The Justin Fuente era has reached its tipping point. In a baffling display of poor tackling, dreadful luck and questionable coaching, Virginia Tech lost to Liberty at Lane Stadium on Saturday afternoon, Fuente's second loss to in-state, recently removed FCS foes in just three years.
And for as mind-numbingly bad as the Hokies were, the Halfwits boys were worse, with Joey's sub-.500 record breezing by a 1-6 showing from The Fifth Fuller.
Joey's Record Last Week (& Season Total): 3-4 (26-23-1)
The Fifth Fuller's Record Last Week (& Season Total): 1-6 (21-27-1)
Without further ado, on to the lines!
True / False: Virginia Tech quarterbacks out-rush Virginia Tech running backs
Joey: The Khalil Herbert train came to a screeching halt against Liberty. The pre-game rumors of a limited Herbert turned out to be stunningly accurate and the former Kansas transfer played only one snap — a 12-yard kickoff return — before turning in his helmet for the day with an injured hammy. And despite talk of a rebuilt running back room with Power 5 level depth for the first time in the Fuente era, Raheem Blackshear and Jalen Holston preceded to tally just 45 yards on 10 carries (against Liberty), overshadowed by a Hooker-heavy rushing attack that waffled between wildly predictable and fairly effective.
With the Merryman Center all but locked down
for eternity until the Miami game, I have zero idea if Khalil Herbert plays on Saturday (and if he does, how healthy he'll be). Given the uncertainty with Herbert and the apparent lack of horsepower (or trust) behind him, I'll take the quarterbacks.
(To be clear, if Quincy plays running back that counts as quarterback yards. Now that I think about it, why doesn't Quincy play running back?)
The Fifth Fuller: Not to get off topic, but has anyone...seen Burmeister recently? Like...he's still around, right? I feel like he hasn't even been on the sidelines, but I am oblivious, and occasionally blinded by rage while watching the Hokies. Shockingly, in a program known for its openness and clear communication with the media, we just don't know what's going on with Herbert, but if his hamstring was bad enough to keep him out against Liberty, I can't imagine they would rush him back for this game and risk making it worse. The coaches appear to forget they have running backs even when they've got a star like Herbert, they go full amnesiac when he's out. Hooker is going to try to put this team on his back again, which is noble, but it appears to be somewhat fruitless when the defense is on ITS back. QB yards for me.
Most Receptions: Tre Turner, James Mitchell, Tayvion Robinson or the Field
Joey: Amidst an otherwise dreary afternoon, Tre Turner was a bright spot against Liberty, teaming up with Hendon Hooker for 90 yards through the air and his first receiving touchdown of the year (in game 7!). With Turner the victor of this line for three consecutive weeks, and with Hooker likely to resort to the 'Throw it Up and Pray' third down game plan against an athletic Miami defense, I see no reason to change now. Tre wins with ease.
The Fifth Fuller: I TOLD YOU TAYVION ROBINSON WOULD CATCH FOUR PASSES. Dang, I'm good. Ok, so I forgot to factor in Tre Turner catching MORE passes, but I really don't think that's relevant to the matter at hand. Now, this weekend, following the established pattern, Robinson would be back on his two reception deal, so he's out. Looking back through Miami's opponents this year, it seems they seem to be giving up yardage to either running backs (to whom the Hokies don't tend to throw to very often) or wide receivers, my money is on the Hokies' best wide receiver. I'm on the Big Play Tre Train.
Over / Under: 0.5 Mentions of Justin Fuente Being on the Hot Seat
Joey: This one is weird. Within the Virginia Tech fan base, it seems there's been a massive tidal shift towards wanting Fuente gone, indicating Liberty was the final straw for a significant number of Hokies who had been stubbornly backing the current regime.
At the same time, I haven't seen nearly any talk of Fuente's seat getting hot at a national level, with Pat Forde's assessment of last week's carnage for college football powers not even uttering the words 'Virginia Tech'.
Forde-Yard Dash, First Quarter: Assessing the carnage after some traditional powers with big fan bases had a terrible weekend. Plus a look at the playoff picture after some impactful games https://t.co/rAyfo7UH9k— Pat Forde (@ByPatForde) November 9, 2020
Now you could argue Tech's notable absence symbolizes it's fall out of relevance and into mediocrity more than it supports Fuente's staying power, but it's noteworthy nonetheless. Throw in the fact that the Hokies are SOMEHOW FAVORED BY 2.5 AGAINST NO. 9 MIAMI (WE'LL GET TO THIS LATER), and it feels strangely like folks outside of Blacksburg still believe in this football program. I don't like it one bit, but I'll go under.
The Fifth Fuller: I don't care that Liberty is undefeated and ranked. I don't care that the Hokies almost bumblef$*ked their way into winning after playing like trash most of the day. If the Hokies are playing big boy football, they shouldn't be in that position to begin with. But they're not. 63-7 wins against Arkansas State aren't walking through that door. The Hokies will have to win two of the next four to squeak out a winning record, and with Miami and Clemson, that means there's no margin against Pitt and LOLUVA. I'm just gonna say it, if they aren't bringing up Fuente's future in Blacksburg, then they're doing it as a favor to the program. And they should be bringing it up, because the Hokies don't play big boy football anymore.
