2020 Big Eleventy: Horoscope Says The Year of the Dumpster Fire

How the Hokies stack up to the best in college football over the last 20 seasons.

The Big Eleventy is a made-up conference that's composed of all of the teams that have been ranked more than half of the last two decades. The name "The Big Eleventy" is both a nod to common FBS naming conventions, and those "Big" conferences' failure to accurately track their memberships in their titles.

Once conference membership is determined, I break down a bunch of statistical comparisons among the 20-or-so member schools. As each new season is added, the season from 20 years ago is booted out.

This season we bid adieu to the year 2000.

Can you imagine... Where you will be... In the Year 2000?

The USA College Football Encyclopedia has the following title for the 2000 football season: "The year of Oklahoma's new millennium, Stupid Computer picks, and Northwest Surprises". Indeed, the Sooners took home the national title that season. And Bobby Bowden, when pressed for comment prior to finding out if his Seminoles would play against the Sooners in the Orange Bowl, stated "I hope that stupid computer picks this thing, because it's dumb enough to pick us". This sentiment proved accurate.

With the exception of the pre-season AP poll, the Hokies were ranked in the Top 10 the entire season. The Hokies spent the month of October ranked #2. As far as the round robin (below) trade-off is concerned, Tech drops a forgettable loss to Miami, and also drops a win over Clemson in the Gator Bowl.

Membership Changes: 2020

When I ran the numbers for the conference in 2019, two teams were on the bubble and needed to stay in the poll almost the entire season to stay in the conference: Miami and Nebraska.

Only Miami managed to do that. Nebraska, a team that in 2001 had managed to stay in the AP poll for 20 years in a row, is now below the 50% membership threshold. They won't be eligible for re-entry until 2024 at the earliest.

TCU didn't have as high of a bar to clear, but they didn't make the AP poll at any point this season so they dropped out as well. If they can stay in the poll for >3/4 of next season, they'll rejoin the Big Eleventy next season.

Just Missed the Cut

The following list are teams ranked >40%, listed after their next potential season to join:

2021 Oklahoma State – 49.3%, Texas Christian 46.1%, Penn State – 45.2%
2022 West Virginia – 44.4%
2023 Texas A&M – 41.2%, Stanford – 40.2%

Teams on the Bubble

The following list are teams ranked <60%, listed after next potential season to drop:

2021 Miami – 50.9%
2022 Virginia Tech – 58.7%
2023 Boise State – 54.7%, Notre Dame – 57.5%
2024 Auburn – 56.7%

Creating the 2020 Big Eleventy

It's become something of a tradition to eke out the numbers of the Big Eleventy each year. Of concern this season was how to determine the percentage of time ranked for each team. Not only were several conferences not even considered in the week 1 and 2 AP polls, countless postponements, cancellations, and rescheduled games were dizzying to track. So while I added nothing new (statistically) to track this season, the tracking mechanism itself is hereby simplified going forward — no more dropping out bye weeks.

In typical pandemic year fashion, I worked exclusively on a totally different (and much more extensive) statistics project until Joe reminded me about doing the Big Eleventy a couple months back. I responded something cool like "Nah, I don't even think I'm going to run the Big Eleventy this year". Regardless of the big game I talked, I'm no badass — just a statistics nerd and I got to work right away on it.

Regardless of our experiences or worldly palates, it seems like everybody agrees that some element of "dumpster fire" comes up when sampling a bite of 2020. Not really even creative, but I did that instead.

Rankings

When I started doing this exercise, Virginia Tech was right in the middle of most of these comparisons. With the loss of the seasons from the mid-90's to 2000, and not as many impressive seasons to replace them, it's not a surprise to see the Hokies are falling off a bit.

The Hokies have been ranked the entirety of 7 seasons over the past two decades. They have been absent from the poll altogether only once (2015). The Hokies have actually both started and finished in the Top 10 quite a lot over the last 10 seasons, and that's the most impressive stat for the Hokies on this chart (Ranked #11 of 18).

Wins & Losses

Virginia Tech manages to have a pretty respectable Winning percentages when averaged over the past 20 seasons. It's no secret that the Hokies record against Top-10 teams is where things start to get shaky. There's not a great record in Bowls to share, either (8-11); and the Hokies only shot at a National Title was 21 years ago now; it dropped off last season.

Round Robin

As the Hokies record vs these common opponents go, it is bizarre to see that teams Tech did well against (Nebraska, Tennessee) dropped out of the Big Eleventy. Meanwhile, the Hokies lost their lone contest against newcomer Boise State. It's interesting how these things shake out. Tech's a respectable 10-10 against Miami, but they're likely to drop out sometime in the next season or two as well.

