Hi Executive, I hope you get some great responses from kids who are there or just graduated as they can give you more of a first hand reply than I. I did not attend VT but am fortunate to be friends with many former Hokies and know quite a few kids who are/went there. In my opinion it is a great state school option that has a very solid reputation for academics.
Like every school, certain majors/departments are going to require more studying or be more challenging than others. Most of the kids I know are in the engineering/architecture programs and they are very challenged academically. One guy, who just graduated as a Mech Engineer last spring, said that his four years at Tech were not only the best but also the hardest of his life. He was salutatorian at his very competitive high school. Another one's mom (an arch student) said the night after her son graduated from VT was the first time that her son had slept for 8 hours straight in five years. The business school kids that I know say that they have to work very hard, too.
As far as a comparable school, I have thought maybe Clemson or UF, Penn State or Michigan? I am sure others will have some opinions and hopefully will give you a broader perspective. Good luck with everything!