It’s less than a month before the August 31st kickoff in Chestnut Hill. The Hokies are facing pretty much the same Boston College Eagles that we faced last year. AND we are pretty much the same Virginia Tech Hokies football team this year.
It’s a Conference game, and our traditional cross over with the Atlantic Division. Maybe that sort of makes sense, maybe it’s more than a bit foolish, but the ACC is bound and determined to have train-wrecks early in the seasons so get used to it.
Let’s take a look at the Coastal, before we dig into any other details. We are seeing lots of sports pundits who are writing off the Coastal Division of the ACC by claiming that it will be won by none other than the University of Virginia. The cuckoo clock sounding off in the background might be a sign that it’s time for people to stop drinking so many adult beverages before writing any sort of speculative stories.
It might be wise for us to look into our own division before tripping the night fantastic through our rather unchallenged non-conference schedule. It’s the ACC Coastal that is our door to anything major in the way of bowl games, and our only shot, if things line up and the team plays well, of getting a chance to do something to pull the pins out from underneath Clemson’s auto-piloted ACC Championship cruiser.
BOSTON COLLEGE (Chestnut Hill, August 31st – 4pm- A rather fierce crossover start)
No one rational is saying that this is a pushover game. Boston College is always a tough match up, and BC at home is even tougher. The early nature of the game, a week early for a college football start in fact, is a problem on its face. It’s also a problem for BC, so the odds get a bit trickier with no real idea of how either team will be configured at kickoff. We won’t concentrate on this one as much because it’s a crossover matchup, but because it’s an ACC game, it counts for the ACC record and therefore critical for determining the winner of the division. The truth is that the Eagles are a complete cypher. Tech seems to be favored to edge them, and there is nothing in the old crystal ball that argues with that evaluation much. What it is, is the first major test of the choices the Hokies have made over the Spring and Summer sessions as to who starts at Quarterback and how the defense is going to stand up. There is one easy guarantee, if Tech loses; it’s going to be a long season.
DUKE (Home, September 27th - 7pm – A Friday Night Game)
So, once we get out of the first game, the actual divisional opener isn’t until September 27th, when we face Duke at Lane Stadium. That game is listed as a 7:00 PM ESPN national broadcast. It’s a White Out, which seems a bit odd since they are usually first on the specialty list. THEN it’s also on a Friday evening, which is also strange since it presents some serious logistical issues for lots of folks in Hokie Nation. Why does that stuff seem to offer a bit of an ill feeling? Tech is a very “program” oriented organization that does not seem to respond well to disruptions in pattern - see the hurricane cancellation, and ODU quarterback substitution fiasco for reference.
Duke presents many of the same issues that it always does, headed by Coach David Cutcliffe. We’ll get a chance to see how he has worked out his quarterback situation. The suspicion is that Duke’s offense might be a bit dodgy this season. Careful attention to the first few games of the season will be critical in the game plan. Duke can be counted on to have a solid defense, though. The Hokie game plan had better be built to challenge perceived weak points in the Blue Devil scheme. Unless we have Noah’s deluge, again, this will be a seriously competitive game and though not the first test of the Conference, will be a serious indicator as to whether or not the Hokies will challenge for the Coastal trophy.
The probability of a more complete Virginia Tech football team’s victory is north of 60% for this one, however.
MIAMI, FL (Coral Gables, October 5th –TBD (either 3:30 or 7:00 depending on the records, bet on it)
Unlike the bulk of the sports media, enamored of, and preoccupied by the Miami place in the far away past football glory book, Miami of Florida hasn’t been the Hurricane team of History. They have taken so many trips to the woodshed that they are no longer bothered by the punishment. The Al Golden years were relatively scandal free, but they also were sort of the years of wandering around the middle of the ACC pack. The appearance of Mark Richt promised to change all of that, and he certainly did make some differences in the W-L column for the Green and Orange. But… it seems that neither the struggling program numbers, nor the depth of the program seemed to have any sort of lasting grip on Richt as a mission to accomplish. He abruptly retired after a disaster of a season which included an embarrassing drubbing by Wisconsin in their bowl game.
The ‘Canes did beat us, however; which was totally embarrassing because in that game the 1st half Hokies were playing well and within 3 points of the ‘Canes. The 2nd half Hokies were so leaden that the murmurs of burning the 2nd half play book and going back to the first page of the 1st half were loud. It was a game that IF the coaching staff had confidence in the offense, the Miami offense wasn’t good enough to keep beating our terrible defense. For some completely unfathomable reason, Cornelsen tried to shut down the Hokie O, and run the ball to burn clock. That decision, repeated four more times in the season, would be the most frustrating decision tree in the 2018 season.
Okay, the Hurricanes have a new head coach who was recovered at great expense from a job that he might have been better advised to have kept. They have no announced or scouted quarterback, and other than their running back, they don’t seem to have much of an offense at all. Let’s look at that set of realities and bench it against what the fanboys are saying. The answer is that the Hokies have a 50% shot at winning the football game. That number may fluctuate as the first third of the season completes, but the reality on the ground, right now, is that Virginia Tech / Miami is a push.
