2014 Schedule Tests Hokies Early, Eases Up Later

Mike Ehrmann

Schedule highlights include two Thursday night games. VT travels to Pitt and then returns home to host Miami on Thursday night for the first time in series history. The Hokies also host UVA on Black Friday, so get your shopping done early!

Justin (RtD) and I are sitting here basking in failure's humiliating afterglow, having just watched the Hokies rally for 39 and a half minutes to lose by six to Wake Forest at home in basketball. It gives us great pleasure to postpone, if even for a little while, writing about the misadventures of the basketball team.

Instead, we celebrate Schedule Release Day, where every national championship dream is hatched. And every irrational confidence is eagerly bought into as message board threads number in the thousands of pages, and the most rabid fans in all of sport, college football fans, make ready to cleanse themselves of last year's stench and begin anew.

The fan base for the 8-5 Virginia Tech Hokies is no different, hoping that a fresh look on offense, with a new QB and a little bit of continuity in the system for all the returning players, will revitalize a depressed Lane Stadium atmosphere. At the end of last season, Hokie Nation had a stray eye on the Sun Bowl as it went from being an anti-climactic yawner to an outright embarrassment. Nobody was surprised. Nobody is ever surprised anymore. Beamer never had much of a fastball, but if he's still throwing it, it's topping out about 83 right now.

It has gotten to the point that we look forward to kids graduating just so we can try new guys in the system to see if the personnel can come in and make things better. In recent years, we have all said at one time or another, "Thank goodness, Player X is gone, now maybe we can try something different and stop jamming square pegs into round holes!". The point I'm making is that this is not a healthy attitude to be having about fellow Hokies, and guys that play big roles in the success of your favorite team.

Without naming any names, let's just say that I've never felt as relieved that a player is leaving as I do this year. And this player did his best, he really did, so it's a shame. But after four years of regression it's time to make certain admissions about our process, but we'll leave that to the previews for next season. Because right now: IT'S SCHEDULE TIME!

Without further ado, the complete 2014 ACC schedule from our own Pete Volk here at SB Nation:

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Looking at the Hokies schedule, there are seven games at home, including a gigantic Thursday night home game against Miami, who shockingly has never traveled to Lane for a Thursday night game. Both times the teams met on a Thursday night showcase, the games were in Miami.

Also important to a lot of the fans is the placement of the UVA contest. This year the game is on Black Friday! The first of it's kind since 1996, a game I was at and remember vividly. The Hokies won the game to move to 10-1 and secured an Orange Bowl bid against the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Cornell Brown and Co. dominated, Druckenmiller had an excellent game too, and ran over Jamie Sharper. There's something special about the Friday after Thanksgiving to those of us who lounge around and don't go crazy over shopping. We get to eat leftovers, visit with people still in town for the holidays, and watch whatever college football they show us. It's nice to have this game to look forward to in addition to all the rest.

The five road games feature a Week Two trip to The Horseshoe to play AN Ohio State University. Urban Meyer is rightfully smarting after two season-ending losses marred his shot at a national championship game date with Florida State. Ohio State having been unbeaten before falling at the hands of Michigan State in the BIG (however many there are now) Championship Game, and then to Clemson in their bowl game. Stay tuned for the poll at the end where we determine all the things we'd rather do than go to Ohio State with a placeholder QB, a revamped OL, and several new faces in the front seven on D. Urban Meyer is going to look to set the tone, I'm hoping it isn't as bad as LSU 2007. Shoot, we might need to take a poll on that too.

Let's address a few odds and ends quickly:

