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With the ACC area media set to make their conference predictions later this July, it’s time to take a look back throughout the Beamer Bowl Era and see how kind (or unkind) the media has been to the Hokies in the preseason. There are some high expectations, among both fans and analysts, for the Hokies this year, and if we look back through the years we can see whether or not the Hokies have been able to live up to expectations in the past.
Overall, the Hokies have done very well in defying the expectations of the media. And while the media has never picked Tech to win the Big East or ACC, they also rarely pick the Hokies to finish in the bottom half of the conference either. In 1993, Tech was picked to finish sixth in the Big East, primarily because the Hokies went 2-8-1 in 1992. The ACC media picked Tech sixth, or middle of the pack, in 2004, and with good reason. The Hokies had faded down the stretch for three straight years and had lost two players to the first round of the NFL Draft.
Other than 1993 and 2004, Virginia Tech has been picked to finish lower than third just once. That was in 1998, when Tech was coming off a bad 7-5 season that ended with a 42-3 loss to UNC in the Gator Bowl. But generally, the Hokies were given respect by the Big East media, although I would have disagreed with one of their picks. I’m still not sure how or why the Big East media voted Miami ahead of Virginia Tech in 1999. The Hokies were returning everybody and had the Canes, whom they had beaten four straight times, in Blacksburg.
At first glance, I was going to say I would have voted the Hokies higher in 1996 as well, but after thinking about it, I probably wouldn’t have. Tech returned a lot of offensive talent in 1996 but lost defensive standouts such as Cornell Brown, JC Price, and George DelRicco. Tech also had to travel to Syracuse and Miami, and despite the 1995 season, I still would have picked Tech to lose both of those games. As it turned out, the Hokies got crushed by Syracuse but won at Miami. After Miami upset Syracuse late in the season, Tech was awarded with an Orange Bowl berth, thanks to VT's average national ranking being higher than that of Miami and Syracuse.
From 1993-2000, the Hokies never finished below what they were predicted to finish. In fact, their worst differential from the preseason predictions to the final standings came in 1994, when they finished second…exactly where they had been predicted to finish. The Hokies were just consistently better than everyone expected.
Then came the horrible stretch between 2001-2003, when the Hokies were consistently worse than everyone expected. Tech started off each season in strong fashion, vaulting themselves into the top ten. But in each season, something happened that derailed their finish.
In 2001, the team weaknesses really started to show after the Hokies polished off their cupcake-filled out of conference schedule. Once Big East play began, Tech’s sub par offensive line showed its true colors, it became obvious that the loss of Lee Suggs hurt tremendously, and Grant Noel proved he was no Michael Vick. The Hokies didn’t quit (Some people like to lump the 2001, 2002 and 2003 teams together, saying they all three faded down the stretch because they quit. That’s not true, especially the 2001 team. That was a good team with a great defense who almost knocked off Miami. They just didn’t have the offensive weapons.), but they definitely limped to the finish line.
In 2002, Tech started the season strong, but this time they were knocking off teams like LSU in Lane, Texas A&M on the road, and a Byron Leftwich led Marshall team. This team looked pretty good. It had its weaknesses, but the young defense was playing well, and the combination of Lee Suggs and Kevin Jones was outstanding. Then Bryan Randall started to show his limitations, and the defense suffered some injuries. The Hokies ended up spending the Holiday season in San Francisco, playing Air Force in a baseball stadium.
The 2003 team should have been good, but they weren’t. They did have some issues with interior defense, but they had the talent at other positions to overcome them. Plus, they beat Miami 31-7 with those issues, so finishing 8-5 was unacceptable. There were some major chemistry problems with that team, they got into a hole, and they couldn’t crawl out of it. And Cal's Aaron Rogers is still smiling about his performance in the Insight Bowl.
As a side note, the 2003 team that everyone, fans and ESPN analysts alike, expected so much of was only predicted to finish third in the Big East. The media had the Hokies behind Miami and Pittsburgh. I think that serves as an example that the national media has a much different perspective than local media.
The 2004 Hokies righted all wrongs, winning the ACC in their inaugural season and finishing five spots ahead of their predicted sixth place finish. That is the largest positive differential in predicted finish and actual finish that the Hokies have had in the Beamer Bowl Era.
So where will the media rank the Hokies in 2005? The Big East media never thought Tech would knock off Miami, and even when Tech did, the media would still continue to pick Miami the following season. The Hokies knocked off Miami last year and appear to have a loaded team in 2005.
Despite Florida State’s recent issues with the police and injuries, there is no one in the Atlantic Division that can knock off the 'Noles. They will be predicted to win their division by a wide margin.
The Coastal Division is the question mark. I think the winner of this division will be picked to win the whole conference. The Hokies beat Miami on the road last year, return a lot of good players, and get Miami in Blacksburg, a place where the Canes were very lucky to come away with one win since 1993. I believe that this is the year, the very first year in fact, that the Hokies will be picked to win their conference. I don’t think anyone can reasonably expect Florida State to win the ACC with a r-freshman quarterback. Miami proved in 2004 that they were not invincible. The North Carolina media, which make up a large portion of the voters, watched Miami fall to UNC last year in Chapel Hill. Miami also lost at home to Clemson and only went to (gasp!) the Peach Bowl. There is a lot of hype surrounding Marcus Vick as well, and the Tobacco Road media is very familiar with the Hokies.
I think this is the year for the Hokies to be predicted first. If it doesn’t happen this year, don’t hold your breath on it ever happening.
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|TechSideline.com Updates From the Past Week|
Breaking Down VT's 2005 Recruiting Class: Defensive Backs
Keys to the ACC Championship, Part 1: Maryland, Clemson, and Georgia Tech
About Whining About the BCS
Breaking Down VT's 2005 Recruiting Class: Linebackers and Whips/Rovers
Football Coaches Busy in July
Breaking Down VT's 2005 Recruiting Class: Defensive Line
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