NORTH CAROLINA (Home, October19th, -TBD (again either a 3:30 or 7:00 game – probably 3:30)
New coach (old coach), unknown quarterback situation, unknown running back situation, and coming off of a season worse than ours pretty much sets this one up as a contest of salvation for the winning team. October 19th is the late middle of the season; we should be good at whatever we are good at. There isn’t a rational clue as to how good Carolina will be. If the Hokies that could be show up this is a 75% win chance. If the struggling Hokies show up that drops to a bit better than even. Either way I think the sports experts are chalking this one up for the Fighting Gobblers.
WAKE FOREST (Home, November 9th –TBD (would bet on a 3:30 kick)
This is our number two cross over match up for the season, and since Wake is a cypher, I figure we’ll just Cypher in a probable win for the Hokies. It could be a surprise trap, but truthfully if Tech is making a run at something, the momentum is going to carry this one.
GEORGIA TECH (Atlanta, November 16th- TBD (probably 3:30 again)
No more Triple Option. No more Paul Johnson. No more Georgia Tech issues, either. GT is completely rebuilding and has new everything. Does that make it an easy game? No, but by then, no Lane is going to be rocking in Atlanta. I suspect that this will be a later game so it’s going to be cool and the sun going down will get the adrenaline flowing for the Hokies. Paul Johnson or not, Virginia Tech has dropped the last three to Georgia Tech and is spoiling to say “ENOUGH” emphatically. A win, in Atlanta, would go a long way to some redemption. There is no point in stretching the issue that it could also be a trap game. It will really depend on whether or not Virginia Tech really has a head of steam going. This is a 55% to 60% win opportunity.
PITT (Home, November 23rd – TBD (again probably a 3:30 kickoff, but if we’ve been good, could be a 7:00 game)
Senior Night, with very few seniors (check the problems with available scholarships in recruiting). Pitt just embarrassed us last season. The game was one of the absolute worst that we played. The defense didn’t even seem to show up in the seconds, both the quarter and half. The offense lessened the sting of the embarrassment by putting up 22 points, but there was little doubt that collapse and Virginia Tech had finally engaged in a full on embrace. This season Pitt comes into Lane with a near win 2 years ago. Pat Narduzzi is bound to have the team up and ready. If their Quarterback situation isn’t solidified there may be some problems; but Kenny Pickett will be back baring a break down. The fact remains that Pitt won the Coastal in 2019. Expecting them to precipitously drop off of the top of the stack is unreasonable. Right now, until Tech proves something the long range sniffer says that Pitt is favored for this one.
HOOS (Hooville, November 29th – TBD (Man is Thanksgiving L A T E this year!)
The pundits are all saying that the Wahoos are going to win the Coastal this season. It will be hard to accomplish if they get clobbered by Pitt in game 1 of the 2019 campaign. The reality is that Mendenhall has an average quality team on both sides of the ball, with Bryce Perkins as the bulk of its offense. Zacchaeus and Ellis are gone, and that will leave them with a serious case of unknowns surrounding a single star player. Something tells me that they are going to walk into a Pittsburgh haymaker and their 2019 campaign will look pretty much like most of their seasons over the last decade. They may stay dangerous here and there, but winning the Coastal Division is a serious stretch. That also means that the Commonwealth Cup Game (their Senior Night) may be the magic pill to make their season better. They nearly pulled it off last season. There is the feeling in Hokie Nation that 2019 is determined to make that the closest they’ll ever come. So A) No Costal for Hoo and B) we aren’t losing to Virginia… period.
What’s at Stake Besides the Obvious?
Right now, the Pitt game is shaping up to be our shot at the ACC Coastal Championship if we can win all the games that we should, and can. That’s not a guarantee… it is Nardo, and that means complete unpredictability from both game to game and season to season.
The truth is that the ACC Coastal is pretty stunningly weak. It’s a flip from the first decade of the 21st Century when the Atlantic was struggling, and dominated by one team – FSU. The sad part is that the Virginia Tech Hokies are, after 2018, a big part of the Coastal Division’s sucky reputation. Some sports pundits are saying that we could be 7-0 going into South Bend on November 2nd. That is not a far out of whack prediction.
The outcome season will hinge on how the Hokies emerge from the first weekend in November. A disciplined team, with a snoot full of momentum and a full head of steam could finish out in great order. The trap will be waiting, though. At that point the rankings would probably be modestly good… not top 10, but certainly top 25. Remember the team would be bowl eligible at 7-0 because the Rhode Island game would make them 6-0 for consideration. If we are there, does the team respond and light the afterburner or put it in cruise too soon? That’s going to be a question for October 31st, just as they are arriving in northern Indiana.
It’s way too early to pick the winner of the ACC Coastal. But counting Virginia Tech out before the first snap of the season is presumptuous.