Posted August 24, 2010 | comments 4 Comments

Jeff Nations: Hokies' opener gift for title shot

Let's face it -- sports writers love Virginia Tech.

It must be so, just looking at this week's Associated Press preseason top 25 football poll. The Hokies are sitting in a strong position at No. 10 -- not too high for grandiose expectations, not so low as to be out of the BCS picture. That's all well and good, but the real Hokie love shows through higher up in the poll.

Way up there on that lofty perch, just above BCS championship runner-up Texas and perennial power Florida, just below top-ranked defending champion Alabama and perennially overrated Ohio State, that's where the warm feelings for Frank Beamer and the gang center -- at No. 3, to be exact, the ranking the collected minds of college football writers nationwide have bestowed upon Boise State. The Broncos just happen to be the Hokies' season-opening opponent on Sept. 6, the type of first-game test fans and coaches dread.

Virginia Tech has some experience facing top-five competition right out of the box. Last year, the Hokies dropped a 34-24 season-opening decision to No. 5 Alabama at the Chik-fil-A Kickoff Classic in Atlanta. Two years before that, Tech got drubbed 48-7 at LSU. And in 2004, on the same FedEx Field where the Hokies will host Boise State, top-ranked Southern Cal picked up an 11-point win (24-13) over Beamer's bunch.

So more of the same? Let's take another look at that list: USC, LSU, Alabama ... Boise State? Which program would you rather face this year? Any year?

This is no time for cracking wise on the Hook-and-Ladder or Statue of Liberty -- those are legitimate plays -- old-school (like Knute Rockne old), but nothing wrong with that. Nor is it appropriate to comment at this time on end zone marriage proposals or bird-slaughtering blue turf. And absolutely, positively no potato jokes.

Boise State has earned our respect, obviously. Under the guidance of coach Chris Petersen, the Broncos have been the ever-present bogeyman threatening to steal BCS riches with their glittering record year after year now since their stunning overtime victory against Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. Now, it seems the bogeyman is near the front of the line to bust up the BCS status quo as the Broncos enjoy their highest-ever AP ranking.

Overrated, perhaps? This is the team that beat then-No. 16 Oregon 19-8 last year, handing the Ducks a season-opening setback on that famous blue playing field (again with the bird battering). And they did deal then-unbeaten TCU a 17-10 loss in the Fiesta Bowl to cap a 14-0 season. OK, so the rest of the schedule might not have been quite so imposing -- nothing like beefing up that WAC schedule with a pair of Mid-American Conference games and a home breather against UC Davis.

The Broncos did take care of business on the road last year in front of the rabid throngs of Fresno State, Bowling Green and Tulsa fans, but playing in front of a hostile crowd which could approach 90,000 in Landover, Md., might be something different. Virginia Tech will virtually have home-field advantage, and Boise State must deal with crossing a pair of time zones just to reach the very green FedEx playing field.

All that success surely has led to a recruiting boom in Boise, right? By now, the Broncos must be loaded with four-and five-star recruits, NFL hopefuls making the trek to the mountains to join the storied program. Let's see -- Boise State's recruiting class in 2010 according to scout.com was ... 97th? Virginia Tech was 37th. That can't be right. Rivals.com must have a better feel for this program -- the Broncos reeled in the 82nd-best class (Virginia Tech was 23rd) according to rivals.com, just below Kent State.

One-year slump, maybe? Since 2006, when the Broncos started to capture the imagination of sports writers nationwide, Boise State's best-rated recruiting class came in 2007 when scout.com picked them 57th. Virginia Tech's worst rating during that time by either website was 41st in 2009 (scout.com).

Still, Boise State must be doing something right, blue-chippers or not. Petersen is obviously maximizing his program's potential on a yearly basis. But from a physical standpoint, Virginia Tech should have the better of the matchup. This isn't like playing the Crimson Tide last season, a program consistently ranked in the top 10 in recruiting each and every year. It's not LSU or USC ... heck, it's not even Duke according to the draft rankings. Chances are, if anyone's going to get blown off the ball, outmuscled or outrun, it's going to be the No. 3 Broncos.

Opportunities don't get more golden than this. A victory over the third-ranked Broncos is bound to give the Hokies a significant bump in the top 25. Beating No. 9 Miami last year was worth five spots in the AP poll last year for Virginia Tech; a similar jump for beating Boise State would not be unthinkable.

The BCS establishment will be pulling for the Hokies, without question. Other than a home matchup on Sept. 25 against No. 24 Oregon State, the Broncos have another clear road toward an undefeated season -- unless a road matchup against state rival Idaho is a challenge (it is in Moscow, after all). So Beamer's team is in position to defend the status quo and keep the biggest BCS buster at bay once more. In doing so, the Hokies can take a huge step toward regaining the sort of national prominence they haven't enjoyed since a certain notorious fleet-footed quarterback named Vick (that's Michael, not Marcus) ran the offense.

Beat Boise State to get on the fast track for the national championship? That's no half-baked idea.

4 Comments | Leave a comment

    Boise fan here. What amazes me is how well we have done even with such low rated recruiting. We have never deserved a national championship spot. If we somehow pull off a win against VaTech, things are looking good. An undefeated year would mean this team is essentially 26-0(and most of it went 12-1 the year before) and would have wins againast Oregon, TCU, VaTech and Oregon State. Just might deserve a shot at the big one.

    But first we have to beat a very strong program in less than 2 weeks. No small task. We'll see

    VT is overrated. Not only this year but every year since they played FSU for the national title. VT was a doormat until Beamer got there and even after his arrival, they were mediocre at best until Michael Vick arrived. Now, they are hailed as having a great, storied program like Michigan, Notre Dame, or Nebraska. Even the radio ads on 1400AM WINC make claims of hallowed ground and a history of champions. They're a decent team in a second rate conference. When's the last time they beat an SEC, Big 10, or Big 12 team?

    My prediction, Boise St. will win by at least 14 and after halfway through the 2nd quarter, VT will be struggling to stay in the game.

    The last time VT beat an SEC team was their last game - Tennessee. Big 12 - last year and the year before - Nebraska. Big 10 - Scheduled a game against Wisconsin last year, at Wisconsin - Wisconsin cancelled and played a Div II team.

    Tennessee has been a doormat for years. They might as well have played Vandy. How'd they do against Alabama? Nebraska's been down for several years as well but the larger argument is that they play a TN or a NE but then return to their ACC teams like NC State, WF, Duke, UVA. They couldn't play in a major conference where they had tough teams every week.

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