NCF Nation: Virginia Tech Hokies

SEC LogoMike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesThe ACC has a few teams that could be a natural fit if the SEC were to expand further.

Maryland and Rutgers officially made the move to the Big Ten on Tuesday, and that got us at the SEC blog thinking. If (more like when) the SEC goes to 16 teams, who would be the two teams most likely to join college's football elite conference?

I know, I know. You've all enjoyed an offseason devoid of conference realignment rumors, but wouldn't it be fun to think of the possibilities? Hypothetically, of course.

Edward and I took to the task. We eliminated Clemson and Florida State because despite how much sense it makes, it's never going to happen. They're more likely to join the Big 12 one day than the SEC. With that in mind, we picked the two teams that not only make sense but that we most want to see join the league that's won seven of the last eight national championships.

Take 1: Greg Ostendorf

Did you know that Georgia Tech and Tulane were founding members of the SEC? Why not just bring them back? Both schools would embrace the move, and Alabama's fight song would make sense again. Nah, the SEC can do better than that. This is the same league that went out and swiped Texas A&M the last time it expanded.

I'm thinking bigger. I'm thinking the program that invented swagger, the program that has won five national championships in the last 30 years, the program that nearly joined the SEC in 1990 when the league first expanded.

I'm thinking Miami.

It's been awhile since the Hurricanes were at the top of the college football world, but you'd think a move to the SEC would help with that. It'd be significant for recruiting as local kids would no longer have to leave town to play in the SEC. Attendance would go up if for no other reason than visiting schools bringing their fans down to South Beach, and it might help the school's chances of landing a new stadium.

From the SEC's standpoint, it makes sense geographically. It would bring back the Florida-Miami rivalry, and who wouldn't want to see Alabama, LSU or Auburn play Miami every couple of years. This should have happened years ago.

If Miami joined, Florida State would once again make the most sense to jump on board, but that's not going to happen. So instead I went the other direction with my second choice. I went with Louisville.

It would continue to expand the SEC's market in that area, it would pair the Cardinals with their in-state rival Kentucky, and it would significantly boost the league in both basketball and football. And how about Bobby Petrino returning to the SEC? Love him or hate him, he's the type of personality that would thrive in this league. He's already shown that once.

If the league sticks to its current model, both Louisville and Miami could join the East and allow for Missouri to move over to the West where it belongs.

Take 2: Edward Aschoff

While I like where Greg's head is at, I'm thinking even bigger. Also, Greg, have fun convincing Florida that having Miami in the same conference is beneficial.

If I were in charge of the SEC, I'd send some feelers east and see if there's any interest from North Carolina and Virginia Tech.

Both schools have been linked to the SEC for years. We're basically just waiting for someone to strike. I mean, it makes sense for both of them to ditch the ACC and make a new home in SEC territory. Travel wouldn't be bad for either school, and think of all the increased exposure for their brands.

However, whenever dealing with these schools, you have to think about their rivals -- Duke and Virginia. Would either school leave the ACC without its instate counterpart? That's a tough one, and you have to wonder if the SEC would want Duke or Virginia as a package deal. It might be tough to leave a man behind, but when the SEC -- and all that money -- comes calling, you'll probably wait around to hear the entire pitch.

We know that UNC and Virginia Tech would certainly benefit from a financial aspect, but the SEC would benefit too. UNC makes the most sense with that rich athletic and academic background (let's just put aside that whole academic investigation for a second). Not only do you have a football team that could compete, UNC would be an excellent addition to most Olympic sports, too. You now completely own the Carolina markets and get a school with a real national brand. Oh, and another power in basketball? Commissioner Mike Slive would love that (sorry Kentucky).

Virginia Tech has the atmosphere and culture that would make the transition over the SEC extremely easy. SEC fans have to be dying to check out a game in Blacksburg. And it's another market to tap into once you get Washington, D.C. secured. Virginia Tech might not have the overall athletic history as UNC, but it's by no means shabby.

It's tough to say that this scenario would ever happen, but it'd be perfect for the SEC, and not just for football reasons.