Metric and Recruiting

While the first three charts have given an overall pessimistic view of how the Hokies are doing with regard to these peers, the last chart kind of gives us the "why".

Virginia Tech has never been much of an offensive power; a dead last finish isn't likely to come as much of a surprise or ruffle any Hokie fans' feathers. Unfortunately, Virginia Tech's beginning to drop off in defensive standing (5th after 2018 and 6th last year as well).

The recruiting rankings, however, are sobering. The Hokies never really recruited at the level of most of these schools; they pretty much split with peers Oregon and Wisconsin with ~20% blue chip recruits over the years.

There aren't many schools in the Big Eleventy that don't attract a high number of blue-chip recruits. There are a few programs that do well with recruits and aren't ranked half of the time, either (Penn State, several SEC schools, UCLA, etc...).

For schools to succeed without the ability to attract top recruits, a lot of things have to click to have sustained success.

Frank Beamer had the foresight to eschew transfers and Junior College players in favor of selecting a ton of Prep players and utilizing the redshirt like some kind of fashion statement it was never meant to be.

This helped the Hokies overcome their talent deficit — playing with more established veteran players. It also didn't hurt that he employed the best Defensive Coordinator in the land for two and a half decades.

Justin Fuente can't really follow Frank Beamer's blueprint; there have been few FBS-level players coming out of prep schools since about 2015. And Bud Foster has retired; while the offense has improved it definitely hasn't been successful enough to compensate for that.

It remains to be seen how the next season will shake out; but for any chance at remaining in the Big Eleventy long term, Virginia Tech needs to find their spark and exceed expectations more often than not.

Previous editions of the Big Eleventy series: 2019, 2018 (plus the Entire AP Poll Era), 2017, and 2016.

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Comments

Sobering. At the very least, I hope we outlast Miami

Onward and upward

There are some pretty big names that crop up very near us in those charts, most notably ND, USC, Miami, and Michigan. I wonder if there are comparable reasons why we can't get over the hump? I guess ND has had the most success of that group recently. I do not know if that gives me hope or makes me sad because I do not expect them to sustain it.

"A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it." - K

Interesting to see that most of the programs around us have had big booms/busts, whereas VT has been (until recently) pretty steadily good, but never great.

Twitter me

Notre Dame had actually dropped out from 2015-2016. The bizarre thing about Notre Dame is that they defy pollsters more than anybody else. A preseason top ten Notre Dame is almost guaranteed to be awful. A quiet, unranked Notre Dame is bound to overachieve. They've been able to shake that in just the last couple of seasons and play pretty well all the way through for the most part.

The most consistent thing about them- if they're bowl eligible they'll end up matched up against a team they have no business playing and typically lose.

Our lack of blue-chip talent typically only showed it's face when we were playing top ten teams. Even then, we managed to get unlucky (FMR in 2007; we were favored and held the talent advantage of the clearly overranked BC squad. Invented a pretty novel way to lose for that one).

So we are going to maintain mediocracy this year and drop down worse next year theoretically?

I can imagine no more rewarding a career. And any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction:
“I served in the United States Navy"

Whatever we do this season (2021) is replacing the 10-4 showing from the 2002 season. We beat Air Force 20-13 in the San Fransisco Bowl that season. We were ranked through the entire year.

I'm old enough to remember when we could beat Clemson. We were faster, better, tougher. WAAAYYY back in the mid 2000's...

2006 Thursday Night vs. Clemson may be my favorite game I've ever seen live. Brandon Ore was a beast that game.

That was the first game I brought my parents to at Tech.

That game was so loud and amped, I couldn't hear myself think! Haha

Reach for Excellence!

VT Football: It'll get after ya!

Proud Hokie since 2004.

The 2006 and 2007 games against Clemson were dominant. I sort of miss Tommy Bowden

Onward and upward

A great time for me.

That 2006 game was the one that got me hooked on VT football. I grew up in a family who mostly didn't care about American Football. I had one brother who would watch some NFL games on local channels when I was younger but otherwise my exposure to the sport was minimal. Growing up in Charlottesville (yeah, go ahead and make your jokes) I knew virtually nothing about College Football and I don't even remember being aware that VT was any good. I think I remember being home, sick and alone, while missing a family function and flipping through the TV channels until I landed on a football game that held my interest for a while (I'd come to learn later that the game was the infamous Texas A&M game in the hurricane). I wouldn't think about VT football again between that game and showing up on campus for my Freshman year in 2006. I learned quickly that Hokies cared about football. A lot. I didn't understand why. Then I got my first freshman lottery tickets to the Thursday night home game vs #10 Clemson. I had more fun at that game than I had ever had before (and yes, I had been to a couple of UVa games, for reasons I can't recall) and after the win I rushed the field with the guys I was sitting with. (My ugly mug even pops up in the background, briefly, during Ore's interview). From that point forward I grew, very quickly, into a pretty avid VT football fan. The rest is history.

