Virginia Tech at East Carolina
Time: 2:30 PM (CT), CBS
Spread: VATC -21
Odds c/o 5dimes
Virginia Tech is off to a solid start in 2017, having won its week 1 & 2 matchups over West Virginia and Delaware. The Hokies held off then-No. 22 West Virginia 31-24 in Week 1 before decisively ridding itself of Delaware in a 27-0 shutout. The Hokies now travel to face East Carolina as 21-point favorites Saturday at 2:30 (CT) on CBS. The over/under is set at 59 points by college football oddsmakers at 5dimes.
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The Hokies were something of a one-man attack in Week 1, as its starting quarterback Josh Jackson had a monster game, throwing 15 of 26 for 235 yards and a TD and rushing for another 101 yards on 11 rushes with a rushing TD. Deshawn McClease and Travon McMillan each rushed for TDs, as well, as the Hokies amassed 234 rushing yards on 45 attempts—good for 5.2 yards per carry.
Virginia Tech’s defense was less stellar. It surrendered 371 passing yards and 221 rushing yards, but it was strong in the red zone in preventing those 592 total yards to only equate to 24 Mountaineers’ points. Can East Carolina take advantage of those weaknesses, or will the Pirates fall as oddsmakers project?
East Carolina has struggled mightily on the season, losing its first two games and not being within striking distance in either. Week 1 saw the Pirates fall 34-14 to James Madison and Week 2 brought a 56-20 trouncing at the hands of West Virginia.
Next week the Pirates will have a winnable one in UConn, but then in Week 5 it faces a tough opponent in USF. This is shaping up to be a rough season for East Carolina, which is perennially something of a wildcard even its own American Athletic Conference. Last season, the Pirates were just 3-9 while going 1-7 in AAC play. The team was a disaster defensively in allowing 36.1 points per game and having one of the worst rush defenses in the nation. East Carolina gave up 228.5 rushing yards per game, ranking No. 111 in the nation.
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The team changed from a three to a four man front this year, but it has had issues controlling the line of scrimmage throughout its first two games this year, much like a year ago. Jordan Williams is strong at inside linebacker, but the strength of the defense is really its secondary. It is deep and talented, and Travon Simmons is one of the better free safeties in the AAC. This is also just head coach Scottie Montgomery’s second season, and the quarterback controversy that plagued the Pirates really has not been settled in any definitive fashion.
Through two games, Thomas Sirk has a 95.6 passer rating due to his four interceptions, while Gardner Minshew has thrown under 50 percent (45.2) completions. The pair has combined to throw 51 percent for completion, and three receivers have over 100-yards. But beyond that, the backfield is struggling with just 3.4 yards per carry and only two rushing TDs through the first two games. The Pirates will likely be exposed by Virginia Tech in a very bad way, and this could be a tough season for Montgomery with little assurance the team bests its three wins from a year ago.
Virginia Tech will get a chance to get its defense back on track against a struggling team this week, and that might be a good thing for the Hokies given that offense has hardly been the problem thus far. Expect the Hokies to cruise to a pretty easy victory as East Carolina continues to search for answers in this young season.