Hyundai Sun Bowl preview

December, 31, 2013
12/31/13
10:00
AM ET
No. 17 UCLA (9-3) and Virginia Tech (8-4) meet on Tuesday in the Hyundai Sun Bowl. Here are a few keys:

Who to watch: Start with UCLA’s dynamic duo at linebacker, senior Anthony Barr and freshman Myles Jack. Barr benefited from turning down a chance at the NFL a year ago, developing into one of the nation’s best at his position. Jack needed no such time. He also played running back for the final four games of the year, rushing for four touchdowns as he earned the Pac-12’s offensive and defensive rookie of the year honors. For Virginia Tech, the best chance to move the football comes through the air, but talented quarterback Logan Thomas must avoid interceptions. He threw 13 this season in 12 games.

What to watch: Virginia Tech is shorthanded without its leading rusher, Trey Edmunds, who suffered a broken leg in the season finale, a 16-6 win over Virginia. The Hokies struggled to run the ball with Edmunds, so what happens without him? On defense, top cornerback Kyle Fuller is likely out with a groin injury for Tech. Fellow corner Antone Exum will sit with an ankle injury. Against a pair of freshmen in coverage, UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley could have a big day throwing to Shaquelle Evans and Devin Fuller.

Why to watch: It’s two name-brand programs in El Paso, but in what direction are these programs headed? The Bruins, under second-year coach Jim Mora, are trending up regardless of the outcome on Tuesday as they seek a 10-win season for the first time since 2005. The Hokies lost three of their final five games this season after struggling to a 7-6 finish a year ago under 27th-year coach Frank Beamer.

Prediction: UCLA 28, Virginia Tech 14. The Hokies don’t have enough firepower to get into a scoring duel with UCLA, so look for the bowl-savvy Beamer to search for a few nontraditional ways to even this matchup. But expect the Bruins and Hundley to shake free in the second half.

Flip Week: Virginia Tech

December, 24, 2013
12/24/13
9:00
AM ET
Editor's note: During Week 12, 10 ESPN.com reporters changed conferences to experience college football in unfamiliar territory. Here is what they learned from the experience.

Blacksburg, Va., is an awesome place to be.

I normally spend my weekends during the fall in stadiums across the Big 12, but I'd heard plenty about Lane Stadium and the atmosphere at Virginia Tech. As I headed to VT, I had pretty high expectations, yet my mid-November trip somehow exceeded all of them. Hokie Nation's hospitality was second to none, the food and festivities were top notch, and game day is filled with traditions that separate Virginia Tech from other college football atmospheres. Great food, great people and top-notch ACC football? I'd do it again in a heartbeat. Here are some of the highlights of my trip:

Best meal: Mustard Rabbit at Our Daily Bread Bakery and Bistro. I had several great meals during my time in Blacksburg, including a burger at Mike’s and a terrific Italian food sampler at Sal’s, but the Mustard Rabbit at Our Daily Bread was the most memorable meal. Not only was it terrific, it’s hard to find rabbit in Oklahoma. Whenever I return to Blacksburg, a return visit is a no-brainer.
Must-see sight in Blacksburg: The drill field on the Virginia Tech campus, including the two memorials. The War Memorial, a tribute to all VT alums lost in combat since World War II, and the April 16 Memorial, a tribute to the VT students and faculty lost in the campus shootings on April 16, 2007, are must-see experiences, and a simple walk around the beautiful campus, leaving you with a better appreciation for "Hokie Stone," is well worth the time.

Biggest surprise: The passion. Blame it on my own naiveté, but I landed in ACC country expecting football fans with some passion but nothing like I’ve gotten accustomed to in the Big 12. I was way off; Hokie Nation is as passionate as any fan base I’ve interacted with and has high expectations for its program. The disappointment over the lack of a national championship was expressed over and over again by Hokies fans.

Biggest difference from Big 12: The style of play in the ACC is just vastly different. The Big 12 is full of wide-open offense, high-scoring games and big plays. The Hokies have always taken pride in their defense, ranking among the nation’s best for the past decade. To sum it up, VT and Maryland combined for 583 yards in the Terps’ 27-24 overtime win. Baylor averaged 624.5 yards per game this season. So, umm, yeah, a lot different.

They said it: "I’m thrilled I decided to come back and play with these guys, thrilled to be a part of this team, and my decision to come here was a great, great decision."
-- quarterback Logan Thomas after a 27-24 overtime loss to Maryland in his last game at Lane Stadium.

