I find it difficult to support my Hokies right now. Until Thursday night, I had remained optimistic. I knew that we had a young, inexperienced team. They had failed to deliver on the promise of the Ohio St victory, but youth lends itself to inconsistency. We would take our lumps this year, learn from our mistakes, and develop good habits so we could take the ACC and the country by storm next year with a second year quarterback and variety of talented, experienced weapons. Even in their current state, the Hokies outscored East Carolina 21-7 in the final three quarters, lost a coin flip game to Georgia Tech, and met a bruising Pitt squad with the injury list stacked against us. A few lucky breaks and we could stand at 7-0.
Regardless of record, a Tech coach really only needs to win two games to keep the alumni settled: Miami (FL) and that Charlottesville school. At the very least, he needs to win one and keep the other close. Thursday night’s details get obscured by the alcoholic haze of my friend’s bachelor party, but I still remember the anger and embarrassment of losing to the Canes 30-6. Getting blown out by the canes feels horrible, but to lose that way in Lane Stadium with our reputable home field advantage on a night of the week we typically own leaves no excuse. The alumni find this result completely unacceptable.
I had started to lose faith in Head Coach Frank Beamer in the past two seasons, but he had won me back with his excitement and enthusiasm over this new generation of Hokies. I had laughed at fan bases that sought to fire successful coaches simply because they couldn’t beat a particular rival. This loss deals a serious blow to both of those stances. If the Hokies can’t manage to win eight or nine games this season, if we can’t annihilate UVA for the eleventh straight season, if we can’t show some significant improvement over the duration of the season, then maybe we need to look for a change in direction for the football program.
#1 Mississipi St never trailed in a solid 45-31 victory at upstart Kentucky. The Wildcats have surprised many by proving a formidable opponent in the SEC this season, but the Bulldogs would not be denied. Mississippi St hosts an improving Arkansas team next Saturday.
#2 Auburn jumped up three spots after winning a back and forth game over South Carolina. Despite giving up 400 yards through the air, the Tigers defense forced three turnovers and the Auburn offense featured two 100-yard rushers. Up next, Auburn travels to the #3 team in the country in the best matchup of the week.
That team, #3 Mississippi, dropped a spot after a tough 10-7 loss at #8 LSU. Baton Rouge’s Death Valley remains one of the toughest places in the country for visitors, especially at night. The vaunted Rebel defense forced four turnovers and held down the LSU offense enough to win, but the Tigers defense just did them one better. They forced Miss QB Bo Wallace into his worst performance of the season. LSU didn’t knock Mississippi out of the national conversation, but they may have reinserted their own. The Rebels can reassert their case if they hold their ground at home against #2 Auburn.
#4 Florida St dropped one spot as they remained idle. They face a serious challenge Thursday night as they travel to #33 Louisville in ACC play.
#5 Oregon enters the Top Five this week. They outpaced Cal 59-41 for their third straight quality win. They have bounced back from the loss to #15 Arizona and once again look like the best team in the Pac 12, the second best conference in college football. #39 Stanford travels to the Autzen Zoo this Saturday. The Cardinals appear a step behind their recent incarnations, but they have often caused the Ducks problems in the past.
#7 Alabama slipped out of the Top Five, not because they lost, but because the tightly packed teams around them had more impressive showings than Bama’s 34-20 win over 3-5 Tennessee. The Tide could slide again during their bye week, but they have more than ample opportunity to rise with three of their final four games against top eight teams.
I already mentioned #8 LSU’s tough performance against #3 Mississippi that led to a seven spot jump, but #10 Nebraska had an equally beneficial victory. The Cornhuskers beat 5-3 Rutgers 42-24. Nebraska opened a two touchdown lead early in the second quarter and Rutgers would never get any closer. Husker RB Ameer Abdullah had his fourth(!) 200-yard rushing game of the season and added three scores to his gaudy touchdown total. Despite a loss at #14 Michigan St, Nebraska maintains an outside shot at the playoff. A perfect run through their remaining schedule would include wins over #31 Minnesota, #32 Wisconsin, and likely either revenge against the Spartans or a win over #16 Ohio St in the Big Ten Championship game. Keep your eye on Nebraska.
A win over Minnesota would leave a stronger impression if the Gophers hadn’t just tumbled nineteen spots out of the rankings. Minnesota’s relatively weak schedule thus far couldn’t withstand a 28-24 loss to 4-4 Illinois. The Gophers outgained the Illini 411 to 263, but sabotaged their effort with three turnovers, including a fumble that Illinois returned twelve yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to clinch the victory. Minnesota does not have the talent to sustain their success if they can’t play mistake-free football. The toughest stretch of their schedule approaches. The Gophers’ final four opponents have a combined record of 23-6.
|#4 Florida St at Louisville, Thursday, 7:30 PM|
|#19 TCU at #20 West Virginia, Saturday, 3:30 PM|
|Kentucky at Missouri, 4:00 PM|
|#2 Auburn at #3 Mississippi, 7:00 PM|
|Stanford at #5 Oregon, 7:30 PM|
|#15 Arizona at #11 UCLA, 10:30 PM|
|#25 Utah at #21 Arizona St, 11:00 PM|