News With Commentary by TSL Staff

Friday, July 26, 2002
by Will Stewart,

Hokies Solid #2 Pick in Big East

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Wednesday at Big East media day in East Rutherford, New Jersey, the Big East media picked the Hokies 2nd in the Big East. This came as a surprise to yours truly, because the Hokies have question marks at quarterback, wide receiver, defensive tackle, linebacker ... and a schedule that includes road trips to Miami, Boston College, and Syracuse.

But still, the BE media picked Tech number two behind the Miami Hurricanes, and it wasn't even a close number two -- the Hokies were far ahead of BC and Syracuse, who were almost tied for third and fourth in the conference:

Team (Points)

TSLMail Prediction*

1. Miami (192) 1. Miami
2. Virginia Tech (152) 2. Boston College
3. Syracuse (133) 3. Syracuse
4. Boston College (130) 4. Virginia Tech
5. Pittsburgh (110) 5. Pittsburgh
6. West Virginia (64) 6. West Virginia
7 Temple (50) 7. Rutgers
8. Rutgers (33) 8. Temple
*Last week, in TSLMail, this is where we predicted
the teams would be ranked by the media.

The pick of Virginia Tech as a strong second, with Boston College being relegated to fourth (despite returning 17 starters from a good team and having Syracuse and Virginia Tech at home) is a surprise ... or an indicator that the media doesn't think the Eagles are as far along as other people might think.

Virginia Tech receives much more respect from the Big East media than they used to. After stumbling to a 7-5 finish in 1997, the Hokies were picked to finish fourth in the league in the 1998 media poll. Now, after faltering to a 1997-like finish of 8-4 in 2001, the Hokies are picked to finish second in 2002.

Then again, before beating #16 Georgia in last year's Music City Bowl, Boston College had lost 21 straight games against ranked teams, and Syracuse is returning just two starters to an offense that didn't exactly set the world on fire last year. Looking at it that way, it's understandable that the Hokies could be picked ahead of them.

As for Pittsburgh being picked to finish fifth, that might be unfair. Sure, the Panthers have a QB, Rod Rutherford, who is a better running back than he is quarterback, but they also return 15 starters to a team that finished strong last year. But then again, they face Virginia Tech, Miami, and Syracuse on the road this coming season. The Boston College game that the Panthers have at home on October 26th could be the difference between fifth place and fourth place -- or higher -- in the Big East for Pitt this year.

Meanwhile, the rebuilding jobs at WVU and Rutgers are very much still in progress, while Temple is adrift for two reasons: (1) they're lame-duck conference members, with 2004 being their last season in the league; and (2) last year the Owls returned 19 starters and rewarded everyone's preseason confidence by floundering to a 4-7 record, including just two Big East wins.

This year marks the fifth time the Hokies have been picked to finish second in the league, and the fourth year in a row. The other years were 1994 (the Hokies finished second), 1999 (first), 2000 (second), and 2001 (tie for third).

It marks the eighth time in ten years Miami has been picked first. In 1996, Syracuse was picked first, and in 1998, WVU was picked first, but other than that, it has been all-Canes, all the time. The previous seven times Miami was picked first, they only won the league title three times: 1994, 2000, and 2001.

This is a critical year for the top teams in the Big East: Miami must hold the fort; Virginia Tech must bounce back from a 2001 season that included just one victory over a good team (BC); Syracuse must at least come close to their improbable success of last year, or the fans will grumble; Boston College must continue to build on their slow but steady resurgence from the gambling scandal that trashed the program in the mid-late 90's; and Pittsburgh must prove they can continue what they started late last year, when they won their last six games.

Miami is clearly atop the league, and WVU, Rutgers, and Temple are clearly at the bottom. In the middle is a four-team battle that promises to be fierce and entertaining in 2002.


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