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No Curve For Tech

I would hate to take a class taught by Kirk Herbstreit. He seems entirely too demanding. This is a guy who can come up with any number of reasons why the grade of ‘A’ should not be conferred. He most definitely does not believe in grading on a curve.

The more coherent of ESPN’s Gameday loud talkers can’t seem to be convinced that this Virginia Tech football team is a top one worthy of inclusion in the BCS Final Two. Whatever Tech does, it is just not quite enough in Kirk’s eyes.

Herbstreit doubles as the analyst on the ESPN Thursday night games. Near the end of the tape of Tech’s win over Maryland, he could be heard exclaiming, “I’m still not convinced about this Virginia Tech team. I want to see how they do against those big lines of Boston College,” or something to that effect.

Tech did fairly well against those lines, thank you. The Hokies dominated both of them en route to what most thought was a convincing 30-10 victory. Not our Kirk, though.

Late Saturday night as I sat sipping cold medicine thoughtfully left in my cooler after the Maryland trip by a fellow traveler [Russian folk remedies that involve brown liquor are good ones], I channel-surfed my way to the midnight babblings of the Gameday crew.

As might be expected, they were discussing the current BCS situation and how Tech might shine in. Lo and behold, out of Kirk’s mouth popped this penetrating analysis: “I’m still not convinced about this Virginia Tech team. I want to see how they do against Miami,” or something to that effect. Geez, you just can’t please the guy.

That has been the story of Tech’s 2005 season. Questions continue to be asked about them. Each and every time, no sooner has the interrogative been delivered than Tech delivers an affirmative answer. It doesn’t seem to matter. The ‘A+’ grade that would reward the Hokies with a Pasadena graduation ceremony eludes them. Southern Cal and Texas remain the teacher’s pets.

The various media that constitute ‘they’ have been delivering posers to the Tech team all season. They began in the very first game, when it was wondered how Tech with Marcus Vick starting his first game would fare in the hostile environment of Carter-Finley Stadium. Tech found a way to defeat what at the time looked to be a very good State team that would go on to a fine season. This, of course, was before the Wolfpack were inflicted with the mysterious Red Shuenza that laid their season low.

What was a solid road win was immediately discounted and doubters then pointed to the multi-Tech game. The Hokies would receive a stern test from an undefeated and ranked Georgia Tech team that had notched a road win over Auburn. One woodshed beating later, few of ‘they’ seemed convinced that Tech was an elite team.

The next pop quiz contained the question, ‘Let’s see how Tech does against the Cousins in the raucous and dangerous environment of Couchburner Field.’ The answer to that one was Second Half domination on the way to a seventeen-point win, still the only game the Cousins have lost.

Then came the essay question: How will Tech fare on the road at Maryland as Ralph Friedgen tries to get even with his good buddy Frank Beamer for last year’s 55-6 wipeout. Tech played its worst game of the year against the Terps and still managed a nineteen-point win. That margin of victory over the Fridge’s crew seemed to be beyond the abilities of Florida State, even at Bobby Doak Campbell Stadium.

That brought us to last Thursday night and Herbstreit’s pondering of the difficulties Tech would face against a very good Boston College team featuring two huge lines that would hold sizable size advantages over Tech’s. Fredo fared better on the lake than did the Eagles.

The Hoos might beat Florida State in years ending in ‘5,’ but BC could not accomplish the same on Thursday night in Lane. Since the Eagles beat Tech on a Thursday night back in 1995, Tech has won eight of the next nine games against them, the only blemish being a home loss that punctuated Tech’s 2003 season-ending meltdown. Tom O’Brien has built a fine program on Chestnut Hill, but this game went like just about all of the others. Frank Beamer’s guys possess much more speed and quickness than do Tommy O’B’s. Speed usually wins. Until O’Brien can acquire a lot faster players than the speed and quickness that is sprinkled through his program at present, he is going to have problems with the ultra-quick teams that occupy the top spots in the ACC’s two divisions. But that’s his problem.

Tech’s remains that no matter what they do, they cannot crack the BCS’s two-team playoff. Tech has a very big test coming up this Saturday against old friend Miami; more will be said about that game later in the week. Suffice it to say, it will be a huge game, the national headliner and the biggest game Tech has played since the Tech-Miami game of 1999 when those Hokies silenced most doubters with a dominating win over the Canes.

