There are few certainties in life (and 10-win seasons aren't really one of them) but Virginia Tech football's winning tradition has become about as steady as it gets.
Gush about Clemson and Florida State all you want, but the road to the ACC Championship still runs through Blacksburg.
Even during Clemson's resurgence last season, they still had to beat the Hokies twice to claim the title. Expect more of the same this time around.
Folks will point to Clemson as the biggest game of the season, but it still starts with the battle of the Tech's Sept. 3 in Lane Stadium.
As previously mentioned in this space, the winner of the Georgia Tech-Virginia Tech match-up has represented the coastal division in the ACC championship game every season since the Hokies joined the league in 2004.
This year will be no different as the Tigers and Seminoles battle for the top spot in the Atlantic division.
Questions surround the Tech offense as they have to replace most of the offensive line, the wide receivers and a first-round draft pick in the form of running back David Wilson.
|Michael Holmes will lead Tech's rushing attack this season.|
Holmes may not be as flashy as David Wilson (who is?) but it appears he will be a steady presence this season with enough sizzle to break off some big runs.
Redshirt senior Martin Scales is a converted fullback who at 5'11", 222 pounds is a bruiser who could see plenty of goal line carries.
Also keep an eye out for true freshman J.C. Coleman. He has plenty of big play ability and enrolled early at Tech in January to play spring ball.
Despite losing two of Tech's most prolific receivers—Danny Coale and Jarrett Boykin—The Hokies have a potentially explosive group of wideouts led by Marcus Davis and the return of Dyrell Roberts.
|Marcus Davis pulls away from North Carolina defenders.|
The 6'4", 232-pound Davis is a physical freak who gained over 500 yards receiving last season in an offense dominated by Coale and Boykin, and still hasn't truly shown people what he can do.
Roberts is a redshirt senior after being granted a medical hardship waiver and he's joined by fellow senior D.J. Coles who also was just shy of 500 yards receiving last season. The group gives Tech great size and speed as well as a veteran presence for Logan Thomas after losing some crucial veteran targets.
The offensive line worries are being overblown by a national media that has conveniently glossed over the fact that the majority of the "new" starters have seen significant snaps filling in during past injuries.
This line will be no worse than any recent group, and has the potential to be quite good by the time the stretch run comes around.
Defensively, Tech has loads of talent and as I say every season, just trust Bud Foster to whip everyone into shape.
|Kyle Fuller is the most recent in a long line great Hokie cornerbacks.|
All-ACC cornerback Kyle Fuller is a serious playmaker who leads a defense filled with them.
That doesn't mean there aren't changes as several players shuffled positions.
Detrick Bonner was pressed into starting duty last season at cornerback and whip linebacker. This season he makes a move to free safety while safety Antone Exum moves over to cornerback.
The defensive line looks stout and defensive end James Gayle is a stud. He totaled 12.5 tackles for loss and 7 sacks a year ago and will look to improve upon those numbers. Tech hasn't had very impressive individual sack numbers in recent years, but Gayle may just be the guy to change that.
Special teams has been a problem in recent years much to the dismay of special teams guru and head coach Frank Beamer. The rest of the country caught up to the Hokies about a decade ago, and Tech hasn't really figured a way to get back on top.
Beamer has also shifted from blocking kicks to primarily setting up returns, which to be fair has yielded fairly solid return numbers but the Hokies certainly miss the tectonic momentum shift caused by blocked field goals and punts.
As for Tech's kicking game, Cody Journell returns as the placekicker after meeting the terms of his reinstatement following an embarrassing Sugar Bowl suspension. Freshman A.J. Hughes appears likely to be the punter and sophomore Michael Branthover should handle the kickoff duties.
All in all, this is yet another talented team with a genuine superstar at quarterback and one of the more talented defenses in recent years. That's a potent mix that could yield fantastic results.
Most talking heads are touting Florida State as the likely ACC champion. FSU is certainly loaded with talent, but until they finally live up to expectations under Jimbo Fisher and prove it on the field, I'm not sure you can crown them anything but paper champions.
The rest of the conference has clearly closed the gap with the Hokies (see Clemson games). Georgia Tech may be a home game, but it's a tough test to start the season. Then there's the brutal stretch of games at Clemson, at Miami and Florida State at home. Strangely, all of those teams have a BYE in the weeks prior to facing the Hokies as do non-conference foes Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.
It's a big challenge coming up for the Hokies, but with a little luck and some improved play in big games, it wouldn't surprise me at all to see the Hokies once again win the ACC and play in another BCS game. Hopefully this season the results are slightly better.
On a side note, Danny Coale still caught that touchdown against Michigan.