If I could go back: There are so many things I didn’t get to do and places I didn’t get to eat at in Blacksburg. If I get the chance to go back, I’ll definitely grab a drink at Top of the Stairs and Bull and Bones. When it’s time to grab a bite, I’ll head to the Cellar and Cabo Fish Taco first before working my way down the rest of the list. Blacksburg is the ideal college town with plenty of places to grab a bite or a drink, so I can’t wait to return.

Pac-12 players to watch during the bowls

December, 19, 2013
12/19/13
9:00
AM ET
The Pac-12 plays nine bowl games and every game is important, but here are five players upon whom the spotlight will shine just a bit brighter this bowl season.

USC DT Leonard Williams

Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl vs. Fresno State on Dec. 21

The skinny: Williams, an ESPN.com first-team All-American as a true sophomore, will lead the Trojans defense against QB Derek Carr and a high-flying Fresno State offense that wants to prove it can score on anyone. The Bulldogs ranked No. 1 in the nation in passing yards and No. 5 in scoring, but it's perhaps most impressive they've yielded just 11 sacks, which is ninth-fewest in the nation. Williams will head into the 2014 season as a preseason All-American no matter what. But he can show folks why and make a resounding statement for himself if he can get to or at least consistently harass Carr in the pocket.

[+] EnlargeMarcus Mariota
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty ImagesA healthy Marcus Mariota would boost Oregons chances against Texas.
Oregon QB Marcus Mariota

Valero Alamo Bowl vs. Texas on Dec. 30

The skinny: This is pretty simple: Will Mariota be 100 percent against the Longhorns? If so, will he return to his midseason form, when he was the nation's best player and the leading Heisman Trophy candidate? That means using his legs to stress the Longhorns, both with designed running plays in the read option and scrambling on passing plays. If Mariota is back to his old self, he will put himself firmly in the 2014 Heisman race. And the Ducks should roll.

Arizona RB Ka'Deem Carey

AdvoCare V100 Bowl vs. Boston College on Dec. 31

The skinny: Another simple one: Carey, the nation's No. 2 rusher, versus Andre Williams, the nation's No. 1 rusher and winner of a Doak Walker Award that should have gone to Carey if the award were truly about the nation's best running back (hush, Washington fans). Both offenses rely heavily on their workhorse running backs. Both teams have middling run defenses. The guy who leads the winning effort is probably going to be the guy with the best rushing numbers.

UCLA offensive line

Hyundai Sun Bowl vs. Virginia Tech on Dec. 31

The skinny: The Hokies are almost always good on defense because coordinator Bud Foster is one of the nation's best defensive minds. This year's unit is A-list, giving up just 17.4 points per game, which ranks eighth in the nation. The Hokies are fourth in the nation in total defense, yielding a meager 4.34 yards per play, and eighth in run defense. The Hokies also have 37 sacks, which ranks fifth in the nation. The Bruins' young offensive line -- three freshmen starters! -- yielded 34 sacks, which ranked 107th in the nation. This will be a tough matchup for UCLA.

Stanford QB Kevin Hogan

Rose Bowl Game Presented by VIZIO vs. Michigan State on Jan. 1.

The skinny: Hogan has been hot and cold this season but mostly solid. He played well in the Pac-12 championship game victory at Arizona State but threw two interceptions in November games against USC and Notre Dame. The Spartans might offer up the best defense he's seen all year, perhaps the nation's best overall unit, in fact. Most notable: Michigan State owns the nation's best run defense, yielding 80.8 yards per game and 2.7 yards per rush. While the Cardinal probably will challenge the Spartans with perhaps the nation's best offensive line and RB Tyler Gaffney, it's difficult to believe the going will be easy. Hogan will need to turn in an efficient, mistake-free performance in what might be a very low-scoring game. The Spartans also rank second in the nation in pass efficiency defense.

ACC Power Rankings: Week 2

September, 9, 2013
9/09/13
9:04
AM ET
It's time for a fresh set of power rankings with another week in the books. The top four teams remain the same from last week, but there was some shuffling the rest of the way down.

1. Clemson (2-0, 0-0 ACC; last week: 1): The Tigers did what we all expected in a 52-13 win over South Carolina State. They also ended up moving up one spot in the AP poll to No. 3. Their big win over Georgia in Week 1 remains the crown jewel in the ACC crown after two weeks.

2. Florida State (1-0, 1-0 ACC; last week: 2): The Seminoles were off this past week after beating Pittsburgh in the opener. Let's see what Game 2 has in store for Jameis Winston this weekend against Nevada.