  • This year marks the first year that Notre Dame is required contractually to play at least four ACC teams. Florida St, Louisville, UNC, and Syracuse all draw that straw for this season. The Hokies will play at Notre Dame in 2016.
  • Due to the conference expansion to fourteen teams (with Louisville replacing Maryland), each ACC team now plays six games within it's division, leaving just two cross-divisional match-ups. The Hokies are tethered to BC, and drew Wake Forest as the other team. Not as exciting as Clemson, FSU, or Louisville, but I think this is one year that Hokie fans aren't going to be whining about strength of schedule or weak scheduling from the AD. We may need this extra win going down the stretch.
  • Of the Coastal Division games, it's a mixed bag. VT has to travel to Heinz House of Horrors, but the games at Duke and UNC are never intimidating. The Hokies also get Miami and Georgia Tech at home (which are usually the most talented teams, with UNC as a wild-card), and the rivalry game at home to end the year vs UVA.
  • Out of conference ranges from as hard as it gets to an FCS school (albeit a good one, and because of JMU 2010, Bill and Mary undoubtedly think they have a shot too). Opening the season with W&M is probably not much preparation for Braxton Miller and the OSU machine. ECU is ECU, and Western Michigan was the worst directional Michigan in a bad year for directional Michigans (9-27 combined, with Central Michigan getting six of those wins).
  • In an ACC that featured 11 bowl teams last year (again Louisville replacing Maryland who also went to a bowl), the Hokies only play seven bowl teams this year. It's not a difficult slate, outside of Ohio State. The Hokies could conceivably avoid any other ranked teams all year depending on the level Miami and Duke are at.

Let's examine game by game shall we?

William & Mary of the CAA in the FCS, Saturday, August 30, undoubtedly at the scorching hot hour of 12:30 in Lane Stadium. The game will likely be televised by The U or on Comcast Local or media behemoth ESPN3. Let's just allow that Brent and Kirk aren't going to be calling the game on ABC.

  • With a 7-5 (4-4) record last year, William and Mary wasn't quite good enough to qualify for the FCS playoffs.
  • W&M only lost to WVU by seven points in Morgantown, in a game which they led a good deal of the way if memory serves me.
  • Hokies haven't lost in this series since 1976.
  • The Tribe have 18 wins in the series. At least this is one thing Beamer's kept on lock since he took the job.

Trip to The Horseshoe in Columbus, Ohio to face An Ohio State University. I couldn't see a complete list of what games are scheduled for Saturday, September 6, but I could see this game getting consideration for the prime-time slot with Brent and Kirk. Of course, all the programming executives are aware of how badly we crap a bed in big-time games, so they might be wary of losing an audience by 9pm EST.

  • This will be the first meeting between the schools.
  • VT earns a return visit next season from Ohio State, with the game scheduled for Labor Day night. Nice.
  • Ohio State went undefeated last year until their conference championship game.
  • All VT has to do is play like Clemson did in the Orange Bowl and we'll have a 50/50 shot at winning. --wait, why all the laughter?--what's so funny?--that sounds ridiculous?--yes, I suppose it does
  • Braxton Miller is returning for his true senior season. VT will be starting a fifth year senior, so ......ummmmm.... advantage Hokies?

The Hokies return to Blacksburg the next week to face East Carolina on Saturday, September 13. As a parting gift, former Athletic Director James Weaver gifted us with a 30 year mortgage (series) with ECU, in which we are currently embarking on year two (actually only mercifully five years left, then it's ODU til 2050!).

It's a worse deal than the Tampa Devil Rays have with the City of St. Petersburg on the Trop. Not only is the series interminable, but it's always on the hottest day of September. This game will most likely also be played under a sun hot enough to melt Lawrence of Arabia.

  • The Hokies lead the series 13-5. The series was led 4-3 by ECU until 1993, when the Hokies began to take control.
  • VT has won 10 of 11 against ECU. And.....
  • The last Hokie loss was the Glennon/Tyrod red-shirt debacle in 2008, in Charlotte, 27-22.
  • The Hokies won the game last year 15-10, it was ECU's only home loss on the way to a 10-3 record.
  • Coach Ruffin McNeill puts up points on teams. They humiliated UNC last year, and UNC has nothing if not a few really fast athletes. Always be wary of the Pirates, even if Bud seems to have them solved.

Georgia Tech comes to Blacksburg on Saturday, September 20. I'm feeling like this is a 3:30 game, my favorite time slot. Just enough time before and tons of time after. Enough time for what you ask? I say for whatever you want, friend. Whatever you want.

