Well the polls are out and Tech is in the odd position of dropping one place in the Coaches Poll; down one to 22, (It used to be the straight up USA Today Coaches poll but everyone is selling the rights to everything, now a a-days.) But the brighter side of things is the AP Poll which is usually not as kind to us as the coaches; with a nice healthy jump up from 23 to 18th.
Yes, I know the polls are sort of misleading, and the coaches’ poll is infamous for the actual coaches not really spending a whole lot of time with the ballots and having some interesting polling bias issues. See the Sports Journal article Upon Further Review: An Empirical Investigation of Voter Bias in the Coaches’ Poll in College Football from the Sport Journal of February 2012 for an interesting read on the topic. The fact remains that the Virginia Tech Hokies are doing something that very few of us thought they would do this season; namely winning. Yes, it’s been choppy. Yes we struggled when we shouldn’t have. But, we triumphed when no one thought we would, and won tough contests were things weren’t all working right. That’s special, and I hope everyone understands why.
First, Virginia Tech has an actual winning season this year. If, heaven forefend, the wheels came flying off the cart and we didn’t win another game, the Hokies would still have seven regular season wins under their belt. If you consider that we have been wobbling down the beaten path since our last big season in 2011. We kept the bowl streak alive by the sheer guile and a good amount of scrambling, with victories over UVA in the season finale required. It’s important that yesterday, even though the engine wasn’t firing on all the cylinders and the tires were a tad bit flat, Virginia Tech stepped over the .500 line and few folks noticed it.
Second, the Hokies are, as more than a few followers of Gobbler Country have stated, way ahead of the game of rebuilding a program that was sliding down hill. It looks very much like Whit Babcock found the exact right coach in the exactly correct moment to gracefully put Frank Beamer’s coach shoes in the display case, and establish his own set of shoes for the next phase of Virginia Tech football. Fuente has done it with good grace and lots of good old horse sense. His football team could have fallen apart. They are all Beamer era recruits and the youngsters might have felt the need to play somewhere else. Coach Fuente stopped that bleeding before it started. He seemed to click with the players right off the bat, and then in a whirl wind of recruiting activity reached out to one of the best QB recruits who could step onto the field and play for the Hokies at the top end.
Third, is that find, and the determination to build an offense to compliment the defense. You see, Babcock and Fuente also managed to get Bud Foster to stay with the team. That continuity, combined with the more modern offensive look, and addition of Coach James Shibest at Special Teams completely turned the curve on a declining program, and ironically brought back something that we haven’t seen much of for the last five or so years...namely “Beamer Ball”. No one has owned up to the actual credit for pulling Coach Beamer’s #25 out of the retirement pile and using it as a reward for great practice and play on Special Teams, but we have seen some amazing stuff from young men wearing #25 this season.
Finally, I suspect that no one is surprised that the sports media is still a little shy about tooting horns when dealing with the Hokies, but that tune is starting to change from an occasional single “blat”... to a nice little measure or two. They are starting to notice that Tech is winning, sometimes it’s a bit ugly, but short of a couple of stumbles, Virginia Tech has played as a team and played to win.
None of us predicted any of it. If there was an award for the “Pleasant Surprise” of a season, you’d have a hard time finding a better candidate for that trophy than the Virginia Tech Hokies.
We can all live with an AP:18/Coaches:22/and a playoff 19 (We’ll see if it changes this week.) because no one was expecting it, at all. Georgia Tech will be expecting us to defend those numbers on Saturday. One Game. One Team. Right Now!!!