It's been a weird football season for the Hokies.
The pantsing of Florida State didn't square with the sum of Virginia Tech's offseason defensive losses. Vegas, pundits, and pollsters all pegged the Hokies to lose in Tallahassee. Instead, they won. Unexpedictly and big. Forget the week one to week two leap, that adage Frank Beamer was so fond of citing. Bud Foster's group seemingly grew up overnight. (Spoiler: They didn't.)
The only par for the course was the William & Mary waxing. That was a clean drive, iron in, and two putts out.
The East Carolina game, iteration twenty-three of the longstanding series the overwhelming majority of Hokie Nation wished would end, was abruptly canceled. The Tech faithful was a blend of sad, mad, and dejected. Irony overload.
Then, Old Dominion happened. You know it's a splendid football season when the result of a September contest, one scheduled on the road against an in-state program two orders of magnitude below in weight class strictly for off-the-field reasons, forces the discussion of all-time Virginia Tech
losses, upsets, collapses, choke jobs.
Dominating then undefeated Duke in Durham went against prognostications and revitalized the masses. Notre Dame both dismissed the notion Tech was approaching national relevance, and bolstered the theory Lane Stadium's teeth were dull. A handful of bungled North Carolina red zone trips coupled with a 98-yard touchdown drive proved college football's cruelty isn't exclusive.
To summarize: This season has been all over the map and I don't have a handle on this Virginia Tech team.
Inexperience across the board increases variance of expectations. Progress for the Beamer teams, the ones from the Vick through the Taylor eras that is, was simple to track. It was binary — national championship or bust. From conference championship crowns to marquee bowls, those teams accomplished everything else but. Beamer raised the bar high, and although never taken, the next step was logical.
Five games remain on the Hokies' 2018 schedule. Virginia Tech's conference record is unblemished. By virtue of 3-0 away from Lane, Tech closes its conference schedule with 4 home games and one road trip. That's a more than manageable slate against a group absent a single squad that's separated itself from the pack.
A Coastal Division championship is most certainly on the table.
That may or may not be a fair measurement of success down the stretch, but it's there. However, at some point during the season, a team stops being "young". It's the end of October, the underclassmen have benefitted from six games of experience. It is time for the Hokies to grow up. It's time for on-the-field play to support the claim these coaches form one of the best developmental staffs nationally. Correctable, non-talent issues — misfitted gaps, wrong quarterback reads, coverage snafus, etc — should be eliminated. Play calls and personnel deployments need to put the team in the best position to succeed, and on-field player progression should be more noticeable than a before-and-after Hilgartification photo.
Do all that, and it's still no guarantee the Hokies make the December trip to Charlotte. This team is flawed at positions which will take one-or-more recruiting cycles to address.
However, the road ahead, the long haul, that destination is much more palatable and appealing.