  • Is it me, or does John Swofford (ACC commissioner) like to schedule GT for us early each year? Seems like they want Bud Foster to have as little time as possible to play for the triple option attack.
  • The Hokies won last year in Atlanta, 17-10, as everyone began to get their hopes back up as the win streak increased. Kyle Fuller played his last fully healthy game as a Hokie.
  • The Hokies lead the series 8-3, with eight wins in 10 games since joining the ACC. To the Hokies credit, one of those losses was to Megatron in 2006. We sent Glennon to do a man's job, and the game was over in the first quarter.
  • GT was 7-6 (5-3) in 2013.

In a game that has ESPN, 12pm written all over it: The Hokies stay home on Saturday, September 27th to host Western Michigan who had about as rotten a year in the FBS as any team not located in Charlottesville, VA. They couldn't even top Eastern Michigan who was 2-10, which was a long way from catching Central Michigan who got to six wins. And don't even get me started on Central NorthSouthern Michigan Tech State which couldn't even afford uniforms.

  • Western Michigan has turned out some pretty high draft picks over the years. With four guys going in the top two rounds in the last decade. Greg Jennings and Jason Babin among them.
  • WMU was 1-11 last year, with the lone win coming by a point over UMass.
  • The Hokies lead this series 3-0, with the last meeting coming in 2004, with the Hokies winning 63-0.
  • The Hokies, in those three meetings have not given up a single point. They have outscored the Broncos 124-0. Pride is at stake here! If they score even a FG, we must hang our heads in shame. Seriously, that's a streak goes back 13 years here. The VT players were in grade school. I was..........younger myself.

Nothing but ACC games until the end of the year. The Hokies start with a trip to UNC on Saturday, October 4th. The Tar Heels are always a threat because they recruit stand-out athletes that turn into NFL players, but their level of disorganization is never to be underestimated. For a school with their vast resources, I'm constantly frightened that the next year will be the year that they put it all together.

  • UNC was 7-6 (4-4). VT beat them in Blacksburg 27-17, and looked fairly competent doing it.
  • The series dates back to 1895. Hokies lead 19-11-6. The series though, took 51 years off until the two schools met in the Gator Bowl following the 1997 season.
  • Since then the Hokies are 8-3 (including the Gator Bowl humiliation at the hands of Mack Brown).
  • The Hokies have lost to UNC just twice as members of the ACC. Losing miserably in Chapel Hill during the touch and go 2012 season, and the Thursday night home game in 2009 where the Coastal division slipped through our hands on a Ryan Williams fumble. The 2009 team was better than the previous year's edition that backed into a 10-win season and secured that "elusive" BCS game win vs Cincinnati for Beamer. The 2009 game hurt, yes it did.

Saturday, October 11, Open Date-------------you will watch other football.

  • ACC game of the week for the bye week: Clemson hosts Louisville.
  • Other maddening fact about this week: Pittsburgh also has a bye this week.....which is just peachy because:

The Hokies play Pittsburgh next, on Thursday, October 16 in VT's first return to Thursday night action since 2012. VT lost two games to Miami and FSU in back to back weeks on their way to finishing 7-6, narrowly avoiding Beamer's first losing season since 1992. Considering VT's history in Pittsburgh, this is not exactly ideal placement, I'd honestly prefer to play Miami first.

  • VT hasn't won at Heinz Field. They are 0-3, losing by a combined 52 points (that's 17.3 ppg).
  • The Hokies last win in Pittsburgh was in 1999, with Michael Vick at the helm.
  • It all started so beautifully in an untelevised 63-21 rout at Pitt in 1993, my freshman year. We kept tracking the score on the ESPN bottom line (i guess we weren't aware of Bill Roth yet), and Dwayne Thomas couldn't be stopped.
  • The series has resumed since Pitt has joined the ACC. There was a hiatus after 2003.
  • VT won last season in Blacksburg 19-9, and leads the overall series 8-5.
  • At least Aaron Donald will be gone. He'd have sacked Leal four or five times.
  • Antonio Bryant, Latef Grim, Brandon Miree, Larry Fitzgerald.....GAAAAAAHH....daytime nightmare.

The U comes to Lane Stadium on Thursday, October 23rd, for VT's second consecutive Thursday night game, and the first Thursday night game ever hosting the Hurricanes. Hopefully the Coastal Division is still a possibility for VT at this point. This game usually has serious impact on who eventually claims the division.

