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The Countdown

A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.

Need to Know

Ten Games Later, Hokies Eye B.C.S.

Virginia Tech has done what Michigan could not in 2007: reverse a woeful start to the point where success, not an unforgivable loss — James Madison, or Appalachian State — ultimately defines its season. Like a stalled car, the Hokies needed merely a little push, a nudge in the right direction; this season rapidly picked up speed, with Virginia Tech first evening its record, then going above .500, four games above .500 and finally to 10-2, familiar territory for one of the proudest programs in college football.

Why did we ever doubt that Frank Beamer would get this team pointed in the right direction? Perhaps there was the belief that while all good things do not necessarily have to come to an end, Tech was due for a speed bump. Texas certainly hit a pothole in 2010, it’s fair to say.

The logic behind such a thought — that Tech would stumble — was simple enough: after being led by a standout defense for the last decade, these Hokies were defined on offense. That’s not a terrible thing, though there were significant questions raised about the viability of a defense lacking, on paper, the horses along the defensive front and in the secondary.

This case was proved early. Boise State scored 33 points in a loss to open the season. James Madison didn’t move the ball with the ease, but Tech struggled to get stops at critical junctures. Even in early victories over East Carolina and N.C. State, for instance, Tech seemed a shell of its former shelf on the defensive side of the ball.

This remains one of the weaker Tech defenses in recent memory: the defense is on pace to allow a program-high for points since the 2003 season, even if the Hokies have given up only 215 points through 12 games. That’s the type of pressure Bud Foster faces on a yearly basis; yet again, Foster has delivered.

The results aren’t always pretty, as we saw a week ago against in a key win over Miami — the Hurricanes racked up 464 yards of total offense. The bottom line, however, remains the final score: Miami scored only 17 points, meaning the Hokies had held their last five opponents to 21 points or less. Make it six: Virginia — poor, poor Virginia — never had a chance.

What do you get when you combine a developing defense with an offense we knew would deliver? You have another 10-win team in Blacksburg, which would be nothing new if the college football nation hadn’t been tossing dirt on these Hokies all season. A loss to Boise State, now that the Broncos have lost for the first time in two years, will be added fodder for those itching to continue to take down Virginia Tech, not to mention its much-beleaguered conference.

Rag on the A.C.C. all you’d like — I’ll join you, in fact. This is a terribly weak conference, one that features two strong teams, two good teams and a handful of pretenders. It’s time to call off the dogs on Virginia Tech, on the other hand.

This is a results-driven business. It doesn’t matter how you get it done — just get it done. It doesn’t matter how Virginia Tech got to 10-2, in my mind, but merely important that the Hokies, once again, have reached 10 wins. That’s seven straight double-digit win seasons. Eight in the last nine years. Eleven such seasons since 1999. Bash the journey if it makes you feel better; respect the end result.

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  1. Noefli says:

    You say “pothole;” I say “half of the damn lane was missing.”

    Paul: The biggest key for U.T. is compiling a construction crew — a coaching staff — able to fill that damn lane. Not sure if a few of the current staff members have that ability.

  2. M Meyer says:

    You may have been the only person outside of Hokie Nation to believe that Tech would recover from that big hole to start the season. Nice work. Even if the ACC is in another off year, it’s not easy to run off 10 straight.

  3. sy says:

    Um, the year that UM lost to App State they ended the season by upsetting the #9 Gators in the Capital One Bowl, the top card of the non-BCS SEC-Big 10 matchups. In other words, they started by losing to the FCS champion and ended by beating the defending FBS champion. Given the ACC’s BCS bowl history (2 wins in 12 tries) I doubt the Hokies will be ending the season on such a high note, unless they get to play Connecticut.

  4. Hokieshibe says:

    RE: sy
    UM did win the gator bowl, but the gator bowl isnt a BCS bowl. And as I recall, UM limped into that after being taken to the woodshed by OSU, and beat a mediocre-at-best UF team, who’s D was a shell of the one that won the Nat’l Chamionship the year before. It’s not like UF was a conference winner, or even a divisional winner. If VT wins the ACC Championship (a big if, I agree), I would say that VT easily surpassed UM’s turnaround in ’07, regardless of the outcome of the Orange Bowl.

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