Expectations for the Hokies don’t change much from year to year when it comes to football — 10 wins, an ACC championship and an Orange Bowl berth.
Now, despite a rough start to the season and sitting at just 4-4 overall, the Hokies still have a chance to win the Coastal Division and possibly accomplish all of their goals.
“It’s real now. It’s win or go home for the most part,” said linebacker Bruce Taylor.
The scenario in the division is an odd one as Duke, North Carolina, Miami and Tech all sit atop the standings with two conference
The Tarheels, however, are ineligible for postseason play due to NCAA sanctions, so that immediately eliminates them from being able to compete in the ACC championship. Taylor says the team knows exactly what’s at stake when they head to
“If we win this game and two more ACC games, we’re at the ACC championship game and could go to the Orange Bowl,” Taylor said. “Or, we could lose this game and it could be completely out of our hands and it wouldn’t be good for us. So I think guys are starting to realize that and turning it up.”
The only thing Taylor doesn’t mention is the fact Duke must lose another game in order for the Hokies to make it back to the ACC championship. With a matchup against Clemson coming up, however, it doesn’t appear likely that the Blue Devils will make a serious run at the Coastal title.
Ultimately, the division comes down to Thursday night’s matchup with the Hurricanes and the Hokies know this win on the road could help turn the entire season around.
“It would be big,” running back J.C. Coleman said. “Everybody has already counted us out because we’ve had a tough year and we got off to a rough start. But it would just be big for us. Definitely to go out there and win the ACC championship, it’d be almost like a dream story for this year, because it’s tough.”
Tech came into the season as a Top 25 ranked team and one of many dark horses for a national title.
Lofty expectations were put on a defense returning nine starters and the offense was expected to immediately click with Logan Thomas at quarterback. This, of course, ignored the fact Thomas was coming in with a fairly inexperienced offensive line and two freshmen running backs.
The team has struggled on the road this season going 0-4, but it will look to right the ship this Thursday night in what will be a less-than raucous crowd in Miami.
While the motivation to win games and get the season turned around is always something to build on, defensive line coach Charley Wiles said the fact they can still compete for an ACC championship is something that is a huge motivator.
“We’re playing for something, you know?” he said. “As up and down as it’s been, we have a chance to win our division.”
Thomas, meanwhile, has had a less than spectacular season after facing high expectations from the national media this offseason and has shouldered a lot of the blame for the struggles so far this season.
While Thomas says it won’t ease the pain of the first eight games any, he adds that an ACC championship berth would still feel pretty good.
“I don’t think anything would make up for it, but it would definitely be something that would make us feel better about the season,” Thomas said. “We’ve kind of got a sour taste in our mouths and we don’t like it, but getting to the ACC championship would be something huge for us.”
If Thomas and the Hokies are able to win in Miami and Clemson does indeed take out Duke, they will then control their own destiny and need to win just two of their final three regular season matchups to win the Coastal.
With matchups against Boston College and Virginia in the next three weeks, it is hard to imagine the Hokies not making it back to Charlotte if they win Thursday night.
But defensive coordinator Bud Foster said the team isn’t getting ahead of itself and is focused on just beating Miami and moving on from there.
He adds that while this matchup might not be as attractive as some of the historic ranked matchups between the two programs, there is still just as much at stake.
“It’s as big as any of them as we’ve had when we were 11-1 or 10-2 or whatever,” he said. “Right now, we’re still in the same boat. We can control our own destiny.
“We’ve been in this game a lot of times, in this position a lot of times over the last several years. And it’s fun to be in this kind of game. That has an impact on our side, so it’s a good time for us.”
Tech has received a lot of scrutiny this season from a fan base, which has grown complacent with 10-win seasons and not being able to compete nationally.
However, in a year that once had fans questioning whether the Hokies could even make a bowl game, an ACC championship berth would surely put a lot of smiles on the faces of fans.
“I take it back to Florida State in 2005, when we played them in the ACC championship and they were coming off of a tough year,” Foster said. “They lost three ACC games and obviously ended up going to the Orange Bowl.”
The Hokies have had a rough season to date, but with a win tonight, we could see them in a familiar spot come December.