3. Miami (2-0, 0-0 ACC; last week: 3): The Hurricanes had the most impressive win in Week 2, over No. 12 Florida, which vaults them to No. 15 in the latest AP poll. But that win does nothing to change their standing in the ACC. There remains a clear gap between Clemson, Florida State and the rest of the league. Miami looks like it is starting to close the gap, but the Canes still have a long way to go -- especially after their offense struggled for most of the day against the Gators.

4. Georgia Tech (1-0 0-0 ACC; last week: 4): The Jackets were also off in Week 2, so all we have to judge them on is a blowout win over FCS Elon. The next five weeks will tell us what we need to know about this team, as the Jackets prepare to play at Duke, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, at Miami and at BYU. That is one of the most brutal stretches any ACC team has to play this season.

5. North Carolina (1-1, 0-0 ACC; last week: 7): The truth is, you could flip flop the Tar Heels and Virginia Tech at this point. Despite their victories over the weekend, both have problems that must be addressed. For starters, North Carolina has to get the coin toss figured out. The defense was once again up and down. They need a more consistent, better effort out of that group.

6. Virginia Tech (1-1, 0-0 ACC; last week: 5): North Carolina gets the nod ahead of Virginia Tech for this week based on the quality of opponent it just played. The Tar Heels beat an FBS team, Virginia Tech an FCS team. I think we can all agree the Hokies have a formidable defense -- better than North Carolina's -- but the offense still has a ways to go to be respectable. Logan Thomas now has one touchdown pass and three interceptions on the season.

7. Virginia (1-1, 0-0 ACC; last week: 6): No. 2 Oregon boatraced the Hoos on Saturday, but the truth is, nobody really expected them to win the game. They stay in the top half of the rankings this week based on their win over BYU in the opener. That win looks a lot better today after BYU clobbered No. 15 Texas. Virginia enters a five-game stretch now with winnable games. If the Hoos can take advantage, they will be looking good for a bowl spot.

8. Maryland (2-0, 0-0 ACC; last week: 8): The Terps have beaten their first two opponents by a combined 90-20 and have not faced much of a test. The opponents' strength has been really weak, hence their spot here. Still, this is a team that has showed off its talent on offense in the first two weeks. C.J. Brown, in his return from a knee injury, ranks No. 3 in the nation in total QBR to lead all ACC quarterbacks. Chew on that one for a while.

9. Duke (2-0, 0-0 ACC; last week: 10): Give the Blue Devils credit for pulling out a road win in Memphis with backup quarterback Brandon Connette this past Saturday. You can write the win off by saying it was "only Memphis," but the Tigers are a rapidly improving team and Duke was on the ropes. Any road win is a good win for a team that won only once away from home last season.

10. NC State (2-0, 0-0 ACC; last week: 9): The Wolfpack get downgraded slightly for struggling to beat Richmond. While it is true the Spiders have caused FBS opponents fits, the Wolfpack nearly handed the game away with their own miscues. NC State had four turnovers, including three inside Richmond territory. Quarterback Pete Thomas struggled, throwing two interceptions. While he did lead the team into field goal range for the game winner, he has some work to do to improve.

11. Boston College (2-0, 1-0 ACC; last week: 14): The Eagles climb out of the cellar for the first time in a long time after their 24-10 win over Wake Forest. You can already see the difference new coach Steve Addazio has made in the program. His team is playing a lot more physically and with a lot more energy. That is best illustrated in Andre Williams, who is now averaging 5.5 yards per carry -- one full yard better than last season. The BC run game has gone from awful to respectable in a matter of weeks. The Eagles have now matched their win total from 2012.

12. Pittsburgh (0-1, 0-1 ACC; last week: 12): The Panthers were off last week, so they stay put here. The good news is they will not have to play a team as strong as Florida State the rest of the way in the ACC. They get New Mexico this week.

13. Wake Forest (1-1, 0-1 ACC; last week: 11): The Deacs were supposed to be better this season with so many veterans returning, but they looked completely lost against BC. The defense got gashed on the ground. The offense could not run, nor could it execute the option effectively. Not sure why coaches insisted on sticking with it when it was not working. Their inability to run the ball was a bugaboo last season, and it looks to be the same this season.