So far though, on the strength of one thrilling game in the history of Duke and UNC, there appears to be a groundswell of hipsters who appear to favor the Duke/UNC game on a Thursday night a couple of weeks later to be the probable "decider" of things. I disrespectfully and belligerently disagree.

  • Miami finished 9-4 (5-3) and got embarrassed by ACC-bound Louisville in their bowl game.
  • The Hokies still officially trail in the series but we know they really don't. Though it says Miami leads 18-13, keep in mind that nine of those wins were before VT had conference TV money to spend (same with Miami, but stay with me)
  • The Hokies lead the series 13-9 since the two schools began conference play, and 13-6 since s---- got real (s is for stuff) in 1995.
  • Miami hasn't won in Blacksburg since 2005 when they stormed Lane on D-Day and sacked Marcus Vick seven times and ruined many of our respective years. RtD (Justin) and I refer to it as D-Day because it was the day that the program turned southbound. Things haven't quite been the same since, save for a little burst in 2007 and in pre-season 2010 before Boise and JMU. We were ESPN darlings until then. That day deserves a black armband.

Saturday, November 1 brings BC to town. Raise your hand if you're sick of being tethered to BC as a hold-your-hand buddy on EVERY field trip! I have two hands up. Time for the ACC to get creative and figure out how to mix the schedule up some. Sometimes we even see BC twice a year. Every time we're good enough to play in the ACC championship, BC manages to drag themselves up out of the gutter and join us. We don't want to be YOUR friend, OK, BC?!

  • BC beat us last year, 34-27 because Bud Foster doesn't like to play a third linebacker on second down. Luckily RB Andre Williams is going to be in the NFL next year. But I have a hunch the BC OL will still be just as imposing. They do recruit that position well.
  • The last time BC won in Blacksburg was 2007. Sure seems like I'm naming a lot of hurtful losses here as "the last time this happened....", seems like the next one I name will be like "This loss occurred the day your dog got run over, your girlfriend stepped out on you, and you burned that microwave popcorn."
  • Yes you remember 2007, Thursday night in the rain at Lane, up 10-0...redeeming ourselves (kinda) for LSU, having an outside look at the BCS title game. And then: Matt Ryan against our prevent defense. Prevent defense prevented us from getting to play for the title against FLA that year. But we all know what would have happened there anyway, right?
  • After Miami this is VT's longest-running opponent, dating back to 1993. VT leads the series 15-7 with two ACC title game wins in there. The Hokies had won five in a row until losing in 2013.
  • BC won in Blacksburg in 1995, 2003, 2007.

Saturday, November 8th Open Date--------------you will watch other football.

  • ACC game of the week for the bye week: I can't in good conscience recommend one, they are all awful.
  • Duke plays at Syracuse so at least they don't have a week off to prepare for Frank. Then again giving Frank time to prepare for anyone isn't always the best policy is it?

The stretch run begins, Saturday, October 15th in Durham, vs Duke. VT will be looking to reclaim their rightful spot atop the Coastal, which Duke snatched from them in front of a shell-shocked Lane Stadium audience, dashing anyone's delusions that the Hokies weren't the worst one-loss team in the country at the time.

Duke looked fantastic for the last 2/3 of 2013 and played an incredible Chick-Fil-A bowl game against Johnny F Football and Texas A&M. Outside of the FSU/Auburn game, it was hands-down the most entertaining game of the bowl season. Questions abound about Duke: Are they for real? Is it sustainable? Well, it all starts with their coach, David Cutcliffe, and he did not move to a better program this off-season, so everyone should buckle in and get ready to deal with him for the time being.

The question here is if ESPN favors it for a night game if the teams are good. Wallace Wade stadium packed to the gills with 14,934 fans, most of them who traveled from Blacksburg?

  • Last year, Duke ended VT's 12 game win streak that dated back to 1981.
  • VT had not lost to Duke as a member of the ACC, and had won the nine prior games by a margin of 302-94, while holding Duke to less than 10 points five times with two shutouts included.
  • Duke is returning 15 starters. Nine on offense and six on defense.
  • I am aware Duke is the team to beat, but I simply cannot exist in such a world. So I fully expect to beat their pants off this year in order to set the world back on it's axis. That is all.

