Commonwealth Cup battle will be for Coastal Division title; plus, ranking the Hokies’ recent 10-win teams
Virginia’s shocking 14-13 upset of Florida State on Saturday sets up a winner-take-all showdown between the Cavaliers and Hokies next Saturday at Scott Stadium with the Coastal Division on the line.
“Guess we got a game,” Hokies defensive end James Gayle tweeted after UVa knocked off the heavily-favored Seminoles.
Virginia Tech (10-1, 6-1 ACC) leads Virginia (8-3, 5-2) by one game in the standings, so a Hokies win would give them their fifth division title in seven years. But a Cavaliers win would pull them even in the standings and give them the head-to-head tiebreaker.
The winner will play Atlantic Division winner Clemson in Charlotte on Dec. 3 in the ACC title game.
Virginia Tech and Virginia have met once before with the division title on the line. The No. 8 Hokies beat the No. 16 Cavaliers 33-21 in 2007 to clinch the division.
The Hokies have won the division title four times (2005, ’07, ’08 and ’10). The Cavaliers have never won it.
Now that that’s out of the way … how about that weekend of football? I thought it was going to be a relatively quiet weekend, with no major matchups on the schedule. Instead, it was a day of pure chaos. I think ESPN’s Lee Corso said it best when he blurted out … well, I can’t post it here. But Google it. He let one slip on GameDay Saturday.
So what happened? Quite a bit. Four teams ranked ahead of Virginia Tech in the BCS rankings lost this weekend:
- No. 2 Oklahoma State lost at Iowa State 37-31 in overtime on Friday night.
- No. 7 Clemson got hammered by N.C. State 37-13.
- No. 4 Oregon lost to USC 38-35 when it missed a last-second field goal that would have tied it.
- No. 5 Oklahoma lost to Baylor 45-38 on a last-second touchdown pass by Robert Griffin III, who is making his way onto my Heisman ballot at this point.
Where does that put the Hokies? Well, they were No. 8 in the BCS standings coming in. If the pollsters do what they normally do and just move teams up that won and teams down that lost, Virginia Tech could be as high as No. 4 in the polls, or to put it another way, No. 1 in the non-SEC West standings (LSU, Alabama and Arkansas are 1-2-3).
More realistically, they’ll move up a couple spots in the BCS rankings. These projections have the Hokies sixth, behind the SEC West teams, Oklahoma State and Stanford. I could see that happening because despite Virginia Tech’s decent showing in the polls, its computer ranking can’t be too great right now, not with the schedule it played and the way the ACC has fared against national competition.
I wouldn’t get your hopes up that the Hokies could sneak in to the national championship. LSU’s last game is against Arkansas, so one will remain high in the rankings. Alabama’s last game is against Auburn, which it should roll easily. I’d expect two SEC teams in the title game, but crazier things have happened.
I’ll have more on the polls and rankings as they are released Sunday.
Now, for something else I prepared in advance of Saturday’s games. Admittedly, I did this under the assumption that the Cavaliers would lose, there wouldn’t be BCS chaos (A BC-Mess!) and I’d need some blog fodder for Sunday.
It’s about Virginia Tech’s run of 10-win seasons, which was extended Thursday to eight years, the longest active streak in the nation and tied for the third-longest streak in the modern era of college football.
If you had to pick the best 10-win team under Frank Beamer’s watch, you’d probably pick the 1999 Michael Vick-led team that went 11-1 and played for the national championship. But looking at the last eight years, there’s a little more debate.
After a day of watching football with Lynchburg News & Advance beat writer Nathan Warters and discussing Tech’s history (he’s covered the team most of these years), here’s how I’d rank them, counting down from eight to one, and putting a tentative ranking on this year’s squad. I judged each team both on talent and accomplishment:
8. 2006 (10-3, 6-2 ACC): The defense, led by Brandon Flowers, Vince Hall and Xavier Adibi, was outstanding, ranking first nationally in total yards (219.5) and scoring (11 ppg), but something just wasn’t there with this team. It suffered back-to-back losses to Georgia Tech and Boston College, the second resulting in ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit ripping into Brenden Hill for dancing on the field during a timeout while the Hokies were losing big. The Hokies were just OK offensively in Sean Glennon’s only year as a full-time starter, leaning on running back Branden Ore (1,137 yards, 16 TDs). Tech won six straight after those midseason losses but loses points for not winning the division and collapsing in the second half of a 31-24 loss to Georgia in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
7. 2008 (10-4, 5-3 ACC): Odd that a team that won the league title game and the only BCS game of this group is ranked this low, but looking at the total picture, it probably belongs here. The Hokies, who were a young group, lost four games during the regular season, a neutral site game against East Carolina and road games at Boston College, Florida State and Miami. The team rebounded well, though. The defense was seventh nationally in yards allowed (279.4 ypg) and ninth in scoring (16.7 ppg), led by All-American Victor “Macho” Harris., Orion Martin and Jason Worilds. With Tyrod Taylor (1,036 passing yards, 2 touchdowns, seven interceptions) in his first year as a starter, the Hokies leaned heavily on running back Darren Evans (1,265 yards, 13 TDs). In terms of All-ACC picks, this group, with five first- and second-team selections, had the fewest on this list. And while wins against Boston College in the ACC title game and Cincinnati in the Orange Bowl look nice, they weren’t against top-notch competition.
