini led the nation in scoring defense (12.8 ppg) and were third best in total defense (273.5 ypg). He only has four returning starters on that side of the ball, but he and his defensive coordinator have the opportunity to mold them into the new 3-4 system. On offense, new OC Graham Harrell – who was at West Virginia last year when the Mountaineers hung 33 on the Hokies – will go to work with Texas transfer Huston Card as his QB. There will be a learning curve on both sides of the ball, so the Hokies have a great opportunity to snap their non-conference P5 losing streak here. The Hokies have lost their last eight non-conference games against Power 5 teams (including Notre Dame). As much as I want the Hokies to win, I think they are still too young to win all of these big games, and unfortunately I think that losing streak runs to nine. Purdue 27 – Virginia Tech 20
Virginia Tech at Rutgers, September 16
This game could be as ugly as the last time the two met in the 2012 Russell Athletic Bowl where the Hokies had THREE yards rushing and still won the game (in overtime, but it was still a win). Both teams had pitiful offenses last year, but they both fielded a decent defense. I’m not sure there will be 21 combined punts like last time, but there could be five combined turnovers again. Whatever the case, this will not be a pretty game to watch and the offensive statistics will be brutal. However, the Hokies will finally end the P5 non-conference losing streak. Perhaps they do it on a last second touchdown pass in the corner of the endzone to exorcise those demons from 1992! Virginia Tech 13 – Rutgers 10
Virginia Tech at Marshall, September 23
Well, we can say the Hokie will definitely play in one bowl this year – the Huntington Bowl. This will be like a bowl game for Marshall and their fans will be FIRED UP for this one as their former quarterback Grant Wells returns. Huntington will have no rage like love to hatred turned, nor hell a fury like a woman scorned. The fans are already chomping at the bit for Wells’ return. This is also the same Marshall team that beat Notre Dame at South Bend last year. They return their quarterback and five other starters, plus a running back returning from injury after leading FBS with 25 touchdowns two years ago. Charles Huff, once rumored as a potential replacement for Justin Fuente, has assembled a very athletic roster and the Thundering Herd will compete for the Sun Belt crown. This week, they will be ready for the first P5 team to play in Huntington since NC State did it in 2018. The Hokies know this will be a tough matchup and I don’t expect them to take the Herd lightly. However, the environment will be rocking and the margin of error will be slim. Once again, my heart wants to check the “W” box but my head tells me that the youth and lack of depth might be too much for the Hokies in this one. Marshall 24 –Virginia Tech 21
Pittsburgh at Virginia Tech, September 30
Pitt is going to be an interesting team to watch. They lost a lot of key players from last year’s squad, but they arguably improved at quarterback with former Boston College signal caller Phil Jurkovic transferring to the Steel City. Not that Jurkovic is so dynamic, but he is reuniting with his former coordinator Frank Cignetti, and while they were together at BC, Jurkovic threw for 24 TDs in two years. I don’t think that Pitt is going to be a contender for the conference championship game, but Narduzzi’s teams always play tough defense, and their roster is still loaded with older players (they have 14 seniors projected to start this year). Pitt has had the Hokies’ number recently, winning four of the last five games by a combined 172-62 (an average of 43-15!). This one is in Lane Stadium where the Panthers haven’t exactly excelled, but until the Hokies can beat the Panthers consecutively again, I will not pick them in this matchup. Pitt 23 – Virginia Tech 13
Virginia Tech at Florida State, October 7
There is not much to say about this one. Florida State won 11 games last year and they return 16 starters, including quarterback Jordan Travis, who is expected to compete for ACC Offensive Player of the Year. They will be potent again on offense following a year where they ranked 16th in scoring (36.1 ppg) and 10th in total offense (484.2 ypg). The Seminoles will seriously push Clemson for the ACC title, and there is a feeling that the league throne may be shifting back to Tallahassee. The Hokies have a history of putting up a good fight in games like this, but usually they end the same way…with the better team pulling away late. I see the same thing happening here. Florida State 36 – Virginia Tech 14
Wake Forest at Virginia Tech, October 14
This is an interesting Wake Forest team coming into Lane Stadium at an interesting time. All-everything quarterback Sam Hartman may have half of the Wake Forest passing records, but he is playing in South Bend this year. That is good, right? Not necessarily, as his backup Mitch Griffis is more than capable and Dave Clawson’s system has a proven track record. There are a lot of returning players in the two-deep, but there is movement in the positions. The defense only has three returning starters, but there is depth in the secondary. Hopefully, this will be a trap game for the Demon Deacons as they travel to Blacksburg a week after playing at Clemson but a week before traveling to Pittsburgh, then to Florida State. Then again, maybe this is a must-win game for Wake and they show up focused. Either way, it is once again a toss-up kind of game, and because it is home and because Wake tends to struggle at Lane, I think the good guys prevail. Virginia Tech 30 – Wake Forest 27