14. Syracuse (0-2, 0-0 ACC; last week: 13): The Orange have been the biggest disappointment in the ACC so far based on the first two games. No doubt they played a tough schedule to start against two Big Ten teams, but they were not even competitive in a loss to Northwestern this past weekend in which Drew Allen got benched after throwing four interceptions and the defense gave up 581 yards of total offense. Scott Shafer has some serious questions to answer before the season gets away from him.

3-point stance: NCAA gets one right

August, 20, 2013
8/20/13
5:00
AM ET
1. Kudos to the NCAA for granting 25-year-old former U.S. Marine Steven Rhodes immediate eligibility to play for Middle Tennessee State. The purist in me would like to think that the NCAA applied common sense to the situation and saw that Rhodes, who played in an intramural-like league last year, shouldn’t have to sit out a season. The skeptic in me sees the NCAA grabbing some good pub by lending a hand to a veteran. Either way, the NCAA made the right decision.

2. Frank Beamer is starting his 27th season as head coach at his alma mater, Virginia Tech. In his new autobiography, Let Me Be Frank, ghosted by Jeff Snook, Beamer tells the story of two coaches who gave up their own advancement for his career. As a young assistant at Murray State, Ron Zook turned down a promotion to defensive coordinator so that head coach Mike Gottfried would hire Beamer. And after the 1986 season, Beamer’s mentor, Bobby Ross, pulled out of the running at Virginia Tech to make way for Beamer. Funny how good guys attract good guys.

3. As the football season begins, op-ed pieces in The Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times have defended football against the steady criticism that the sport has received regarding brain health. Still, the stink raised by the families of deceased players who suffered dementia has set in motion a lot more research on concussions, as well as a search for safer equipment. Only good can come out of that.

Video: Top 5 bounce-back teams

June, 28, 2013
6/28/13
5:11
PM ET

 
Mark May discusses the five teams he thinks will have a bounce-back season in 2013.
1. It’s great to hear that Florida State will honor former coach Bobby Bowden at a game this season. Four years ago, the university shoved Bowden out the door, and the only one who acted with any honor was Bowden. He maintained his distance from the program even when he got past his own hurts because he wanted to give Jimbo Fisher, his hand-picked successor, room to establish himself. And now the time has come. Bowden accepted the university’s offer with grace, proving that class never ages.

2. Loved the best/worst of the BCS era that the conference bloggers posted this week. Matt Fortuna pointed out that the Big East membership that began the BCS era had the football chops. Miami and Virginia Tech appeared in three of the first five BCS championship games. The original membership didn’t go very deep, but the teams at the top rocked. But Miami didn’t stay on top, and left. Virginia Tech didn’t stay on top, and left. And none of the other Big East teams picked up the slack.

3. I understand why Maryland doesn’t want to pay the ACC a $52 million exit fee on its way to the Big Ten. And I understand Maryland’s argument that the ACC didn’t suffer any injury because Louisville and Notre Dame are coming to the conference. But the ACC membership, with Maryland as a member, approved the exit fee. What does it matter whether the ACC is injured or not? The league had a rule. Maryland is a member of the league. Why shouldn’t Maryland live by the rule? Am I missing something?

Considering the college coaching churn

January, 17, 2013
1/17/13
1:00
PM ET
When Jeff Tedford was fired after 11 seasons at California, the Pac-12 lost its coach with the longest continuous tenure.

And when Chip Kelly opted to leave Oregon for the Philadelphia Eagles on Wednesday, it meant the Pac-12 would have its seventh new coach since the end of the 2011 season.

Mike Riley is now the Pac-12's longest-tenured coach. He's been Oregon State's coach for 12 total seasons over two tenures, including 10 consecutive seasons. Kyle Whittingham has been at Utah for eight years.

After them? Washington's Steve Sarkisian, whose four years in Seattle give him the third spot.

Yes, college football coaches make good money. No, it's not the job you want if you're into security.

Here's the list.
Pac-12 Coaching tenure (seasons, first year)

Mike Riley, Oregon State (12, 1997 & 2003)

Kyle Whittingham, Utah (8, 2005)

Steve Sarkisian, Washington (4, 2009)

Lane Kiffin, USC, (3, 2010)

David Shaw, Stanford (2, 2011)

Rich Rodriguez, Arizona (1, 2012)

Mike Leach, Washington State (1, 2012)

Todd Graham, Arizona State (1, 2012)

Jim Mora, UCLA (1, 2012)

Sonny Dykes, California (0, 2013)

Mike MacIntyre, Colorado (0, 2013)

NEW COACH, Oregon (0, 2013)

Of course, the Pac-12 is far from alone. Here's an interesting look at coaching tenures before Kelly's became the 31st job out of 125 to turn over in the past year.

