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Virginia Tech Proves Going Bowling Always Matters

By Dave Holcomb
SouthernPigskin.com
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Just like any bowl trip, a winning season isn’t something that should be taken for granted.

So much has changed since Week 1. On Labor Day, No. 20 Virginia Tech delivered a dominating performance on the road, defeating No. 19 Florida State, 24-3.

Little did we know that the Labor Day meeting would not impact who won either ACC division. But rather, it turned into a showdown for a bowl appearance.

The Week 1 win coupled with a pair of victories to end the season helped Virginia Tech finish at 6-6. Meanwhile, Florida State ended 2018 with a 5-7 mark. That means the Seminoles’ streak of 36 straight years with a bowl appearance, which was the longest active in the country, will come to an end.

Ironically, the longest active bowl streak now belongs to the team Florida State fell to in that Week 1 defacto bowl showdown -- Virginia Tech.

The Hokies just barely extended their bowl run to 26 years this season. Virginia Tech and Miami played what appeared to be another defacto bowl elimination game just before Thanksgiving, and the Hurricanes blew out the Hokies at home, 38-14.

But Virginia Tech rebounded to upset rival Virginia, 34-31, in Week 13. That was a big deal because despite the Cavaliers experiencing a better season than their instate rival, Virginia Tech still beat Virginia for the 15th straight time.

Then, in a rescheduled game against Marshall, Virginia Tech won this past Saturday to reach 6-6 and become bowl eligible.

So many fans complain that there are too many bowl games in college football nowadays. Who cares about the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, Dollar General Bowl, Military Bowl and others, right?

Well, these schools do. For one, it makes them money, but the prestige of these bowl streaks seems to matter too. Florida State rescheduled a regular season game on Championship Saturday to reach bowl eligibility last season too and extended its bowl run past three and a half decades.

But not only do programs earn more money and receive the prestige of extending a streak by earning a bowl bid, the team gains extra practice time. That matters to programs such as Virginia Tech trying to rebuild and reload after disappointing season.

Sophomore quarterback Josh Jackson is expected to be back, but the extra month of practice allows coach Justin Fuente to continue to see what he has in transfer signal caller Ryan Willis. For Willis, he gets another few weeks of invaluable live reps without Jackson there to take any from him.

This is true for a lot of positions across the team. From a strictly football perspective, this is why a 26-year bowl streak is a great thing.

It would be one thing if this two-and-a-half decade bowl run featured mostly “meaningless” bowl games, but for the most part, it hasn’t for Virginia Tech.

The Hokies have been to what is currently referred to as a “New Year’s Six Bowl” 10 times during their bowl streak. They’ve also gone to the Gator Bowl five times, and those appearances came back when the Gator Bowl was held with higher regard.

From 1999-2011, Virginia Tech experienced the best 13-year stretch in program history, going 132-39 and posting 11 double-digit win seasons.

It’s only recently that Virginia Tech has fallen a bit on hard times when it comes to earning bids to the most prestigious bowls. Since 2012, the Hokies have won at least 10 games in a season just once, and they haven’t been back to a New Year’s Six Bowl.

That’s probably alarming to some Virginia Tech faithful. The program hasn’t truly been nationally relevant in seven years.

But remember this, Hokies legendary coach Frank Beamer didn’t earn his first bowl appearance until his seventh season. Sure, bowl season was different in the early 1990’s, but in his first six years, Beamer posted a winning season just twice.

Fuente will have a chance to finish each of his first three seasons with a winning record when Virginia Tech faces Cincinnati in the Military Bowl on New Year’s Eve.

Just like any bowl trip, a winning season isn’t something that should be taken for granted. Both have become fixtures at Virginia Tech.