Perhaps the most manic relationship between the staff and the fanbase this season was between new offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler and those that wear orange and maroon. Loeffler was hired after coordinating a dreadful offense at Auburn. That poor year stands in stark contrast to Gus Malzahn's offensive revival that has Auburn on the verge of a national championship. Based on his season at Auburn, many fans didn't have confidence in Loeffler turning around an offense that sputtered under the combined leadership of Bryan Stinespring and Mike O'Cain. With an offensive unit depleted by injuries, defections, and inexperience at the skill positions that was expected to adopt a complex, multiple scheme, Loeffler faced a major challenge right off the bat. How did he fare in his first season on the job, and is this the true Scot Loeffler offense?
How much did everyone pay attention to UCLA football throughout the season? I watched them blow past Nebraska 41-21 in early September because that game was on the TV in the bar next to the one broadcasting the Hokies. Outside of that, I didn't watch much Bruins football. For my own edification, I watched UCLA's games against Stanford (L 10-24), Arizona State (L, 33-38), and USC (W, 35-14).
UCLA (9-3, 6-3) finished runner up to Arizona State (10-3, 8-1) in the Pac-12 South. The Bruins were ranked 17th in the final BCS Standings. Of the teams they played ranked in the final BCS Poll UCLA lost to no. 5 Stanford, no. 10 Oregon, no. 14 Arizona State, and beat no. 25 USC.
By a measure of traditional statistics, UCLA is a balanced and formidable opponent.
All of the bowl projections throughout the week that had the Hokies heading to El Paso to play UCLA held true. According to the AP, Virginia Tech will play UCLA in the Sun Bowl. The game will be played Tuesday, December 31st at 2:00 PM ET and will be broadcast on CBS. UCLA is a 9-3 team that went 2-3 against the Top 25 and spent most (if not all of, it's too early on a Sunday to confirm) its season ranked.
Earlier in the week Sun Bowl Executive Director Bernie Olivas said this about the Hokies then potential bid, "A lot of scenarios point to Virginia Tech towards us and we would be extremely happy with that".
Those movies or TV shows when it's about to hit the fan, but a character calls a timeout to puff one last cigarette. It's a stick of a last meal conveniently kept in a pocket. Put 'em down, but gently. Back to the action.
(Don't watch if you don't want a Breaking Bad spoiler.)
The ACC Championship Game is tomorrow night. I expected Virginia Tech to represent the Coastal right up until DeVon Edwards picked off Marquise Williams to seal Duke's division championship. Until that moment, in my mind, it was always when, not if Duke would lose. However, the Blue Devils stunned the Hokies at the end of October and never looked back finishing the season on an 8-game win streak; a perfect record in October and November. Impressive for a program that only got press in Virginia for beating Virginia.
Florida State is one win away from being back. (Some may argue two wins, but if a program plays in the national championship game, it's undeniable that it's nationally relevant.) The last time FSU was this close to being back was over a year ago, before they lost at North Carolina State.
Last time we checked in, our heroes were on their way to Brooklyn in order to play the best team in the country. Did I have confidence in them? Of course not! But that game happened, and then they played three more games after that. Let's look at a few quick game summaries before we break this team down.
Michigan State 96, Virginia Tech 77: This was probably many of y'all's first endeavor into watching this team. Well, what you witnessed was somewhat of a bipolar game in which some things went incredibly right, and others went "Oh God, just burn it all down" wrong. What went right? Jarell Eddie was unconscious in the first half, knocking down a ton of jumpers, and with the help of Adam Smith, kept the Hokies competitive for most of the opening half. In fact, an Eddie three-ball cut Sparty's lead to three with just three minutes left in the half. That, however, was when the wheels fell off the bus (which, apparently, was on an elevator). State went on a 10-0 run to extend their lead to 13 going into halftime, capitalizing on a few poor turnovers and bad perimeter D (two of the things that went extremely wrong, another being the eight shots taken by Devin Wilson and Ben Emelogu combined, but I'll get to that).
The Hokies finished the season on a positive note with a decisive if ugly win against the pretenders from the University of Virginia. Congratulations to the seniors who finished their career with four wins against the bow tie neighbors to the north. Nothing about the 95th edition of the Commonwealth Cup was pretty, but the Hokies succeeded in achieving victory with a combination of superior effort, some trickery, and a significant helping hand by a University of Virginia offensive staff which managed to do everything but hand Bud Foster their playbook with a silver bow prior to kick off.
The Hokies did not finish the game unscathed. Trey Edmunds had an outstanding game, but was lost until fall practice with a broken tibia early in the fourth quarter. Brandon Facyson, who UVa did not seem interested in challenging with the exception of a go route prior to the Edmunds touchdown run in the second quarter, suffered an AC joint sprain. Now, Virginia Tech enters bowl season looking for a way solidify depth because of injuries, while also using the extra weeks of practice to identify which players are most likely to replace the ten key contributors who will be playing their final game for the Hokies.
Coffee is on me this morning.
Virginia Tech's regular season is over. I hate this time of year. I'm sad there's no game to look forward to next weekend. Although, now there's a complete body of work to reflect on.
Tech's 8-4 record was a reasonable expectation at the beginning of the season. Lose to two-time defending national champion Alabama in the Dome, on the road against Georgia Tech on a short week, against a talented Miami in Sun Life Stadium for the second season in a row, and stumble against a random unexpected team. If there's a neat way to go 8-4 against this schedule, that'd be it. Instead, over the course of the season Tech edited and rewrote its narrative.