If any more validation was required that Virginia Tech just finished a
special season, the Hokies got it Wednesday morning, when they awoke to find
themselves ranked at #10 in both the Associated Press and USA Today/ESPN
Coaches’ Polls. This marks the fourth time in the last ten seasons the Hokies
have finished in the top ten in both polls.
The Hokies are the highest-ranked three-loss team, which is not just a sign
of respect for the Hokies, but also due to the dynamics of their schedule and
the timing of their losses. VT opened with a loss to the #1 team in the nation
in USC, lost their second game early on against NC State on Sep. 25th, then
didn’t lose again until the final game against Auburn — who finished #2 in both
polls — in a tight one. This meant that as the season went on and the Hokies
went through an 8-game winning streak, they passed many higher-ranked teams as
those other teams accumulated their first, second, and third losses.
VT has finished in the top ten in both polls three other times: 1995, 1999,
Season-Ending Top Ten Rankings
The top-ten finish, the strong performance against Auburn, and the number
of returning starters for next season (14, if Jimmy Williams returns, plus
kicker Brandon Pace) will lead to high preseason rankings for the Hokies next
year. ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit has already picked VT #5 in the preseason
for next year, including the assumption that Marcus Vick returns to play QB.
The Hokies fell just one spot with their narrow Sugar Bowl loss to the
Tigers, from #9 to #10. Every team ranked ahead of the Hokies in the final
regular-season poll stayed ahead of VT, and Iowa jumped from #11 to #8 based
on their 30-25 last-second miracle win over LSU. The Hawkeyes completed a
56-yard TD pass — not of the Hail Mary variety, but a catch-and-run TD — as
time expired to down LSU in the Capital One Bowl.
Speaking of Marcus Vick, plans are for him to enroll in classes and rejoin
Virginia Tech, both the university and the football program, on January 17th
with the start of spring semester classes. If Vick does return and stays
trouble-free and on the team going into the fall, his return will ratchet up
the expectations and media attention for the VT football program in the fall
of 2005. The media loves not just athletic ability but a great comeback story,
and Vick has the potential to be the comeback story of the year in college
football in 2005. Having lived so long in his brother’s shadow, Marcus Vick
can now write his own story with a successful return to the gridiron.
On the topic of Williams, he will investigate his options with regards to
the NFL Draft and will make a decision whether or not he wants to declare for
the NFL. The deadline is January 15th. Williams has had a good season,
finishing very strong against Virginia, Miami, and Auburn. In the Sugar Bowl,
Williams led the Hokies with 10 tackles, including an amazing four for loss
(that’s an impressive stat, coming from the cornerback position), and he dealt
some punishing blows to Auburn ball carriers. Williams also had an athletic,
diving interception in the third quarter on the Auburn 29-yard line, in a
performance that no doubt further elevated his NFL profile.
Williams and the VT coaches will consult with NFL Draft analysts and
officials in the league to get a reading on where he might go in the draft,
and Williams will then make his decision. All other prominent juniors on the
team, including DE Darryl Tapp, DT Jonathan Lewis, and TE Jeff King, are
expected to return.
Hokie Women Crack Top 25
Virginia Tech’s women’s basketball team, often ranked during the Bonnie
Henrickson era, entered this week’s top 25 for the first time under new coach
Beth Dunkenberger. The 10-2 Hokies, who haven’t lost since November, are
riding an 8-game winning streak that includes a 71-70 win over #12 Texas Tech
in Las Vegas on Dec. 19th and a 77-67 home win over #17 Maryland on Jan. 2nd.
VT started out 2-2, with the losses coming 70-56 to #14 Minnesota and an
embarrassing 87-56 blowout at the hands of Old Dominion. The Hokies opened
December with a 72-59 home win over Alabama and haven’t lost steam since then.
They have a home game against Fordham Thursday night at 7 pm, then go to #2
Duke (13-1) on Sunday for a 2 p.m. matchup.
Virginia Tech is one of four ranked ACC teams. In addition to #2 Duke, UNC
is #4, and the Terps fell to #21 in the latest USA
Today/ESPN Coaches’ Poll. The Hokies only play Duke once, and they have
road games against UNC (Feb. 11th) and Maryland (Feb. 24th).
This Week’s TSL Editorial Schedule
As you can imagine, we’re digging out from under
mountains of email that accumulated while we were in New Orleans. We’ve also got
some end-of-the-month/end-of-the-year site-related issues to take care of, and
then we’ll immediately get to work on the Sugar Bowl game analysis and Raleigh
Hokie’s "Keys to the Game" follow-up. We’re doing our best to get both
articles out by the end of the week.
Down the road, we’ll do a look ahead to 2005, and
a few fans have requested a follow-up to last year’s 7-part "State of the
Program" series. That sounds good to us, so we’ll quickly examine that
series (which was a very ambitious 7-part examination of the football program)
and plan a follow-up to get you through the time between the bowl game and the
start of spring practice.
And of course, there’s always recruiting. The
Hokies have 16
commitments for 2005, plus two more players in prep school (Brandon Holland
and Sam Wheeler), with room for a few more. TSL recruiting analyst Chris Horne
is working the phones to keep you up to date, and we’re planning lots of great
signing day material and some profiles of VT signees for the month of February.
The season’s over, but at TechSideline.com, the coverage of VT football is, of
course, never over. It’s why we’re here!