Bowl loss has feel of last year's, but Hokies still have more than enough to make 2008 run
The Roth Report
January 7, 2008

By Bill Roth

In so many ways, January of 2008 feels a lot like January of 2007.

Like last year, Virginia Tech's football team had a sensational, highlight-filled regular season, scored a handful of impressive victories, and then played a stinker of a bowl game.

And - just like last year - the future looks very bright for Tech head coach Frank Beamer and his program.

Maybe the writers were on strike, so we had to watch re-runs? Naw, this isn't Letterman. It happened again.

Still, the urge to cut and paste a column written essentially one year ago is nearly irresistible (see here).

The Cliff Notes version is this: After a great regular season, Tech didn't play as well as it could in its bowl game and lost a game it probably should've won. But it returns enough key players next year that it's likely the favorite in the ACC's Coastal Division (unless you're an overly optimistic UVa or UNC fan). And if it wins the ACC Championship game in Tampa, Tech will find itself right back in the 2009 Orange Bowl.

Now, that doesn't mean you should order your Mojito at the Clevelander just yet, but Beamer's program is at the point right now that even if it loses 10 players in the upcoming NFL Draft, it can still be a contender for a BCS berth next season.

The cynic will suggest that's more an indictment of ACC football. Point taken. That's an issue for another day.

Right now, Virginia Tech might be the flagship program of the ACC, but the fleet looks like McHale's Navy ("... Starring Ernest Borgnine as Frank Beamer...").

Tech will lose the best linebacker duo it has ever had, four senior receivers, several key defensive linemen, and potentially a couple of juniors who might opt to bolt Blacksburg for the NFL. But if you look at the talent Beamer has returning, and the players he redshirted this past season, his Hokies are still the team to beat in the ACC's Coastal Division in 2008.

The cynics will fire back that Tech has now lost its past four BCS bowl games which, while accurate, is akin to claiming your glass of world-class Bordeaux is half empty. Tech lost to Auburn in the 2005 Sugar Bowl 16-13. It lost to Kansas in the 2007 Orange Bowl 24-21. Losing BCS bowls by three points each isn't much fun, but in the big picture, it shows how high the bar has been raised in Blacksburg.

As one ISP colleague suggested, these bowl games have become more like exhibitions in many ways. The games often lack the intensity of regular-season games, unless there's a revenge factor or a team fighting for respect or playing with a chip on its shoulder. Tech had none of the three in the 2008 Orange Bowl.

But if you're going to keep score, which we do, you play to win.

Tech has gone bowling for 15 straight years, yet is just 6-9 in those games. The wins - Indiana, Texas, Alabama, Clemson, Air Force, and Louisville - were all exciting. The losses - Tennessee, Nebraska, UNC, Florida State twice, Auburn, Georgia, and Kansas -were all tough to swallow.

That's a .400 winning percentage in bowl games during the most successful period of football in Tech history, and you can be sure Beamer and his staff will review their preparation techniques, their philosophies, and perhaps their strategies again this off season.

Tech plays hard in its bowl games. No questioning the effort on either side of the ball from last week's Orange Bowl. But at times, the mental focus was somewhere on South Beach.

The Hokies, Texas and USC are the only three schools to win at least 10 games during each of the past four seasons. That puts Tech in a very exclusive neighborhood. But while the Trojans and Longhorns have each won the national title during that span, Tech has gone 1-3 in its bowl games.

That's a trend Beamer will certainly try to reverse in future years. He showed us this year that he'll make changes and break from his traditional philosophies when needed. And even the coach will admit something needs to change between Thanksgiving and New Year's. Or during the bowl week itself.

As for this year, for fans who plunked down $5,000 or more for Orange Bowl travel, hotel rooms, valet parking and tickets, nothing you'll read here will make you feel much better. But it was another amazing season by a group of seniors who will succeed in life - some in the NFL, some at other levels - and represent Tech well.

And the 2008 Hokies will be highly ranked and could be BCS-bound once more. Plus, by all accounts, Tech is about to have the most dominating in-state recruiting haul of all time.

Will the Hokies return to the Orange Bowl and the BCS? Of course, they will.

But, will they have success in their next trip to the BCS? That's a question we'll answer sometime soon, maybe as soon as next year.

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