A “Golden” Opporunity
By Joey Accordino
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Analyzing Virginia Tech's 2012 schedule, Olympic style.
What’s better, watching the Olympics or waiting for college football to start? The Summer Olympics not only feature the best athletes in the world, they happen only once every four years, making every viewing opportunity precious. On the other hand, college football is…college football.
But why choose when you can have the best of both worlds? With that in mind, let’s preview Virginia Tech’s 2012 schedule by ranking the potential greatness of each game Olympic-style: Gold (highest potential) to Not on the Podium (lowest potential).
Gold Medal Games
FLORIDA STATE (November 8th in Blacksburg). Florida State storms into the 2012 campaign as a Top 10 team, returning 17 starters and hungry to finally live up to lofty preseason expectations. With a soft nonconference slate and their toughest games at home, FSU could easily come into this matchup with a perfect 9-0 record, setting the stage for a dramatic showdown in Lane Stadium. To make things even better, this is a Thursday night football game under the lights, a setting that befits the gravity of this matchup.
CLEMSON (October 20th at Clemson). Redemption. Payback. Revenge. Call it whatever you want, but the Hokies will be primed to avenge two embarrassing defeats to the Tigers in 2011, their only stumbles during the regular season. Not only did Clemson stomp Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, they demolished them in the ACC Championship Game, winning their two contests by a total score of 61-13. Clemson returns a ton of talent from their Orange Bowl campaign, so the Hokies will have their hands full as they attempt to pull off the cross-division win in Death Valley.
Silver Medal Games
UVA (November 24th in Blacksburg). There’s something about winning eight straight games in a “rivalry” that causes it to lose a little bit of its luster. UVA hasn’t seriously challenged Hokie supremacy in over a decade, but with Mike London at the helm, their time may be coming. The ‘Hoos will probably not be able to knock the Hokies off in Blacksburg this season, but one Cavalier upset could begin to shift the tide in UVA’s favor. The in-state bitterness and UVA’s program resurgence make this worth a Silver Medal Game designation.
MIAMI (November 1st at Miami). Make no mistake: the Hurricanes have been Virginia Tech’s biggest rival for the last decade. Particularly in the 90s and early 2000s, both programs spent a considerable amount of time at the top of the college football food chain. While Miami has certainly fallen off in the last half decade, this rivalry is often unpredictable and frequently won by the away team. Last year’s 38-35 shootout was the most exciting game of Virginia Tech’s season, and this game may have more of the same in store.
GEORGIA TECH (September 3rd in Blacksburg). The Hokies and Yellow Jackets hate each other. Paul Johnson and Bud Foster won’t say it, but they don’t much care for each other, either. In a curious bit of scheduling, Georgia Tech is the first game on the schedule for Virginia Tech this season, and the Jackets’ option offense will test the Hokies’ vaunted defense. The additional time to game plan in the fall should help Bud Foster and Co., but this is always a game worth keeping an eye on.
Bronze Medal Games
UNC (October 6th at Chapel Hill). The Tar Heels are flying under the radar a bit as media attention has focused more on academic scandal and coaching overhaul. But the Tar Heels-Hokies Coastal Division battle has been sneaky good recently, with three out of the last four contests being decided by a field goal. This game kicks off the bulk of the conference slate for the Hokies, so it will be important for Tech to get off to a strong start.
PITTSBURGH (September 15th at Pitt). An old Big East foe, traveling to Heinz Field should bring back memories for Virginia Tech’s veteran coaching staff. The players won’t remember it, but the Hokies actually lost during their last trip to Pitt as a Big East member. The Hokies should have a superior team this season, but their old rivalry makes this an interesting contest.
CINCINNATI (September 29th at Cincinnati). Cincinnati and Virginia Tech actually squared off recently on the big stage, with the Hokies pulling off a win in the 2008 Orange Bowl behind a stingy defense. Cincinnati is coming off a year in which they shared the Big East title with West Virginia and should have an incredibly competitive team. This game is at Nippert Stadium, and if the Hokies haven’t rounded into form by late September, this Bearcats team will give them a rude awakening.
Not on the Podium
DUKE (October 13th in Blacksburg). Duke’s schedule actually gives this long-suffering program a chance at their first bowl game since denim jackets were in style. Still, they should be no match for the Hokies, who meet the Blue Devils before facing the murderer’s row of their schedule in Clemson, Miami, and Florida State.
BOSTON COLLEGE (November 17th at Boston College). The Eagles have quickly faded into mediocrity after Jeff Jagodzinski decided to head back to the NFL, culminating in a miserable four-win season last year. The only potential source of intrigue is that this game is sandwiched between Florida State and UVA on Virginia Tech’s schedule, so this could be a trap game, though the Eagles are likely too woeful to pull the upset.
BOWLING GREEN (September 22nd in Blacksburg). This matchup would have been far more intriguing during the Omar Jacobs/Josh Harris era of Bowling Green football in the early 2000s. Now, not so much. The Falcons have lost at least six games for four years straight, so their visit to Lane Stadium should give Hokies fans plenty to cheer about.
AUSTIN PEAY (September 8th in Blacksburg). Remember when the US Men’s Basketball team put 153 points on Nigeria? Austin Peay is the Nigeria of Virginia Tech’s 2012 schedule. The “Governors” are an FCS team, and while the Hokies have been knocked off by an FCS team before, Austin Peay is clearly the furthest from a Gold Medal Game designation of any team on Tech’s 2012 schedule.