Hokies in Unfamiliar Position: The Favorite

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As the Hokies return to football practice, there is something different in
the air. The April 16th shootings are still fresh in many minds, and they’ll be
talked about before, during, and after the season. But from a strictly-football
viewpoint, something else is different, too: Virginia Tech has been picked to
win its conference championship for the first time ever, dating back to their
entry into the Big East in 1991.

I’m sitting here writing this column, and the subject of the April 16th
tragedy is unavoidable. The focus of this column is going to be the Hokies as
preseason conference frontrunners, and my first inclination was to title the
piece, "Target on their backs, the Hokies start practice."

Sigh. I can’t call it that, of course. And so we begin the 2007 football
season, a season in which every little step is fraught with potential pitfalls
and wrong turns, because of April 16th.

We have no idea what we’re about to face, as far as that topic is concerned.
From the little things like expressions I might use and how I want to title a
column, to the big things like pre-game ceremonies, patches sewn on jerseys, and
TV coverage, we’re treading on strange, virgin ground here. We’ll have to be
patient with ourselves and others.

There will be plenty of that type of discussion in the future. For now, I
want to talk about football and expectations and whether or not Virginia Tech
can carry the mantle of ACC favorite through the season, into the ACC title
game, and beyond.

With all the good football teams Frank Beamer has put on the field in the
last 15 years, it’s stunning that not one of them has ever been picked to win
the conference, be it the Big East or the ACC. (Let’s take a moment to reflect
once again on how great it is to be in this conference, shall we? Savor it …
savor it … done? Okay, on we go.)

  • The 1996 Hokies, despite returning QB Jim Druckenmiller and Cornell Brown
    from a 1995 Big East championship team,
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