Onward and upward

Such a great game and rushing the field from the North End Zone was something I'll never forget. I brought my 14 year old brother to the game and lost him for a good 45 minutes - I don't recommend that part!

The game we had at Clemson is probably my favorite of all time. I think that was the most Beamerball game I've ever seen. The Clemson fans got so quiet so fast and stayed that way.

We were in the upper stands and Macho was dancing to the music and I said to my friends, "he's going to return this" and they were like "yeah dumbest he's the returner", I was like no and then he just starts running and scores.

Great piece

Frank Beamer had the foresight to eschew transfers and Junior College players in favor of selecting a ton of Prep players and utilizing the redshirt like some kind of fashion statement it was never meant to be.

This helped the Hokies overcome their talent deficit — playing with more established veteran players. It also didn't hurt that he employed the best Defensive Coordinator in the land for two and a half decades.

Justin Fuente can't really follow Frank Beamer's blueprint; there have been few FBS-level players coming out of prep schools since about 2015.

Isn't the bolded piece *basically* the same thing Fuente is using the transfer portal for? Upgrading talent where possible?

Twitter me

I agree but the portal has to be viewed as plus and minus. While I believe we have leveraged the portal as a net benefit, the net part is relatively minimal.

"A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it." - K

I think you're essentially right. Things are a lot different now with the portal though. Back when Beamer was getting guys from Prep Schools it wasn't quite so easy for the players to move around from school to school so Beamer could bring in some slightly more seasoned guys and still have them for 4 years of eligibility (and 5 years of development with the redshirt).

Fuente is operating in a much different (and arguably more challenging) environment. The Portal giveth and the Portal taketh away. I think Fuente has, for the most part, done really well with using the Portal to supplement the talent on this team. But he's also lost a lot of promising players. And recruiting, I'm sure, is much more difficult to plan for and execute with the seeming revolving door of the Portal. I would think that recruiting strategies span several years. It's hard to plan ahead a full year, let alone 3, when the picture changes as quickly as it does with the Portal these days. I certainly don't envy Fuente's position.

Being the "best developmental program" in the nation is going to require the players who do come to actually stay and develop. The portal makes that extremely difficult. I'm starting to wonder if "being the best developmental program" is really a good strategy or not. Fuente has a knack for getting good talent from the Portal. Maybe he's trying to leverage his skill there. If he can get a few more Evans and Herberts and win games that way it could change his fortunes.

Onward and upward

The difference is that a prep player has 5 years of eligibility. Will Furrer vs. Jerod Evans. Vaughn Hebron vs Khalil Herbert. Fuente has to roll aces every year in the portal to mirror this. I will say that it seems Fu does better coaching "veteran" players because so many young guys transfer out. Maybe he connects better with older kids

the difference to me lies in that one involves development within a system, so that the seasoned players getting playing time are upperclassmen with years in the system...

a redshirt sophomore as a first year starter might be replacing a graduated senior, for instance. now, it's an incoming transfer who needs to start and be productive from day one in the program, and he is replacing a previous starter who probably should still be the starter, but left for whatever reason.

i would agree that a transfer portal player might be a veteran, but there's a good chance they aren't more established.

We have definitely pulled some major contributors into the program from the portal, but I have to think that the increased roster churn (above the typical incoming freshmen and departing seniors + draft entrants) takes a toll on culture building and developing real depth at any given position group.

"Why gobble gobble chumps asks such good questions, I will never know." - TheFifthFuller

Fu acknowledged that depth was a huge issue going into the fall, that's why. More transfers out than in, lack of veterans in the system.

Speaking of depth, I could be wrong but based on position groupings, I have us at:

DB: 18 (11 are r-So or younger, 4 are transfers)
DL: 15 (8 are r-So or younger, 4 are transfers)
LB: 7 (5 are r-So or younger, 1 is a transfer)
OL: 9? (5 are r-So or younger, 1 is a transfer, 1 is prep)
QB: 3 (1 is a Fr, 2 are transfers)
RB: 7 (4 are r-So or younger, 3 are JUCO/transfer/prep)
TE: 7? (4 are r-So or younger, 2 are transfer/prep)
WR: 8? (6 are r-So or younger, 1 transfer)

I may be wrong with some of my numbers, but the points are there. Every position group has at least 1 player who did not come to Tech directly out of high school. The number of r-So to Jr+ seems to be about right, when you consider that should be about 60-70% of your roster, although some positions are very thin on veteran leadership (LB, WR).

