Time To Clear A Low Bar

Virginia Tech. Purdue. It's the battle of the mediocres that could kick off the Brent Pry era once and for all.

[Mark Umansky]

The 2015 Virginia Tech-Purdue game in West Lafayette is pretty fascinating to go back and watch:

Two teams at the beginning of their seasons, searching for identity. One, full of young eventual stars, trying their damndest to break out as freshmen and sophomores. The other, playing for an iffy coach trying to see if their regime can stick.

These kinds of random non-conference matchups are always fun. Scheduled a decade in advance, they pop up on the schedule like a Christmas present in the back of the closet that you forgot to open. It's not a hyped kickoff game on national television, or your run-of-the-mill Sun Belt opponents signed to a years-long home-and-wait-why-is-Tech-playing-AT-ODU-and-Liberty??? contract. No, this is just two Power Five teams who rarely, if ever, have a chance to cross paths.

On one hand, these games mean absolutely nothing. Neither the Hokies nor the Boilermakers have to worry about what a week two loss would do to their poll position in the race for the College Football Playoff, and can still make a hypothetical run in their conference regardless of what happens in Blacksburg on Saturday.

But on the other, games like this week's nooner in Lane Stadium can tell you quite a lot.

For the first time in 18 months, the Hokies will take the field with a roster that is adequately staffed to face another Power Five team. Sure, they played a full schedule in 2022, but they simply didn't have the horses to win a single battle vs their fellow ACC (and ACC adjacent) competition. But now, things may not be perfect but they are sure as shit better than last year.

No one like Jalen Holston or Brion Murray are getting the Bless Their Little Upperclassman Hearts Memorial Playing Timeā„¢ minutes this season. If Grant Wells fails, it will now be more likely because he missed an open receiver, not because he had to throw it at the feet of his well-too-covered teammate. The Hokies lost a starting safety in their home opener against Old Dominion, and though things weren't always great, they didn't utterly fall apart.

These are the types of conversations I've been having with my fellow Hokies after Tech's 36-17 revenge win over the Monarchs last week. Things like "wow things got hard and they didn't melt down!" and "sure they ran it for 2.5 yards per carry, but the offense looked pretty good!" get said over and over. When the bar's so low that it's covered in...well...whatever you find in the cow pasture, these are the types of things that make you happy.

But abysmally low expectations aren't the only reason to walk away from week one with the slightest feeling of optimism.

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