Despite having what should be a Tech-Canes game with huge MNC implications, it is becoming increasingly apparent that it doesn’t matter. That was reinforced Sunday morning when ESPN talking heads were quite emphatic in informing me and everybody else who was watching that no matter whether Tech beats Miami yet again or not, the Hokies were not going to displace USC or Texas from the top of the BCS. Way to build ratings for a game your network is carrying Saturday night, guys.

It seems the gods of the BCS have already determined that USC and Texas will meet in the Rose Bowl. For Tech to make a Left Coast bowl trip, one of them is going to have to lose. Fat chance of that happening.

Tech fans were teased for a half last Saturday into believing that the Mack Effect was again kicking in. After looking like something other than an MNC contender for a half against a lousy Oklahoma State team, the Longhorns got their act together and blew away the Cowboys. It would seem this Texas team is talented enough to overcome the sideline Brownouts. Mack did finally recruit enough talent to overcome his tactical deficiencies. That does not bode well for anybody occupying position #3 in the BCS standings.

Texas will close against Big XII lightweights Baylor and Kansas, then at a very mediocre Texas A&M team. The Horns will be a mega-favorite over whatever Big XII North team manages a winning record. There is no opposition of a Miami quality there, or even close to it.

USC has a tougher row to hoe. The Trojans host Stanford this Saturday. Walt Harris has the Cardinal playing well and he is certainly making the Pitt administration look like idiots, but they aren’t in USC’s class. Southern Cal then will close against three ranked teams, Cal, Fresno State and a big one with UCLA. This is certainly a much tougher schedule than Texas will face, but the odds are still greater that the Big One will strike Southern California before USC loses.

It would seem that no matter what, Tech is going to be Auburnized, on the outside of the MNC game looking in. It also seems that the Tech coaches and players had better not spend much time worrying about it. A very good Miami team is coming to town this weekend. I suspect the Canes have grown very weary of 1] losing to Tech so much [7 out of 10 now] and 2] usually getting pounded in Lane. They are likely to be in a mood to do something about it. Tech is favored, as they should be, but this is going to be a tough game. All questions will be answered if Tech passes this test. It is unfortunate that it seems that one of the questions will not be: who will play in the Rose Bowl.

Around the ACC, the aforementioned Canes prepped for the Tech game with a win over Carolina. Miami was sluggish in the First Half, no doubt due to the effects of Wilma and being forced to wear uniforms that were every bit as hideous as that Tech debuted Thursday night. The Canes overpowered the Heels in the Second Half, leaving the only question whether the game would be completed before the decrepit Orange Bowl collapsed. It was close.

Over at Carter-Finley, State showed that there was nothing wrong with Chuckie’s program that a game against a CUSA team couldn’t cure. No wonder the Pack is looking to schedule more games with East Carolina.

Maryland bounced back from the Tech loss, traveling to Tallahassee and giving FSU just about everything they wanted before the Noles managed a late win. Georgia Tech beat Clemson in a game that is a strong contender for the worst played this year in the ACC. This error-plagued dog of a game gave solid indication that both teams had been told that the winner would get the Boise bowl and each was determined that the other would go.

Then there was that mismatch in Durham. Duke continues to probe new lows under Ted Roof. The gap between the Blue Devils and the ACC’s other eleven teams is widening. If Duke can’t do any better than a 38-point home loss to the league’s other private weak sister, things are worse than had been imagined. The Duke program is not improving under Roof; this team is every bit as bad as any of the 0-11 outfits run by Carl Franks. The only difference is that Lackey Joe had the good sense to schedule VMI in order to keep the Devils from being winless. Much has been said about Roof’s good recruiting and how things are going to get better. How many remember that the exact same thing kept getting spoken during the Franks error? It ain’t happened yet.

Tech has managed to answer every question posed about the team seemingly without ever answering the big one. The answer to that one should be found Saturday night as the Hokies face their biggest test of the season. There will be more about this game later in the week. Kirk Herbstreit will be on hand as Gameday makes its second Tech appearance this season. Hopefully Tech will answer his big question about the team. One thing is for sure: he doesn’t grade on a curve.

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