Some interesting notes:
  • Frank Beamer has coached Virginia Tech for 26 seasons. He is the nation's longest-tenured coach. Troy's Larry Blakeney is second with 22 seasons. Mack Brown is third with 15 seasons at Texas.
  • After just three seasons, Kiffin is the 53rd-longest tenured head coach.
  • The median hire date of a current FBS coach is Dec. 25, 2010, according to Patrick Steven's D1scourse.com blog.
  • In terms of continuous tenure, Riley is tied for 10th with Central Florida's George O'Leary. Whittingham is tied for 11th with South Carolina's Steve Spurrier, BYU's Bronco Mendenhall and Ohio's Frank Solich.

 

3-point stance: Job-change etiquette

December, 19, 2012
12/19/12
5:00
AM ET
1. Florida coach Will Muschamp, on the topic of how a coach stays in touch with players at the job he just left: “A lot of times, initially, when you first leave you don’t want to get in anyone’s way,” Muschamp said. “Even when you leave Texas as a coordinator you don’t want to call the kids. That’s not necessarily professional in my opinion. In time, you can certainly throw a guy a text or something, saying ‘Good luck this week,’ or ‘Saw you played well the other night.’ ... I just kind of move on and time heals all wounds.”

2. The Big 12 is sending nine of its 10 members to bowl games, and new commissioner Bob Bowlsby will be attending a lot of them. But on New Year’s Day, when Oklahoma State plays Purdue in the Heart of Dallas Bowl, 20 minutes from Bowlby’s home, the commissioner will beg the Cowboys’ forgiveness and travel to the Rose Bowl to see his former team, No. 6 Stanford, play Wisconsin. Family and old friends, he said, wouldn’t take no for an answer.

3. It has been nine years since Virginia Tech failed to win 10 games, and there’s nothing the Hokies (6-6) can do in the Russell Athletic Bowl about that. But it has been 20 years since the Hokies failed to finish with a winning record. A victory Dec. 28 over Rutgers won’t change the fact that this has been an unsettling season in Blacksburg. But with Mike London revving up cross-state rival Virginia, and Frank Beamer 66 years old, Virginia Tech could do without the symbolism of a losing record.

Ranking the Big East bowl games

December, 4, 2012
12/04/12
9:00
AM ET
Colleague Mark Schlabach has ranked all 35 bowls from best to worst. Let's do the same here, among Big East bowls.

What's at stake? The Big East's perfect 3-0 record against the SEC, in two separate games. Its 4-4 record against the ACC has the chance to go either way with two more games on deck. And there's a battle of old Big East rivals in the Big Apple.

Allstate Sugar Bowl
Louisville (10-2, 5-2 Big East) vs. Florida (11-1, 7-1 SEC)
Jan. 2, ESPN, 8:30 p.m. ET, Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans

Charlie Strong gets to face his former employer at the site of his final game as the Gators' defensive coordinator, three years ago. Louisville's Florida-heavy roster faces a Gators team that is among the heaviest of favorites this bowl season, something its 104th-ranked offense will be tasked with living up to, while its fifth-ranked defense tries to slow down Teddy Bridgewater.

New Era Pinstripe
West Virginia (7-5, 4-5 Big 12) vs. Syracuse (7-5, 5-2 Big East)
Dec. 29, ESPN, 3:15 p.m. ET, Yankee Stadium, Bronx, N.Y.

The Orange's final win of the 2011 season was a 49-23 upset of the Mountaineers. Now WVU is in the Big 12, coming off an inaugural campaign that saw it average more than 518 yards of offense per game … and surrender nearly 470 yards per game. Syracuse enters having won five of its last six to clinch a share of the Big East crown in its final season. It can knock off a former Big East rival as its last official act before its ACC move.

Russell Athletic Bowl
Virginia Tech (6-6, 4-4 ACC) vs. Rutgers (9-3, 5-2 Big East)
Dec. 28, ESPN, 5:30 p.m. ET, Florida Citrus Bowl, Orlando, Fla.