The final two games are against two of the three ACC teams that didn't make a bowl game last year, Wake Forest and Virginia. The Hokies visit Winston-Salem, NC on Saturday, November 23rd, in a game that I have earmarked for ESPNU at 6pm. I know that's the usual UVA time slot, but this game cries out for it.

  • VT hasn't lost to Wake Forest since 1983.
  • VT leads the series 24-11 but if you take out the current five game win streak, and a four game win streak the Hokies had in the 1910s, the series is pretty even at 15-11. The two schools played frequently in the 50s, 60s, and 70s.
  • Since VT joined the ACC they have not lost to Wake, going 4-0 since 2004.
  • I am still pissed at Wake for using Sandman for their intro before VT's 27-6 victory in Winston-Salem in 2006. It was purely bush-league of them. Branden Ore didn't like it either.
  • Jim Grobe is done at Wake. He had an excellent run, taking that little school as far as it could go. The new coach Dave Clawson, comes from Bowling Green, the champion of all stepping stone coaching jobs. He was 10-3 last year, losing only one MAC game. Not sure how he expects to do better considering the school's size and academics.

Speaking of schools that SHOULD have made a coaching change, we bring up UVA, who travels to Blacksburg the day after Thanksgiving (Friday, November 28), for what I hope is a 3:30 start time on ABC. The Hokies look to continue their "Decade of Dominance", having held the Commonwealth Cup for 10 consecutive years now.

  • UVA hasn't won since 2003, when Matt Schaub and Company picked on an injury-riddled VT defense, and Heath Miller made his name.
  • UVA hasn't won in Blacksburg since 1998. A nightmare of a game that saw the Hokies lose their 3rd of three games on the season; in each of which the Hokies held a double digit lead at one point. In the hierarchy of losing, this one was less painful than losing at home to Temple, and less painful than the McNabb treachery in the Carrier Dome. But finding a way to blow a 15 point lead in the 4th quarter to your most hated rival is tough to stomach even if you've been prepped by other such losses.
  • The Hokies have not lost to the French as an ACC member.
  • UVA was 2-10 last year and didn't win a single ACC game, yet the UVA AD Craig Littlepage continued to voice support for embattled coach Mike London, who has proven ineffective to say the least. London's clock and game management have been criticized heavily during the past two campaigns, and for as bad as we feel about Groundhog Day in Blacksburg, we can't even imagine what UVA fans are going through.
  • UVA won just one game against an FBS school (BYU), and it took a driving rain and some luck. Their other win was a 59-0 romp over VMI of the FCS.
  • This will mark the third non-Saturday contest between the two schools in it's rich, 95 year history. The game in 1996, and interestingly a game in 1982 that was played ON Thanksgiving, that was televised by TBS. The Hokies won that one too, just as they have 53 times, while losing only 37.

All things being equal, the Hokies schedule sets up nicely for them to coast to nine wins or so. More are certainly possible if some leaks get plugged, with the only guaranteed defeat to come at the hands of the Buckeyes. The ACC slate is always tricky to navigate, and losses will spring up on you. Fortunately, the same landmines that derail the Hokies are also present for the other Coastal contenders, so I expect this race to go late into the season. I just hope that it comes down to us needing to beat UVA at home to control our own destiny.

Obviously the strength of the league is concentrated in the Atlantic right now with Florida State, Clemson, and Louisville (though without Teddy Bridgewater, they may regress a bit). For me to consider next season an improvement, I'd like to see a 10-2 record, with a decent showing vs the Atlantic division winner in the ACC title game. It may seem a bit ambitious, but with a weaker schedule than last year's the only thing to do is continue to hold high standards. Otherwise, we may as well just admit that we need to re-build.

While I might be ready for that, the powers that be certainly aren't, so the only thing we can do is let Coach Beamer and the program know that if he's going to make such a big deal of 10 win campaigns (even though it's a 14 game schedule and not 12....again Emperor's New Clothes), then we need to start seeing some 10 win campaigns again. Some day there will be a playoff system and VT can dream of a place in it, with a legit shot at a national title. Until then, if we're treading water, let's tread water. We've been coming too close to slipping under for a while now.

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