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Syracuse football vs. Virginia Tech preview: Q&A with Gobbler Country

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(waves hello across the gulf that is the Atlantic/Coastal division divide)

NCAA Football: Richmond at Virginia Tech Ryan Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

When the Syracuse Orange first joined the ACC, we were looking forward to more regular football matchups with the likes of former Big East teams like Boston College, Virginia Tech and Miami. And while we’ve probably had enough of BC (and them, us) by this point, meetings with the Hokies and Hurricanes have been few and far between — with just two games total from 2013 through 2020. We’ll get to Miami again at some point (2024, somehow), but at least we finally get our second matchup vs. Virginia Tech this Saturday.

And since we’re not Hokies fans, we went ahead and asked one about what to expect from Virginia Tech on Saturday. Gobbler Country’s Bryan Manning provides responses to our questions below. We provide some answers over there too, which you can check out.

Since the ACC’s reverted to full chaos at this point, who’s your pick to win the league this year?

Man, this is a tough one. The easy answer to say is Pitt. But, we are about to find out how good the Panthers really are. I really like Wake Forest, but they’ve played some close ones lately, and it makes you wonder who is going to trip them up at some point. You guys almost did. If Clemson takes down Pitt this weekend, I have to believe the Tigers will find a way to win the league again.

After a bunch of closer games to start the season, Virginia Tech had a rough outing against Pitt. What specifically went wrong in the 28-7 loss that didn’t in the previous games?

The offense. And it’s not even injuries. The scheme is bad. The playcalling is bad. And the quarterback is just not very good. Look, we all like Braxton Burmeister, but he’s limited as a passer. The Hokies have several talented players on offense, but this coaching staff doesn’t know how to use them.

Speaking of things not going well, it seems like Justin Fuente’s on the (incredibly) hot seat going into this weekend. How do you feel about the job he’s done in Blacksburg?

I, like everyone else, thought Fuente was the best hire in that cycle. In his first season, he won 10 games and played in the ACC title game. However, it’s been going downhill since. A lot of bad has happened under his watch, such as losing the bowl streak, losing to Virginia, bad recruiting classes, embarrassing home losses, etc. It’s time for a change, and it has been for two years now.

What’s ailing the Virginia Tech offense this year? Play-calling? QB play? Running back issues? Offensive line struggles? Or all of the above, perhaps?

See the above answer. While the Hokies have some talented players at RB, some do not fit the roles they are currently in. Raheem Blackshear should be playing more of a slot role. Instead, he’s the lead back. Playcalling is abysmal. The offensive scheme is worse. So many issues plague Virginia Tech’s offense.

It’s been a minute since Syracuse played at Lane Stadium. Have any favorite home moments from the old Big East matchups between these teams?

One comes to mind, all the way back in 1995. Donovan McNabb and Marvin Harrison played for the Orange that season, while Virginia Tech was led by star defensive end Cornell Brown. Brown chased McNabb all around Lane Stadium that day for three sacks, and while the Hokies won, we knew McNabb was going to be a major problem for the Hokies — which ended up being true.

Virginia Tech’s defense hasn’t fared too well against the run (allowing over 4.2 yards per carry this year). How do you think the Hokies try to stop SU’s Sean Tucker?

This is a massive challenge. VT’s defense has looked good at times under second-year DC Justin Hamilton. Tucker presents a different kind of challenge that concerns me. You add in a mobile QB like Shrader, and it could spell disaster for Tech’s defense. The Hokies struggle against dual-threat passers.

Where do you think Virginia Tech has a distinct advantage over Syracuse going into this game, and how crucial will that be regarding the final outcome?

Honestly, I feel this is a pretty even matchup. I do like the Hokies’ chances of limiting the Orange’s passing game, but if the running game gets hot early and the Hokies over-commit to stopping the run, it could be a big day for the Syracuse offense.

Who’s an unsung Hokies player that Orange fans should get a bit more familiar with before this game?

On offense, keep an eye on WR Tayvion Robinson. While he isn’t unsung to VT fans, he doesn’t get a lot of recognition outside of Blacksburg, and that’s not fair. TE Nick Gallo is another name that comes to mind.

Any Syracuse player that scares you, beyond the obvious choice of Sean Tucker?

Shrader, because of his legs. Virginia Tech has had issues with mobile QBs, even the ones who couldn’t throw a forward pass, dating back to the legendary tenure of Bud Foster.

Prediction time: Who wins this one and why?

I am really tempted to go with Syracuse here, but I am taking the Hokies with the game being in Blacksburg. Virginia Tech 24, Syracuse 21

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Thanks again to Bryan for taking the time to answer these. Follow the site on Twitter and check out Gobbler Country for all things Virginia Tech-related as well.