All the Scarlet Knights had to do was win one of their final two games to clinch the Big East's BCS bowl berth and the program's first outright Big East title, but it dropped both, capped with a crushing home collapse against Louisville. Can Kyle Flood get his team together after still winning a share of its first conference crown? By that same extension, how do Logan Thomas & Co. respond after seeing its stretch of eight straight 10-win seasons go up in flames?

Belk Bowl
Duke (6-6, 3-5 ACC) vs. Cincinnati (9-3, 5-2 Big East)
Dec. 27, ESPN, 6:30 p.m. ET, Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C.

The Blue Devils are bowling for the first time since 1994, snapping the nation's longest drought. But is that all for them? They lost their last four games after clinching postseason eligibility. The Bearcats, meanwhile, are coming off a share of their fourth conference title in the last five years and are aiming for another 10-win season. Butch Jones, however, has visited other programs with openings and could leave Cincinnati without a head coach in postseason play for the second time in four years.

BBVA Compass
Pitt (6-6, 3-4 Big East) vs. Ole Miss (6-6, 3-5 SEC)
Jan. 5, ESPN, 1 p.m. ET, Legion Field, Birmingham, Ala.

The Panthers? Here again? Ho-hum. At least this time they can use the postseason as a springboard into next season, as they will finally have the same head coach for more than one season. (They will, right?) The Rebels, too, are looking to continue building under a first-year coach in Hugh Freeze.

Russell Athletic Bowl

December, 2, 2012
12/02/12
10:29
PM ET
Rutgers Scarlet Knights (9-3) vs. Virginia Tech Hokies (6-6)

Dec. 28, 5:30 p.m. ET, Orlando, Fla. (ESPN)

Rutgers take by Big East blogger Matt Fortuna: The Scarlet Knights enter the Russell Athletic Bowl on a two-game losing streak. Of course, a win in either of their final two games would have had them in their first-ever BCS bowl. Rutgers can still call itself a Big East champion for the first time in program history, just not in the fashion it had anticipated after a 5-0 start in conference play.

Rutgers got as far as it did this season behind strong defense and special teams play. Khaseem Greene is among the nation's best (and underrated) linebackers, totaling 125 tackles, 5.5 sacks and six forced fumbles this season. The Scarlet Knights surrender just 13.73 points per game. And if you think settling for a bunch of field goals instead of touchdowns -- or playing the field-position battle -- will help your cause, think again: Rutgers has blocked eight kicks this season, returning two for touchdowns. (It has blocked 31 kicks since 2009).

Offensively, Jawan Jamison has carried the load, carrying it 242 times for 1,054 yards and four touchdowns, becoming the third Rutgers player in the past 36 years to record a 1,000-yard rushing season. Quarterback Gary Nova has struggled at times, but he has an offensive line that has kept him standing up (sacked just eight times all season) and big wide receivers who are capable of making plays, as evidenced by Nova's five-touchdown effort in an early season win at Arkansas.

Rutgers is bound for the Big Ten in a few years, but it has unfinished business to tend to in the Big East. Though an outright conference title wasn't in the cards this season, a postseason win after a rough season-ending stretch could go a long way toward getting Year 2 of the Kyle Flood era off on the right foot next season.




Virginia Tech take from ACC blogger Heather Dinich: The Hokies were arguably one of college football’s biggest disappointments this year, and a major reason the ACC’s Coastal Division was so weak. Virginia Tech, which began the season ranked No. 16 in the country and favored to win the division, had dropped out of the Associated Press Top 25 after just three weeks.

The Hokies had suffered an embarrassing 35-17 loss at Pittsburgh in Week 3 in which they were beaten soundly up front on both sides of the ball. It was one of two losses to Big East teams this year, including Cincinnati. The matchup against Rutgers could provide Virginia Tech with some redemption against the Big East. In retrospect, the loss to Pitt was a foreshadowing of the troubles that would continue to haunt the Hokies throughout what would become the program’s worst season in 20 years.

Virginia Tech’s revamped offensive line, which had to replace four starters from 2011, was a weak link, quarterback Logan Thomas was plagued by mistakes and a supporting cast that didn’t help him look any better, and Bud Foster’s usually dominating defense was average at best. Virginia Tech struggled in all four phases of the game, including coaching, as the program’s nation-leading streak of eight straight 10-win seasons came to an end with a thud.