Never Forget #1 Overall Seed UVA 54, #64 UMBC 74

In 2018, CJF said each and every week that we were young, very young, and while our record ended up pretty bad, and our defense in particular was atrocious (worst D in last 30 years I recall), everyone kept saying that 2020-2021 was going to be VT's year. The 2018 roster included:

DB: 14 (Waller (F), Conner (F), Chatman (F), Peoples (F), Thompson (F), Farley (rf), Watts (so), Hunter (so), Deablo (rSo), Ladler (rSo), Rodgers (rSo), Floyd (Jr), Quillen (Jr), Webb (Jr, transfer) - 11 our of 14 underclassmen [u/c]
DL: 14 (Adams (F), Becton (F), Garbutt (rFr), Debose (rFr), Proctor (rFr), Porcher (rFr), Hewitt (rSo), Belmar (rSo), Taylor (rSo), Dean (rSo), Gaines (rJr), Burke (rJr), Walker (rSr), Mihota (rSr) - 10 out of 14 u/c
LB: 6 (Dax (F), Tisdale (F), Artis (F), Griffin (rFr), Ashby (so), Rivers (so) - 6 out of 6 u/c
OL: 17 (Tenuta (F), Darrisaw (F-prep), Mihota (F), Kane (F), Harris (F), Culver (F), Dzansi (rFr), Brown (rFr), Smith-L (rFr), Jackson (rSo), Kearns (rSo), Hoyt (rSo), Cannon (rSo), Smith (rJr), Nijman (Sr), Chung (rSr), Pfaff (rSr) - 13 out of 17 u/c
QB: 4 (Jackson (so), Hooker (rf), QP (F), Willis (rJr-transfer) - 3 out of 4 u/c
RB: 7 (Beck (F), Steward (F), Wheatley (rFr), Holston (so), McClease (rSo), Fox (rJr), Peoples (Sr) - 6 out of 7 u/c
TE: 3 (Mitchell (F), Deiuliis (rFr), Keene (so) - 3 out of 3 u/c
WR: 8 (Turner (F), Ellis (F), Smith (F), Simmons (F), Grimsley (so), Patterson (so), Hazelton (rSo), Denmark (rSo) 8 out of 8 u/c
P: 1 (Bradburn (so) - 1 u/c
K: 2 (Stout (rFr), Johnson (rSo) - 2 u/c
LS: 1 (Shadley (F) - 1 u/c

This is only 77 schollies, so I've obviously missed a few folks, but this is close to the group of starters on scholarship, and it shows in 2018 we had 64 out of 77 listed here that were underclassmen (u/c). That is a lot. In 2018 we WERE young, and had a lot of u/c contributors. However, in 2021, from this same group, only 21 appear to be still on the team, and only 34 were on last year's team. Only 21/34 out of 64 that could have started their Jr-Sr years. Now these numbers are not exact, thrown together in a few minutes, and I'm off some so don't sweat the details, but I think this clearly shows that all that talk back in 2018 about "just wait until 2020-21" - well, that was all just talk. And what is the general "talk" now coming from CJF? It's that "we don't have any depth"....yeah, right...whatever you say. And while CJF has without a doubt done very well with bringing in some great contributors from the portal, the free agency college football system does NOT lend itself well to programs that claim to be "development programs". That is a terrible strategy if you can't keep your players. And clearly VT is not keeping its younger players. Being good at "development" will not win you much these days if players don't stay to be developed.

HH4455

And while CJF has without a doubt done very well with bringing in some great contributors from the portal, the free agency college football system does NOT lend itself well to programs that claim to be "development programs". That is a terrible strategy if you can't keep your players. And clearly VT is not keeping its younger players. Being good at "development" will not win you much these days if players don't stay to be developed.

Agreed

Onward and upward

We claim to be e developmental program because we can't recruit top end guys, not that we want to be the Jim Grobe Wake Forest teams- we HAVE to be, not want to be.

We claim to be e developmental program because we can't recruit top-end guys,

To be fair, Virginia Tech has never been a recruiting powerhouse even during the peak-Beamer years...although I would be shocked if a Kevin Jones-level recruit decided to commit to this iteration of the football team.

