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ACC schedule review: Virginia Tech Hokies

This week, we’re examining each ACC team’s schedule, identifying the biggest games, looming upsets and most grueling stretches for each.

Next up: Virginia Tech Hokies

With a return to the ACC championship game and 10 wins in coach Justin Fuente's inaugural season at Virginia Tech, expectations in Blacksburg are that the Hokies will once again compete for a conference crown. They don't end there, however. The College Football Playoff is on the minds of the fan base, and considering how quickly Fuente rebuilt Virginia Tech, there's reason to believe the Hokies could navigate a difficult schedule to remain in the thick of the playoff race late into the season.

Toughest three-game stretch: Nov. 4-18 (at Miami, at Georgia Tech, vs. Pittsburgh)

The Hokies’ two toughest games come in September, but the defining stretch doesn’t come until November. Virginia Tech opens the month with a road trip at Miami, and the following week the Hokies have to travel south again to Atlanta to play Georgia Tech. Last season, the Hokies had to delay their ACC Coastal celebration a week because the Yellow Jackets pulled off the upset in Lane Stadium. The three-game stretch ends with a visit from Pittsburgh on Nov. 18. Virginia Tech opens the season against West Virginia and plays host to Clemson on Sept. 30, but they’re not part of a difficult stretch. Georgia Tech, Miami and Pittsburgh are the three highest-ranked Coastal teams in the latest ACC power rankings.

Potential trap game: Oct. 28 vs. Duke

The Blue Devils finished last in the Coastal in 2016, but they were a team that made progress over the course of the season. Daniel Jones developed into a solid dual-threat quarterback, and a lot of their younger players gained experience replacing several injured fifth-year seniors. Duke has the quarterback and coaching staff to return to a bowl game in 2017, and the Duke game follows the Hokies’ homecoming and precedes that stretch that begins with Miami.

Swing game: Sept. 30 vs. Clemson

Goals begin with winning the division and the conference, but Virginia Tech is a program that has national championship aspirations. Those hopes could be dashed at the end of September if the Hokies lose at home to Clemson. Drop the tough opener to West Virginia, and the Hokies will have no margin for error against the Tigers. It’s also the fifth game of the season, so an offense breaking in a number of new starters at the skill positions will have had time to jell. Fuente could have the offense humming by midseason.