CHESTNUT HILL, Mich. – Following its first losing season since 1992, Virginia Tech opens up what it hopes to be a bounce-back season with a challenging road contest against ACC rival Boston College on Saturday. The Hokies were working on their 26th consecutive winning campaign last year before losing four of their final six games in the regular season and then falling to Cincinnati 35-31 in the Military Bowl to finish 6-7.
TV: 4 p.m. ET, ACC Network. LINE: Virginia Tech -4.5
"I think they've been through adversity, and that can do one of two things," Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente told reporters of his team's mindset. "When you go through hard times it either separates you, or brings you closer together. I think it's definitely brought those kids closer together. It happened not to us, but for us and it's been fun to watch how they've responded throughout the offseason and now into fall camp." The Hokies' late swoon included a 10-point home loss to the Eagles, who rose into the top 25 before a late three-game losing streak and a bowl game that was cut short by severe weather left them itching to get back into action. "We're playing an elite team in our conference on opening day here," BC coach Steve Addazio recently told reporters. "It doesn't get a whole lot better than that. So there's a sense of urgency about our preseason camp realizing how much of a short time it is before we get started." The Hokies have won in their last two trips to Chestnut Hill, Mass. by a combined score of 49-20.
ABOUT VIRGINIA TECH (2018: 6-7, 4-4 ACC)
The ACC Coastal division figures to be wide open and the Hokies have every intention of contending behind senior quarterback Ryan Willis, who took over early last season and threw for 2,716 yards and 24 touchdowns with nine interceptions in 12 games. Junior Damon Hazelton (802 receiving yards, eight touchdowns) and sophomore Tre Turner (535 yards, four TDs) figure to be his top targets, while junior tight end Dalton Keene is a big factor. Defensive coordinator Bud Foster is entering his 33rd and final season with the program and will be hoping to energize a unit that allowed 210.3 rushing yards and 31 points per game in 2018.
ABOUT BOSTON COLLEGE (2018: 7-5, 4-4)
Junior running back AJ Dillon missed roughly a month last year due to an ankle injury and, while he still finished with 1,108 yards and 10 TDs, was not quite the same runner as he was in his remarkable freshman campaign in 2017. "I do think there's a hunger there to succeed," offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian told reporters of Dillon. "And that's evident in his work ethic." Dillon will take handoffs from junior quarterback Anthony Brown (2,121 passing yards, 20 TDs) and they'll operate behind the usually solid Boston College offensive line, led by All-ACC preseason pick Ben Petrula, a junior tackle.
1. Boston College outgained Virginia Tech on the ground by a 219-111 margin in last year's meeting.
2. The Eagles have won exactly seven games in five of Addazio's six seasons at the helm.
3. The Hokies begin their home slate Sept. 7 against Old Dominion, which delivered Virginia Tech its first loss last year with a stunning 49-35 upset.
PREDICTION: Virginia Tech 24, Boston College 23