Syracuse at Virginia Tech, Thursday, October 26
After a bye week, the Hokies host another Thursday night game. This used to be an automatic win for Tech, but the Hokies have been less than spectacular in all night games at Lane Stadium over the past decade. This is the perfect opportunity to change that. Syracuse returns quarterback Garrett Shrader, but the Orange lost offensive coordinator Robert Anae to NC State, and they replaced him with a first-time OC. Couple that with the loss of the program’s third all-time rushing leader Sean Tucker to the NFL and I think the ‘Cuse’s offense takes a significant step back. There are eight returning starters on defense, but there is a new coordinator on that side of the ball as well. By no means will this be an easy win, but the Hokies have revenge on their minds after Shrader manufactured an improbable come-from-behind victory in his last trip to Lane Stadium. It may not be the Terror Dome, but it will be loud. Syracuse may be the “Orange,” but orange and maroon is much better. Virginia Tech 34 – Syracuse 24
Virginia Tech at Louisville, November 4
In another game that features a new Purdue coach and a transfer portal quarterback, the Hokies travel to Kentucky to take on Louisville. The Cardinals’ new leader is Jeff Brohm, a former Louisville quarterback who was previously at Purdue. Their new QB is Jack Plummer, who played at Purdue for Brohm for four years before transferring to Cal last season. Plummer can wing it, amassing over 3000 passing yards and 21 touchdowns last year as a Golden Bear. Louisville hit the portal hard to bring in receivers for Plummer, and they return a formidable 1-2 punch at running back. The defense should be solid, and the schedule is favorable. Louisville could easily win 8 or more games this year. This is one of them. Louisville 28 – Virginia Tech 24
Virginia Tech at Boston College, November 11
When is the last time a Virginia Tech fan was excited to see the Hokies play any sport at Boston College? Seriously, this campus has been brutal to Virginia Tech, with painful performances over the years, especially in football and basketball. Admittedly, it can be difficult to get fired up to play a team who is perennially mediocre at best in a stadium or arena that is half full at best. That said, this is Power Five football, and there is no excuse for not being mentally prepared for each game. The Eagles return ten starters, but their quarterback is probably better than his predecessor (who is now at Pitt). This will be a scratch and claw kind of game, and with the new clock rules, it will be important for the Hokies to score early since they will probably have one or two fewer possessions than usual. The Hokies are 9-5 all time in Chestnut Hill, but they have lost their last two at Alumni Stadium. They have never lost three in a row up there. It’s time to end that streak and move that winning percentage to .666667. Virginia Tech 27 – Boston College 17
North Carolina State at Virginia Tech, November 18
Brennan Armstrong enters his sixth year of college football. This season, he takes his talents to Raleigh after amassing 9034 passing yards and 58 touchdowns in his career. However, he is reunited with offensive coordinator Robert Anae who held the same position at Virginia two seasons ago when Armstrong threw for a whopping 4449 yards and 31 touchdowns. That is enough to worry most Tech fans. However, the Wolfpack return only 11 starters, so there will be a lot of young players on both sides of the ball. Better yet, Armstrong is 0-2 against the Hokies and probably would’ve been 0-3 had they played last year. Despite their youth, NC State does have sixth-year future NFLer Payton Wilson anchoring what is usually a stingy defense. Perhaps that and the new uniform color is enough to finally get Armstrong a win over the Hokies. NC State 31 – Virginia Tech 24
Virginia Tech at Virginia, November 25
The Hokie in me wants to rail against the Wahoos with jokes about drinking Zima at tailgates and relying on a transfer from Monmouth (New Jersey) as the starting quarterback. But the human in me thinks of the off-field tragedy that rocked the campus last November, and that is not the kind of event that just goes away nine months later. For Hokies, too, who can unfortunately relate. The ‘Hoos will have another tough year on the gridiron, though, as their quarterback transferred, their top four receivers are gone, and their offensive line needs to be rebuilt. They will struggle to score, and by November, they will still struggle with their in-state rivals. On the bright side, there is a good chance I will make this trip to see my first ever Commonwealth Cup in Lane Stadium North. I expect to be treated to a victory, as the Hokies extend their dominance in this rivalry, making it 18 wins in their last 19 meetings and 22 in their last 25. Virginia Tech 27 – Virginia 16
Final Thoughts on the 2023 Virginia Tech Football Schedule
With a 6-6 record, the Hokies will get back to bowl eligibility and restart a streak! Maybe a Military Bowl or another Pinstripe Bowl, but at this point in the rebuild, any bowl bid will be welcomed by Hokie Nation.
As long as the team stays healthy, especially that offensive line, and develops as the season goes on, Hokie fans should be satisfied. There are a lot of new faces on the field, and the future looks bright for this team. A .500 record and a bowl game is a step in the right direction for Brent Pry in his second year as he continues to rebuild the program.
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