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Weekly Kickoff: Pitt to be tested by Virginia Tech defense

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Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

After a week off, Pitt hits the ground running with a Thursday night game against Virginia Tech.

The Hokies have grabbed quite a bit of attention after all of the talk had mostly been around Clemson, Louisville, and Florida State. After pounding North Carolina 34-3, they did have a head-scratcher in losing on the road to Syracuse. But after crushing Miami this week, 37-16, it's safe to say that they're mostly for real.

Virginia Tech, of course, isn't elite. With that loss to Syracuse and an early-season 45-24 rout to Tennessee, it's clear that they're not a Top 10 team. But this is going to be a great test for Pitt, who is still trying to figure out exactly where they are in the ACC hierarchy, too.

The Hokies are solid on both sides of the ball. Offensively, they've scored about 36 points - only a hair less than Pitt. Like the Panthers, Virginia Tech doesn't make a lot of mistakes at quarterback. Jerod Evans has 19 touchdowns against only two interceptions and he leads the entire ACC in passing efficiency. Evans, in fact, is in the top ten in the nation in that category, so don't expect him to make a ton of mistakes. He will also get out and run a little. Evans is second on the team in rushing with 417 yards.

In other words, not a great thing to see.

Defensively, though, is where Virginia Tech really makes their mark. The Hokies are 11th in the nation, allowing only about 300 yards per game, and they are 16th in scoring defense giving up just 18 points per game. Pitt's offense has mostly done what they wanted this year, so that's going to be a great matchup to watch. What the Panthers want to do is run the ball, but that's where the Hokies excel, ranking 11th in the nation there, too, allowing just over 100 yards per game.

Throwing against Virginia Tech is no picnic, either. Linebacker Terrell Edmunds and defensive back Greg Stroman are tied for second in the ACC with three interceptions. Overall, the team ranks 32nd in the nation allowing just under 200 passing yards per game. Because of what they do on defense, it will be interesting see how Pitt's run/pass balance shakes out.

One specific area where the Hokies stand out is on third down and if you're looking for a key to the game, that might be it. Virginia Tech is fifth in the nation in third-down efficiency on defense with teams converting those for first downs less than 25% of the time.

All of that sounds pretty difficult, obviously. But don't count the Panthers out just yet. For whatever reason, the Panthers always hang with Virginia Tech for the most part. That's no reason to expect Pitt to play well in any given year, but it's just been one of those things. More importantly, Pitt gets the game at home and on a Thursday night, should have a pretty good atmosphere if the weather holds out.

One more thing, too. While they haven't faced a team as good as Virginia Tech defensively, I still expect them to score points. Georgia Tech is a Top 30 defensive team and the Panthers scored 37 points. Outside of that, Pitt hasn't really been tested by great defensive squads, but I still believe this is an offense that will score against just about anyone. As usual, the question will be how they can slow down a decent passing attack.

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