By the (Advanced) Numbers: Sympathy for the Devils

The Hokies need a win to have any reasonable shot at bowl eligibility.

Let me just get the negative part out of the way first, and then nothing but positivity for the rest of the column...

Outside of my weekly Hokies win prediction, I try to make every BTAN an objective, analytical look at things and keep my own emotions out of it. I'll do the same here. Justin Fuente has done nothing to justify another year as head coach at Virginia Tech. The Hokies have fallen from 23rd in FPI in 2016 to 53rd currently. Fuente's first full recruiting class (2017) had an average recruit rating of 86.13; the 2022 class is essentially the same at 84.98. And there was a talent dip in the middle. There are no major changes one can point to that would suggest any different trajectory moving forward, and as the saying goes, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting a different result.

I was very excited when Fuente was hired. I thought it was the best hire that cycle, and I looked forward to great things for VT football, especially a modern offense. But what worked for Fuente at Memphis clearly hasn't translated to Blacksburg, and the leash has run out. A year ago he could have bought some goodwill with fans by replacing Brad Cornelsen and perhaps other sacrificial staff members. He was loyal to a fault with his staff, but flirted with Baylor when it had a vacancy. I don't fault him for that either; his job security with the Hokies was already not great and most of us would at least entertain a pitch from a potential employer. But the situation was quite symbolic of the invisible, but firm, wall erected between Fuente and the fanbase since his arrival: the closed practices, minimal press interaction, lack of meaningful social media presence. He never embedded himself with the students and alumni the way Hokie Nation had become accustomed to with Frank Beamer. As the lights dimmed on Beamer's tenure, the fanbase was ready to watch football that looked different than the 20 years prior, but no one was ready for a coach that didn't feel like family.

Even though the end of Fuente's tenure seems inevitable, there is still football to be played. There are players that want to perform and win, and fans that want that too. This week is the best chance remaining for a win, so let's dive in and find out why the Hokies have something to be hopeful for against Duke...

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