Preview: No. 8 Ohio State vs. Virginia Tech

By Patrick Maks on September 5, 2014 at 8:35 am
Junior quarterback Michael Brewer was efficient in Virginia Tech's opener.
Photo: The Key Play

Back when it was scheduled about a decade ago, Saturday’s primetime game between Ohio State and Virginia Tech was supposed to be a colossal clash of heavyweights. It was supposed to carry the same intrigue and implications of a bout with USC, Texas, or even Notre Dame.

From 2004-2011, the Hokies won four ACC championships and played for two more. Lane Stadium and head coach Frank Beamer’s “Beamer Ball” became fixtures in the college football landscape. Conversely, the Buckeyes were perhaps even more dominant, winning Big Ten titles in 2002, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009. More recently, Ohio State is 25-2 with Urban Meyer at the helm.

Virginia Tech Hokies
1–0, 0–0 ACC



That’s where Virginia Tech’s fallen short and fallen off. In the last two seasons, the Hokies are 15-11 and haven’t resembled the power program that had Michael Vick and paralyzed opponents with a stifling defense. Beamer’s squad is far from irrelevant and still very good at suffocating opposing offenses, but this game isn’t what it was supposed to be.

Ohio State still is Ohio State. Virginia Tech’s slipped.

Nonetheless, when the teams meet under the lights in a renovated Ohio Stadium, the Buckeyes, playing without star quarterback Braxton Miller and bands of new faces on both sides of the ball, should have their hands full when the Hokies come to town for the nationally-televised game.


Last week, Virginia Tech blasted William & Mary, 34-9, which tells us more or less nothing about the Hokies. But here’s a slew of figured from last year that might shed some light on that:

  • 100th in scoring offense
  • 102nd in total offense
  • 11th in scoring defense
  • Fourth in total defense

Obviously, this year’s squad -- which returns just 12 starters -- is different, but most of that shouldn’t surprise you.

The Hokies have been one of the nation’s preeminent defensive powers for the last decade. Since 2000, they’ve notched 259 interceptions, the most of any FBS school and finished in the top 20 of total defense five of the last six seasons.

You already know Virginia Tech is good at defense, but here’s why. During his weekly call-in show on 97.1 The Fan Thursday, Meyer said the Hokies run a somewhat rare “man-free” style of defense that’s evolved over the last few years. With the proper personnel, Virginia Tech’s been able to shut down offenses under longtime defensive coordinator Bud Foster. On top of that, the Hokies like to play bump-and-run coverage which should challenge Ohio State’s relatively youthful receivers.

“This will be a challenge,” Meyer said, “but also an opportunity."


For the purpose of scene setting, Saturday’s going to be pretty crazy. Meyer called the game arguably the biggest weekend of the season, LeBron James should be there, and the Buckeyes look like they’ll wear special uniforms.

Couple that with stadium renovations that added 2,600 seats to the South Stands and an actual tunnel for the team to run out of prior to kickoff, and you have a recipe for fun time under the lights.

But all the hoopla off the field won’t do much to help Ohio State on it.

“Everything’s big, man,” Meyer said, “just win the damn game.” Because though the Buckeyes are 11-point favorites, they’re walking into a perfect storm type of scenario.

Meyer called the offensive line the team’s “number one concern” Monday for good reason. Ohio State’s big men struggled mightily in the first half against Navy and, with all due respect to the Midshipmen, this is another beast.

The Hokies, known for their blitz-happy defense and propensity to disguise coverages, are going to come at the Buckeyes with the kitchen sink Saturday. Why wouldn't they?

Ohio State’s offensive line is replacing four multi-year starters and such a project remains a work in progress for the Buckeyes.

If they can’t protect redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett, things are going to get interesting fast. Yeah, Barrett had a solid outing against Navy, but the catalyst for much of his success was when the offensive line came together in the second half. With time and proper protection, Barrett should be able to sit back and throw the ball to a cache of emerging playmakers on the outside. Without that buffer, though, who knows what will happen.

Unlike the dynamic Miller, Barrett hasn’t proven he can turn a broken play into a 65-yard touchdown. When the pocket collapses, so does Ohio State’s offense. For the Buckeyes to gain offensive traction in this one, they’ll need to give Barrett time to throw.

Meyer said the offensive line was “pretty good” in the second half last weekend, but  “pretty good is not what we expect. Pretty good won't win that game” against the Hokies.


It’s hard to imagine Virginia Tech coming into Ohio Stadium and pulling off the win. Heck, it’s really hard for anybody to come into the Horseshoe and walk away with a win. The Buckeyes haven’t lost at home under Meyer and this Hokies squad isn’t cut from the same thread as past teams in Blacksburg.

For Ohio State to win, the offensive line has to protect Barrett like it did in the second half against Navy. For Virginia Tech to win, it needs to rattle the redshirt freshman quarterback and be efficient on offense. The Hokies are going to get to Barrett at least once or twice. The defense seems to be for real.

In the end, the Buckeyes should be able to withstand a heavy dose of Beamer Ball Saturday night with what should be a roaring and eclectic crowd in the Horseshoe.

Virginia Tech’s defense is going to limit what Meyer and Co. do offensively, but the Hokies lack the firepower on the other side of the ball to pull off the upset in Columbus.


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