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Nonconference foe Hokies should fear most

It's no secret that Virginia Tech has one of the easiest nonconference schedules in the country: Appalachian State, at East Carolina, Arkansas State and at Marshall.

It's a schedule that could catapult the Hokies into the national title conversation (but also keep them out of the actual game because of the lack of strength of schedule) and should result in another 10-win season.

Of those four nonconference opponents, the Hokies should fear the East Carolina Pirates the most.

Quarterback Dominique Davis returns to lead an offense that has scored 35 or more points in six of the last seven (and 11 of the last 13) games. It will be facing a Hokies' defense that has given up too many big plays for Bud Foster's liking, and has to replace three of four starters up front. ECU also has won five of its last eight home games against BCS opponents since 2005 -- including last year's win over NC State.

There's no indication, though, that the Pirates' defense should be much better (120th in the nation last year in total defense), as they're switching to a 3-4 scheme and likely will have to outscore people again until the players get comfortable in the new system. There's not a lot of depth on the defensive line, and it's an area Virginia Tech can exploit.

The Hokies can't afford to wait until the second half to do that this year, though -- not on the road.

East Carolina led Virginia Tech 24-21 at the half last year in Blacksburg before the reality of the situation set in and the Hokies outscored the Pirates 28-3 in the second half.

This is not a game Virginia Tech is supposed to lose -- the Hokies should breeze right through this nonconference schedule.

But they weren't supposed to lose to James Madison last year, either. If any of these nonconference opponents is going to derail the Hokies this season, it will be ECU.