Over / Under: 75 rushing yards for D'Eriq King
Joey: Virginia Tech's winding journey through a host of dual-threat signal callers continues this week, ending with perhaps the most dangerous of them all: Miami's D'Eriq King. King, fresh off a sixty-minute ass-whooping of NC State where he surpassed 400 passing yards and 100 rushing yards, is no doubt licking his lips at the prospect of squaring off against this beleaguered Hokies' defense. And he should be.
Unless Justin Hamilton and crew can somehow patch up a defense with fundamental talent and tackling deficiencies at every level, King is going over.
The Fifth Fuller: Lol, OVER OVER OVER OVER OVER OVER. I mean, do I need to explain this? King has only topped 75 yards three times this year, but this is like kryptonite for the Hokies' defense. With Cam'Ron Harris next to him in the backfield and a plethora of receiving targets to stretch the Hokies secondary thin, this has disaster written all over it.
Dealer's Choice: Name Tech's Uniform Combo
Joey: Lol. So, I think All Maroon Everything is officially dead, put to rest by Hugh Freeze. #AME's untimely demise opens up a number of options for a nooner against Miami, with the safe bet being the traditional maroon-maroon-white. With how tone deaf this program has seemingly become, it wouldn't shock me if they break out a new and flashy look, mixing in a combination of orange (or gasp, even black!) for what two months ago figured to be a ranked-versus-ranked showdown with potential ACC race implications (for the record, two months ago I still thought Brian Kelly was going to fall on his face at least twice throughout the season, as is tradition).
That said, I'll play it safe here and go maroon-maroon-white. If I'm wrong (and right about orange or black), please know that I will be mad online at @BUZZKETBALL_.
The Fifth Fuller: The Hokies have a tradition of breaking out All Maroon Everything for big Miami games. It has been the program's comfort blanket in the past, but unfortunately, that Liberty stain doesn't come out easy in the wash. They join a growing pile of unusable combos (all-black Pro Combat seen again Boise St, orange jerseys for ODU loss) that the Hokies need to quietly set on fire and run from. Go back to basics. This weekend probably isn't going to be pretty, so make it forgettable by wearing what you normally wear for home games. Agree with Joey, Maroon Maroon White.
Disclaimer: This column was written on Wednesday evening, prior to the official uniform release on social media (obviously).
The Joey Coogan Memorial "Navy Hits the Over" Lock of the Week
Joey: I would take Miami +2.5 (or moneyline, honestly), but I don't think that's allowed. So give me Arkansas +17.5 at Florida, in today's version of a sentence that I didn't see myself writing this year.
Hear me out: it's a classic trap week for Florida, still hungover from a mix of SEC Halloween parties and a 44-28 thumping of Georgia. Add in the fact that the Gators will likely be without their best player in Kyle Pitts and matching up with a pissed off, vengeance-seeking Feleipe Franks, and I LOVE the Hogs.
Excited to OFFICIALLY announce Sam Pittman as our new Head Football Coach. Great days ahead for the Hogs with Sam and Jamie as a part of the Razorback family again! #OneRazorback pic.twitter.com/763JrRrpaR— Hunter Yurachek (@HunterYurachek) December 9, 2019
(Look, a coach with personality!)
The Fifth Fuller: The B1G Ten is back, which means college football is completely back to normal.
/Looks over and sees that basically the entire SEC slate is cancelled this weekend
Yep, everything's back to normal! And just like normal, Northwestern is running through its slate like a hot knife through butter. And up next, in a clash of titans, undefeated Purdue in a contest that could go a long way towards determining who wins the B1G.
/Takes another chug of absinthe
Look, you take your financial future into your own hands by betting against Northwestern. They're only giving 2.5 points to the Boilermakers, which is not actually the most confusing 2.5-point line of the weekend (FORESHADOWING ALERT).
Spread: Virginia Tech -2.5
Joey: In case it's not abundantly obvious by now, I don't understand this line. Choose your favorite adjective — absurd, ludicrous, preposterous — I agree with all of them. Some may call it a rat, some may argue that Fuente is best when backed into a corner, but I just call it common sense. Give me Miami +2.5.
The Fifth Fuller: Lots of folks have been trotting out the fact that Miami frequently follows a bad loss on the Hokies schedule, and the Hokies have often used it to balance the scales by whooping the Canes. Maybe that's what the bookies see? Duke last year, Syracuse in 2016, BC in 2013, Clemson in 2011, and most famously, WVU in 2003. But there have also been SEVERAL years where the Hokies followed up a bad loss with...another loss to Miami (Clemson in 2012, Pitt in 2014). The Hokies have never done it two years in a row. And while my heart wants them to beat the pants off Miami, I don't see how this team does it, particularly when several teams have shown MORE THAN ONE blueprint on how to beat this team. Miami has all the right ingredients to make this one painful to watch. I'd take Miami -10, honestly.
Disclaimer: Some of these are real betting lines, but many of them are fake and none of this is real advice that should be taken seriously.