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Poor Showings in Neutral Site Games Keep some Tech Fans Home

by Chris Coleman, TechSideline.com, TSLMail #515, December 16, 2011

There are many reasons why a lot of Virginia Tech fans aren't making the trip to the Sugar Bowl on January 3. We went over almost all of them earlier in the week, but one we didn't focus on very much is the fact that Virginia Tech doesn't do very well in neutral site games.

Since the ACC era began, Virginia Tech is 6-10 in neutral site games.

Virginia Tech on a Neutral Field, ACC Era
Year Opp. Site Result
2004 #1 USC Washington, DC 24-13 L
2004 #3 Auburn Sugar Bowl 16-13 L
2005 FSU ACC Championship Game 27-22 L
2005 #16 Louisville Gator Bowl 35-24 W
2006 Georgia Chick-fil-A Bowl 31-24 L
2007 #12 BC ACC Championship Game 30-16 W
2007 #8 Kansas Orange Bowl 24-21 L
2008 ECU Charlotte, NC 27-22 L
2008 #18 BC ACC Championship Game 30-12 W
2008 #12 Cincinnati Orange Bowl 20-7 W
2009 #6 Alabama Atlanta, GA 34-24 L
2009 Tennessee Chick-fil-A Bowl 37-14 W
2010 #3 Boise State Washington, DC 33-30 L
2010 #20 FSU ACC Championship Game 44-33 W
2010 #6 Stanford Orange Bowl 40-12 L
2011 #21 Clemson ACC Championship Game 38-10 L

That record doesn't exactly inspire confidence. Three of the wins came against Boston College and Cincinnati in the state of Florida in empty stadiums with no atmosphere against teams with much less talent than the Hokies. The win over Louisville in the Gator Bowl is overshadowed by the ejection of Jimmy Williams and the Marcus Vick stomping incident. The Chick-fil-A Bowl win over Tennessee was gratifying, but the reality is that the Vols went 7-6 that year.

Of those six wins, only the ACC Championship Game against Florida State is a game that Tech fans will remember over the long haul. Tech went head-to-head against a solid team, dominated the game, and won the ACC Championship.

Unfortunately, there was a stretch between the end of the 2005 season and the beginning of the 2008 season that began to usher in a change in Tech's traveling fanbase. The 2005 season ended with an ACC Championship Game against an unranked Florida State team that was reeling. The Noles had lost three in a row, while the Hokies were 10-1. FSU blew the Hokies off the field, although the final score was close.

In the next neutral site game, the Gator Bowl, Marcus Vick embarrassed the Hokie Nation as Tech beat Louisville and their backup quarterback (Brian Brohm was out with an injury). Fast forward to the Chick-fil-A Bowl at the end of the 2006 season, and the Hokies blew a 21-3 halftime lead and lost to Georgia 31-24.

At the end of 2007, Tech avenged a regular season loss to Boston College by beating the Eagles 30-16 in the ACC Championship Game. However, the Hokies went on to get upset by a Kansas team that was inferior in talent in the Orange Bowl. Then, to start the 2008 season, Tech got upset by unranked East Carolina in Charlotte.

After that stretch, I think we've seen Tech's traveling fanbase steadily decline. Hokie fans have historically spent a lot of money to follow their team around the country, but in that stretch Tech went 0-3 against unranked teams. They lost some games they had no business losing, and Tech fans got tired of spending their money to travel and see their team perform poorly.

In many ways, I think it's as simple as that. Nobody really expected the Hokies to beat USC, Auburn or Alabama. Those losses aren't the reason Tech fans stopped traveling as much. It's the Kansas loss (not showing up to play), the Georgia loss (allowing a huge comeback), the ECU loss (losing to an unranked team) and the Boise State loss (spotting the opponent 17-0). In all of those games, Virginia Tech lost moreso than the opponent won.

There's also the "what have you done for me lately?" argument. Tech is only 1-3 in their last four neutral site games. You've got the disappointing loss to Boise State to open the 2010 season, and two shellackings at the hands of Stanford and Clemson, with an ACC Championship Game win over Florida State in between. That doesn't inspire Tech fans to spend $2,000 on a trip to New Orleans during the middle of a work week.

Looking for something positive? Consider the fact that while the Hokies are just 6-10 in neutral site games, they are 5-0 in neutral site games against opponents ranked #11-20. That's exactly where Michigan sits. Unfortunately, Tech is 1-10 against everybody else.

Right now, I think the ACC is a four-bid league. It has the potential to change to a three-bid league or a five-bid league, depending on what certain teams do. Hoping for more than five teams is wishful thinking, and in all likelihood four is the highest number of teams the league will get into the NCAA Tournament this year. There just won't be enough quality, top 50 wins available in conference play.

For example, Virginia Tech is scheduled to play the following top 50 teams: Norfolk State (#36, and unlikely to stay in the top 50), FSU (#21), UNC (#30), Duke (#2), at FSU (#21) and at Duke (#2). Throwing out Norfolk State, that's just five top 50 opponents remaining on the schedule, and with such a young team, wins over Duke and UNC are very unlikely. Perhaps a team like UVA or NC State can creep into the top 50, but that remains to be seen.

The Hokies really needed to hold on and win that road game at #28 Minnesota. In the eyes of the NCAA Tournament Selection committee, Tech isn't going to have any quality non-conference wins as usual.


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