We have to be the Oakland A's of college football right now. We can't out Yankee the Yankees, that's our only option (regardless of who the HC is).

I would ask that you go back and watch some VT games from the mid 2000's - 2011.. Many more difference makers on those teams than now- regardless the recruiting rankings. Guys jump off the film at you much more so than watching the team struggle to tackle the past 4 years, etc.

Oh I definitely agree with you. What I'm saying is the recruiting rankings are not too dissimilar. We were recruiting at a higher clip in the peak-Beamer days but it wasn't like Beamer was Dabo.

That being said, Beamer and Foster were consistently able to turn mediocre recruiting classes into top 20 teams. All Fuente has done is shown he can go 19-8 with Beamer recruits / Bud Foster as his DC and then underperform when his three top-30 recruiting classes should be in their prime.

I think of it differently. I think every team has to be a developmental program, even if they are a powerhouse recruiting school. The term "developmental" just sounds better than "training below average talents to be average power 5 players by year 4"

But you are right, we arent turning down more talented recruits on purpose (or at least I hope not)

"A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it." - K

Thank you!

I originally wrote this up well before I did the deep-dive on the Prep Players and the Moneyball post.

We're not actually doing anything crazy with Junior College transfers- we're taking about the FBS average number of JUCO players now. But with the way we're using the transfer portal we're almost more like a JUCO-heavy program at this point. Lots of shake ups from year to year.

In a way it kind of feels like we're kind of becoming the guinea pigs as far as trying to exploit the new transfer portal. Between these two methods, I prefer the way we used to do things.

If the new funding push works out, though, hopefully this is just a bridge from the old moneyball method of recruiting into the new "old-fashioned" way of landing talent. By leaving talented kids no gimme excuses to simply check us off their top-whatever lists.

Love the logo. As painful as it is to look at it, its still hurts less than B1G.

My goal when I started was to have a new logo each season. Obviously I haven't followed through really well on that. I promise to work on changing it up more in the future.

Its a good vintage. Im getting hints of the Waste Management logo in there. It compliments the dumpster fire very nicely.

I see that unexplained asterisk for Michigan's win over us... brilliant.

Man, how do you find the time to pull all of this together? Awesome work.

What shocked me the most is how seemingly ordinary someone's average record has to be. Looking at teams that are ranked the most often should be the most consistently good teams in the country. VT is 13th overall with 67.3% and Wisconsin is 10th at 70.7% for win percentage. Multiply that out over 13 games (12 game season + 1 bowl game) and you only get 8.7 and 9.2 wins a year. So teams that are in this frequently ranked group and are about 10th in overall winning percentage are only about 9-4 on average. 9-4 is a pretty good , but did not strike me as being all that great. But apparently it is over a 20 year time frame.

Makes me better appreciate how good I had it as a VT fan when Beamer was on that 10 win season streak and just how rare that type of consistency must be.

Recovering scientist working in business consulting

I think it's probably less about average years and more about programs that are largely consistently excellent with odd year of rebuilding or injury struggles sprinkled in here and there

"Why gobble gobble chumps asks such good questions, I will never know." - TheFifthFuller

Brockman, high quality posts lately. I enjoy the deep dive on some things and posts like these add value to TKP

"Why gobble gobble chumps asks such good questions, I will never know." - TheFifthFuller

I'm only commenting because I miss these posts...been a month and noticing no new write ups on the home page...really looking forward to hearing that burmeister gained arm strength in the off-season and can easily hit a 20 yard out pattern and has mastered the zone read. Also hoping to read that big play Trey has put on 15 pounds of muscle and actually got even faster in his 40 time...man that would be a sweet TKP write up to read. 9/3....6pm....full Lane stadium....goose bumps...let's get after em Hokies...let's go!!!!

HokieHighVPI03

9/3....6pm....full Lane stadium....

I really have no idea what to expect for the first game. I wouldn't be surprised either way (completely sold out and filled to the gills...or half empty). In a way, I think whatever happens on 9/3 will dictate whether or not we sell out Lane at all during the rest of the season. ND is the only other potential sell-out for 2021 IMO but if we get hammered by UNC (hopefully we don't but if we're honest with ourselves we have to realize its a real possibility) it'll either be 3/4ish full or filled with a bunch of golden domer fans. IF we win on 9/3 (hopefully we do and if we're honest with ourselves there is a real possibility that we will win that one) I could see the next 3 home games selling out.

I can't convince myself one way or the other for the UNC game. Looking forward to seeing what happens

Onward and upward