College football fans in Virginia have had it good in recent years—good, but not great. Both the Cavaliers and Hokies have been good teams in recent years. Prior to last season, each had gone bowling for three consecutive seasons.
But then last season was not extraordinary for either. It is not that they were bad; Virginia went 4-5 and Virginia Tech went 5-5. They just were not as good as they had been (Virginia won nine games in 2019 and Virginia Tech won eight).
But the 2020 season was an anomaly. The pandemic added challenges that no one could have planned for. However, with the world getting back to normal, college football is looking to do the same. Virginia and Virginia Tech fans hope that means winning more than they lose this season.
Whether they do will, of course, depend on if they can build on what successes they had last season—and fix some of their shortcomings.
Virginia Tech Hokies 2021 Season Preview
|Odds For The Virginia Tech Hokies: 2021/22||DraftKings||FanDuel||BetRivers|
|To Win The Division (ACC Coastal)||+750||+1000||+750|
|To Win The Conference (ACC)||+2500||+5000||+2500|
|To Win The National Championship||+25000||+20000||+25000|
|Win Total (over/under)||7.0 (+105/-134)||7.5 (+125/-145)||7.0 (+105/-134)|
Offense was not the issue for the Hokies last season. But last year’s offense played to last year’s strength. They had a good offensive line and two solid runners, quarterback Hendon Hooker and running back Khalil Herbert.
However, with Hooker and Herbert gone, the offense will need a new direction—which it will find in the passing game.
Virginia Tech has an excellent group of pass-catchers coming back, like wide receivers Tre Turner and Tayvion Robinson and tight end James Mitchell. Turner and Robinson were two of the best receivers in the ACC last year, while Mitchell ranked in the top five of tight ends in the FBS.
Of course, they will need a quarterback who can throw. That role will go to Braxton Burmeister, who proved to be an effective downfield passer when he played in 2020. But his success will depend largely on his offensive line—which happens to be pretty good.
The line lost its best player to the NFL (Christian Darrisaw), but it has three good blockers coming back and got a promising transfer in center Johnny Jordan from Maryland.
But all the potential the offense has will not matter much if the defense does not play better than it did in 2020. The defense was under the guidance of a new defensive coordinator for the first time in 25 years, and it showed.
Last season saw the Hokies defense finish the season ranked 103rd in total yard allowed (447.5/game) and 82nd in scoring (32.1/game; worst season in program history since 1973). It did not help that new coordinator Justin Hamilton had to do without three key members of his secondary.
There is talent coming back, though. But since much of it is not proven or has not proven it can play in Hamilton’s system, expectations are low. However, with an entire off-season to work with his defense, there is reason to believe Hamilton’s group should be better this season.
How much better? We will have to wait and see.
Virginia Cavaliers 2021 Season Preview
|Odds For The Virginia Cavaliers- 2021/22||DraftKings||FanDuel||BetRivers|
|To Win The Division (ACC Coastal)||+1000||+1600||+1000|
|To Win The Conference (ACC)||+3300||+10000||+3300|
|To Win The National Championship||+25000||+20000||+25000|
|Win Total (over/under)||6.0 (-134/+106)||6.0 (-110/-110)||6.0 (-134/-+106)|
But heading into 2021, Virginia fans should feel good about their team. Like the Hokies, the offense was not the issue for the Cavaliers in 2020. They were good enough to average around 420 yards and 30 points a game. The only problem, though, was that the defense allowed 440+ yards and 29.6 points a game.
The offense is well-stocked with experience this season, including four starters on the offensive line. Quarterback Brennan Armstrong played well in his first season as the starter, but his accuracy needs to improve (he completed 58.6 percent of his passes in 2020).
He also needs to cut down on the turnovers (11 interceptions). His ability to run (lead team in rushing last season) helps make up for some of the mistakes, but if they are going to win more than five games, he cannot throw 11 interceptions.
Having a solid receiver like Billy Kemp IV should help take some pressure off Armstrong. But they will need some other guys to step up (i.e., Ra’Shaun Henry, Keytaon Thompson, etc.).
The offense appears to be underrated. Should Armstrong and a few others elevate their game in 2021, there is a chance the Cavs could have one of the more dangerous offenses in the ACC. But, like the Hokies once again, their Achilles heel is their defense.
Last year’s group was just dreadful. Statistically, it looks like they were not bad against the run (37th; 138.5 yards/game). But that was primarily due to teams throwing on one of the worst secondaries in football (123rd; 304.4 yards/game).
With a defensive coordinator in his fifth season, they do not have the same excuse as the Hokies dreadful defense. That does not mean fans will see a similarly dreadful unit this season. Not so much because there will be an infusion of new talent, but because it returns eight of 11 starters.
Experience always makes a difference with defenses. If this one can learn from its mistakes and come back better in 2021 (especially the secondary), there is hope for the Virginia defense.
Do not expect too much from them, though. But the defense should at least be better.
Both appear to be teams on the rise, but the problem both may have is whether they can rise above the competition. When it comes to the national title and the conference title, the answer is easy for both—no.
They are not in the national title conversation at all, and Clemson will win the ACC for the seventh consecutive season. But there is hope for both in their division.
However, they are going to face some stiff competition in North Carolina and Miami. Both have better odds than the Hokies and Cavaliers. North Carolina is the favorite at DraftKings and BetRivers, but they are co-favorites at FanDuel.
But there is value in betting on either team to win the division—just do not bet much. Many things must go right for either one to pull it off, and North Carolina will be tough to beat (Miami—not so much).
As for their win totals, it is hard to say with any certainty that Virginia Tech will win eight games (and cover the over). Seven? Absolutely. Pass on this one. Virginia, though, is an underrated team. While their schedule is a little more challenging than Tech’s, it is not hard to imagine them winning seven.
Take the over.