The interminable wait for the football season enters its home stretch. This Dead Zone has less than three weeks remaining.
As often happens, Virginia Tech is opening its season with a high-profile ESPN game. This one is Labor night at FedEx against Boise State. According to jimmy on the first Tech Talk of the season, plenty of good seats remain, about 24k. The Tech AD related that he is ‘hoping’ for a crowd of 70k. So much for a FedEx jam-packed with Tech fans as was the case against Southern Cal.
The primary reason given is the timing of the game, a Monday night. Tech is in session the next day and there are probably at least a few students who will attend classes. There are also some among the alumni set that might have found it difficult to blow off gainful employment the next day in order to spend it traveling home. These sorts of games should be played on Saturday, as was last year’s lid-lifter against Alabama in Atlanta, or even on a Sunday, as the Tech-LSU game was in 2002.
In the last decade, Tech has participated in a bunch of these opening or early-season made-for-television affairs. There was the Georgia Tech non-game in 2000 [I was in Lane when the storm his and still hold out faint hope my refund will eventually arrive], LSU twice [2002 and 07], Southern Cal in 04, East Carolina in Charlotte in 08 [a game that Tech somehow managed to bumble away late, although, surprisingly, the Strawgraspers were not invited to the Li'l E the next day] and Alabama last year. All have been played unless they were not in front of slam full houses with what will now be two exceptions, the ECU game in Charlotte and now Boise in FedEx. Do you see the pattern?
With all due respect to the Broncos, perhaps caliber of opponent is at least a contributing cause to the casual ticket-buying attitude of many fans. For all of the media sturm and drang [although Klinger was referring to the American revolution instead of American football and while Goethe might have been a big fan of the game had he lived long enough for it to be invented, Tech and Boise didn't play in the early 1800's] storming around Boise, when one says ‘football power,’ Boise State doesn’t pop quite as quickly to mind as does Alabama, LSU or USC or Nebraska, or Miami and Florida State or any of the other powers that dot Tech’s schedule with regularity.
While Virginia Tech has been trying very hard over the last couple of decades to establish themselves as a member of college football’s elite, with varying degrees of success, Boise looks a lot like a team attempting to circumvent the process. Tech has gotten to the top 15 or so spot they consistently occupy by winning multiple championships in two different ‘major’ conferences and playing [and often beating] a veritable who’s who of college football in a variety of bowl games, often in what is now known as the BCS.
Boise State has a little different path. Reading their entire bowl history doesn’t take long. Their entire justification for entry into college football’s upper echelon seems to be their win in the 2006 Fiesta Bowl, the game that started the Bob Stoops habit of coming up something other than large in bowl games. Winning a bunch of WAC games is not exactly Tech’s path to football glory.
Boise State seems to specialize in the one-game season. This year Tech is That Game. Win it and the remainder of their schedule is so weak that they will be a veritable lock for the MNC game next January. Or so we are told by the ‘conventional wisdom.’ Tech’s road to a possible MNC is just a bit trickier, what with a trip to Fredo in a few weeks, a place where Tech has experienced some recent difficulty in winning, plus a November that at this moment looks pretty tough.
For the last 20 years or so, Tech has rarely gone into a game where I thought they had no chance whatsoever of winning. They don’t always win, but it might be the game at Oklahoma in 1991 or the trip to the Canes in 1987 that was the last time I gave the Hokies no chance, and they gave a pretty good account of themselves both in Norman and against the Canes back when they really were Back. Just about every game played since has caused me to see at least some circumstance that could lead to a Tech win. Most of the time since 1989, and a lot of the time since about 1994, I have been right.
My opinion is that Tech not only beats Boise in FedEx, but does so by a couple of touchdowns. It is a bit difficult to watch the Broncos, since so many of their games are judged as lacking appeal for television, but I run the risk of offending the Weauxf Gods by giving as the reason I think Tech will win having watched Boise play. When it comes to size and speed, they ain’t exactly Alabama, or any of the other ‘big’ names that Tech often plays.
The Bronco defense is known for giving up lots of yards and points to WAC offenses. There are few things to be found on a football field that Frank Beamer enjoys more than controlling the clock with his running game. The presence of Ryan Williams, Darren Evans and maybe even David Wilson would seem to give Frank great opportunity to indulge himself. Boise’s high-powered offense just might find scoring a boatload of points against Bud’s inexperienced defense a tricky proposition if Tech’s offense is milking lots of clock with a strong running game, which is what I think will happen.
Tech often finds itself playing so-called ‘mid-majors’ looking to make their rep. Over the last decade, there have been games against ECU in 2000, Marshall in 2002 and various games against Central Florida and Western Michigan where the same ‘conventional wisdom’ that has pegged the Broncos a slight favorite held all that was necessary for the attainment of football nirvana was a win against Tech. The Hokies routed them all. It might be a bit of a stretch to compare a Boise team that has played in and actually won BCS games to the Strawgraspers and Herd, but once again Tech is finding itself taking on a team that claims it only has to beat the Hokies to roll through the football world like Sherman through Georgia.
This is a huge game for Boise State. Their own president calls it the biggest in their history, an utterance I haven’t heard from Dr. Steger. Certainly their excellent coach Chris Petersen will have them ready to play. But, so will Frank, and Bud, and Stiney and the rest of Tech’s staff. They will have the advantage of having prepared for many games of this magnitude, with, hopefully, many more to come. I like Tech’s chances.