6. 2011 (10-1, 6-1 ACC): For now, I’ll slot this year’s team right here, although obviously it can move up in the upcoming weeks with several important games. The group is going to set school offensive records. Running back David Wilson leads the nation with 1,442 rushing yards and is on pace to break the school record. Quarterback Logan Thomas has accounted for 25 touchdowns passing and running and could break Taylor’s school mark for total offense. Receivers Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale rank 1-2 on the school’s all-time receiving list in yards and receptions. The offensive line is experienced and playing well. And the defense, despite injuries, is 11th nationally in total yards (302.6 ypg) and tied for eighth in scoring (16.5 ppg). One bad loss at home to Clemson, but the Hokies could move up this list by winning the division, ACC title game and a potential bowl game. Lots of upward mobility with this group.
5. 2009 (10-3, 6-2 ACC): Another team that didn’t win the division, but it had a pretty good year. Running back Ryan Williams set a school record with 1,655 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns. Taylor began to come into his own as a quarterback, with 2,311 passing yards and 13 touchdowns. The defense wasn’t among the school’s best but was still pretty good (12th nationally in total yards at 285.5 ypg and ninth in scoring at 15.6 ppg). The Hokies also had nine first- and second-team All-ACC picks. It lost to an eventual national champion in the opener (Alabama) and the eventual ACC champion (Georgia Tech), but also had a big letdown loss to North Carolina at home. A 37-14 win against Tennessee in the Chick-fil-A bowl was a nice capper, but that was a pretty bad Volunteers team the Hokies faced in Atlanta.
4. 2010 (11-3, 8-0 ACC): It’s hard to argue for a team that lost its highest-profile game (Boise State in the opener), its only game against an FCS team (the James Madison disaster the following week) and its bowl game (Stanford in a blowout), but hear me out. This team set the standard for offensive numbers, averaging 33.9 points per game. Taylor earned ACC Player of the Year honors after setting the school record in total offense (3,402 yards), throwing for 2,753 yards and 24 touchdowns. The defense wasn’t its usual top-20 group in yards (it gave up 361.5 yard per game, 52nd nationally), but it still was 26th nationally in scoring (20.6 ppg). The talent on this team was among the best, however, with 11 selections on the ACC’s first and second teams. The season might have started and ended poorly for this group, but it still ran the table in the ACC, going 8-0 in the regular season before beating Florida State in the league championship game. No other team on this list can say that.
3. 2005 (11-2, 7-1 ACC): Now we’re getting into some pretty good teams. This group had so much potential. Quarterback Marcus Vick (2,393 passing yards, 17 touchdowns) thrived in his only year as the full-time starter (although it ended in the ugly stomp during the bowl game). The Hokies averaged 33.8 points per game, sixth best in school history. The defense, led by All-American defensive end Darryl Tapp, was outstanding, ranking first nationally in total yards (247.6) and second in scoring (12.9 ppg). The Hokies had nine selections on the ACC’s first two teams. They were pretty similar to this year’s team, in fact, with their lone regular season loss a lopsided one at home against Miami, 27-7. They lost the inaugural ACC title game to Florida State despite being heavy favorites, but came back to beat Louisville 34-24 in the Gator Bowl.
2. 2007 (11-3, 7-1 ACC). Looking back at this squad, there’s an argument that it could be the best on this list. The defense, led by the All-American Adibi and with eight other defenders on the All-ACC teams (including honorable mention), was fourth nationally in total yards (293.3 ypg) and third in scoring (16.1 ppg). Brandon Ore was a serviceable tailback (992 yards, 9 TD) and the Hokies began to figure out the Glennon/Taylor dynamic, a setup that helped the receiver quarter of Josh Morgan, Eddie Royal, Josh Hyman and Justin Harper thrive. A couple of losses derailed what could have been a special season. LSU blew them out early. BC’s Matt Ryan stunned them with a furious comeback in the middle of the season. They won the rematch against the Eagles in the ACC title game (and finished No. 1 in the computer rankings) which gives this team bonus points, but an upset by Kansas in the Orange Bowl was a black mark that takes this group down a notch. Still, a very strong team.
1. 2004 (10-3, 7-1 ACC): Beamer’s first ACC team takes the top spot. This was an underrated group at the time and probably remains underrated to this day. Quarterback Bryan Randall was almost everything to this offense, accounting for 2,775 total yards and 24 touchdowns to earn ACC Player of the Year honors. The defense, led by Tapp and defensive back Jimmy Williams, was among Bud Foster’s best, ranking second nationally in scoring (12.9 ppg) and fourth in yards (268 ypg). After a loss to N.C. State on a missed field goal at the gun, it won eight straight to finish the regular season and grab the ACC title in its first year after leaving the Big East. And although the Hokies lost their two biggest games, they were competitive in both. They gave eventual BCS title game winner (and vacater) Southern California a fight at FedEx Field in the opener, losing 24-13 against an absolutely loaded Trojans team. They hung tough and could have beaten an unbeaten Auburn squad in the Sugar Bowl, losing 16-13. As far as matching up with the nation’s top teams, this group might not have won those games, but it fared the best of any team on this list.
What do you think? How would you rank the last Hokies last eight teams? Put your thoughts in the comments section.