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McFarling: Offense aplenty possible, even for Tech-BC

McFarling: Offense aplenty possible, even for Tech-BC

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This isn’t your slightly older brother’s Virginia Tech-Boston College matchup.

You think BC, you probably think huge offensive lineman, bruising running backs, ball-control offense and hard-nosed defense. It’s why Tech-BC appealed to a certain type of football fan for so many years.

Both teams pretty much wanted to do the same thing — collide, collide and collide some more — and it was a matter of who did it better on that day.

No longer. Vegas has set the over-under for Saturday’s game at 62 points. That’s a lot.

To put that in perspective, just four years ago, the over-under for this matchup was 39. It was a paltry 36.5 the year before that, and people who bet the over lost when the Hokies grinded out a 26-10 victory in Chestnut Hill.

The reasons for the shift are obvious. Tech is averaging an ACC-best 42.7 points through its first three games. The Hokies also are allowing 37.0 points on defense — better than only woeful Florida State.

Throw in lingering COVID-19 issues on that side of the ball, as well as the poor tackling demonstrated in last week’s loss at North Carolina, and it’s hard to put a lot of faith in Tech putting in a lockdown performance on defense.

Meanwhile, BC has a little more versatility in its offense than it does in some years. Behind mammoth quarterback Phil Jurkovec, the Eagles rank second in the ACC with 295.3 passing yards per game.

Not only has the matchup changed, but the sport itself has, too. Scoring is up everywhere you look, even in a year where practice time has been extremely limited and teams are dealing with absences on both sides of the ball.

“It does surprise me,” Tech coach Justin Fuente said of the eye-popping scores nationally in 2020. “I would have thought it would be the other way around. Pretty much every year I’ve ever coached, you go out in the spring, and the offense can’t really make a first down on the defense. No matter where you’re at [as a team], no matter how good or bad you are.

“It’s just really difficult to get timing, to get execution down. I kind of thought it would look a little bit more like that.”

The lion’s share of the COVID-19 issues for Tech since the season started have occurred in the defensive backfield. The Hokies hope to have a more complete roster this week, but they won’t know for sure until they get the results of the Friday tests.

“I know that’s what scares me,” Fuente said. “We talk about the game being safe and being down numbers. You can manipulate it on offense and usually find a way to go out there. But on the defensive side, you’re stuck out there, and you can’t punt. So being thin on that side is really scary.”

Either way, the Hokies must be prepared to win a shootout. It helps to have quarterback Hendon Hooker back with two full weeks of practice and a solid second half effort against UNC upon which to build. It helps to have Khalil Herbert playing the way he has.

The Hokies can score. And unlike many matchups against BC over the years, it appears they’ll have to do so often Saturday to win.

Aaron McFarling reports for The Roanoke Times.

Aaron McFarling reports for The Roanoke Times.

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