From Sept. 29 to Nov. 8, Virginia Tech went 1-5, its lone win coming at home against Duke. The Hokies won only one game on the road this year -- a 30-23 overtime win against Boston College. Virginia Tech had to squeak by rival Virginia, 17-14, in the regular-season finale just to become bowl eligible. The Hokies have long been criticized for their poor postseason play, but this year, just getting to the postseason was an accomplishment.

Minimal precedent for Alabama win vs LSU

November, 2, 2012
11/02/12
11:55
AM ET
History shows that the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide, who are coming off a home win against a Top-20 opponent Mississippi State, have a tough test Saturday against another highly ranked opponent in the fifth-ranked LSU Tigers at Tiger Stadium.

The AP No. 1 team has faced a Top-20 opponent on the road the week after a home win against another Top-20 opponent nine previous times. The AP No. 1 team is just 2-7 in those games, including the Crimson Tide, who lost in that situation at South Carolina two years ago.

Some of these games are defining moments in the history of at least one of the schools involved.

Here’s a summary of each game since 2000 that fits the same description as Alabama’s game at LSU this Saturday.

2010: 19 South Carolina def. 1 Alabama, 35-21
The Gamecocks came out firing, opening up a 21-3 lead that couldn’t be overcome en route to a 35-21 victory behind three touchdown passes from Stephen Garcia and three scores from freshman running back Marcus Lattimore.

The defense limited future NFL first-rounders Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson to just 64 yards on the ground, allowing South Carolina to earn the school’s first victory vs a No. 1-ranked opponent.

2008: 6 Texas Tech def. 1 Texas, 39-33
Texas was a play away from winning before Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell found Michael Crabtree on the sideline for the dramatic game-winning touchdown with one second left.

That loss would be the Longhorns’ only defeat of the season, but was enough to leave them (controversially) out of the BCS national title game that season.

2007: 17 Kentucky def. 1 LSU, 43-37 (3 OT)
The Wildcats, who hadn’t beaten a top-ranked opponent since taking down Ole Miss in 1964, rallied from a 13-point third-quarter deficit to force overtime.

In the third extra period, Kentucky quarterback Andre Woodson found Steve Johnson for a 7-yard touchdown pass, and LSU was unable to pick up a first down on its possession, setting off a wild celebration at Commonwealth Stadium.

Though it seemed like the loss dashed the Tigers’ national title hopes, they actually went on to lose another triple-overtime game later that season (50-48 to Arkansas), but still would end up playing for and winning the national title that season.

2001: 1 Miami (FL) def. 14 Virginia Tech, 26-24
The Hurricanes appeared to have the game under control after taking a 16-point lead in the fourth quarter, but Virginia Tech rallied for two touchdowns, including one off a blocked punt.

A failed two-point conversion by the Hokies and a late interception by Ed Reed (his second of the day) helped the Hurricanes ward off the comeback, giving them a two-point win that was their only single-digit margin of the season. Miami went on to crush Nebraska in the Rose Bowl and win the national title.
1. Something to keep in mind as No. 4 Kansas State attempts to frustrate No. 13 West Virginia on Saturday: The Wildcats have allowed one touchdown of longer than 20 yards this season, and not until last Saturday against Iowa State. That’s one fewer than the West Virginia defense has scored. The Mountaineers offense has 14 offensive touchdowns of longer than 20 yards. If big plays decide big games, Kansas State has some work to do.

2. There are two ways to look at Virginia Tech after the Hokies spotted Duke a 20-0 last week and then scored the game’s next 41 points. If the Hokies (4-3, 2-1 ACC) turned a corner, then the Coastal Division, which already has four teams with one conference loss, is theirs for the taking. And if the Hokies go into Clemson, which is coming off a bye week, and get smacked around Saturday, that will reflect the mediocrity that they have become. That Duke victory was either a springboard to contention or a snapshot of inconsistency.

3. The announcement Tuesday by Penn State that it will not renew the contract of athletic director Tim Curley is no surprise. Nor should it be confused with assigning him culpability in the Sandusky scandal. His perjury trial relating to the case won’t begin until January. But even if Curley is cleared in court, Curley is a pariah. Any school that has endured what Penn State has endured would want to start over. Within the department, there is a lot of support for interim athletic director Dave Joyner to remain in charge.

Video: Cincinnati-Virginia Tech preview

September, 27, 2012
9/27/12
2:00
PM ET


Andrea Adelson looks at the matchup between dual-threat quarterbacks Munchie Legaux and Logan Thomas.

SPONSORED HEADLINES