One of the major criticisms about Boston College is their lack of a true football rival. Florida State has Miami and Florida, Clemson has South Carolina, and Georgia Tech has Georgia. The Eagles have a rivalry with Syracuse dating back to the old Big East, but that’s only just started to get going after years of lying dormant.
If there’s a rival within the conference to look for, you could probably begin with Virginia Tech. There wasn’t a ton of history dating back to the Big East; the Hokies rattled off eight of the first 10 meetings, including seven in a row between 1996 and 2002. But ever since the meetings shifted the Atlantic Coast Conference, things have gotten hot, thanks in part to a great stretch of football over the past 10 years.
The Matt Ryan years introduced legendary matchups, and BC met the Hokies in back-to-back ACC Championship Games, losing each time after beating VT during the season. In 2012, the Hokies needed overtime to beat a bad BC team, and the Eagles defeated overrated Hokie teams in ‘13 and ‘14.
Overall, Virginia Tech leads the series, 16-8, but they only lead the ACC series, 8-5. When the teams meet in BC’s third game of the season, it’ll be one that football purists might be able to sit back and truly enjoy.
Virginia Tech Hokies
School: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Recommended Blog: Gobbler Country
Conference Affiliation: ACC
Date of Game: September 17, 2016
Location: Blacksburg, Virginia
Head Coach: Justin Fuente, 1st Year
Virginia Tech has a new head coach for the first time since 1986. Fuente, the former head coach of the Memphis Tigers, replaces Frank Beamer, who retired at the end of the season after amassing 280 wins and 23 consecutive bowl berths.
There was a time where life after Beamer seemed unimaginable. It wasn’t that long ago that the Hokies were a consistent top-10 team, winning three out of four ACC Championships and advancing to a BCS bowl game in four out of five years. Then 2012 came, and a string of 10-win seasons (eight in a row dating to the 2004 season when VT joined the ACC) ended.
The mojo ended rather quickly, with Beamer’s teams finishing three seasons as a .500 team and only finishing with a winning ACC season once. The whispers about his end turned into outright wondering if it was time to move on. In 2016, Virginia Tech will finally move on.
Fuente comes in as the complete antithesis of Beamer. He just turned 40 at the end of July, and he comes to Virginia Tech after four years as a head coach - not at one place but overall. An assistant at TCU, his success with quarterback Andy Dalton earned him the Memphis Tigers’ head coaching job.
After struggling to a 4-8 record in Conference USA, Memphis struggled to a 3-9 record in the American in his first two years. Then the Tigers won 10 games, won the AAC Championship, won the Miami Beach Bowl, and finished the year ranked. Last year, the Tigers opened the year 8-0, beat Ole Miss, and were ranked as high as 16th.
As an overall head coach, the book is out on Fuente. Nobody can dispute the last two years at Memphis, but he’s only been a head coach for 49 games. Depsite winning the first eight games, Memphis finished the year 1-3. Three of their wins came against Tulsa, Tulane, and SMU. They lost to Temple, Houston, and Navy during that poor stretch - all of the teams that finished ahead of them.
His name is hot on the iron, but he has something to prove, especially in a division where David Cutcliffe is mentoring quarterbacks, Larry Fedora has a defensive coordinator in Gene Chizik, and Mark Richt is taking over at Miami. Don’t forget a hungry Georgia Tech team with something to prove after last year’s disappointing finish.
2015 Season: 7-6 (4-4 ACC)
Recapping the 2015 season
For what it’s worth, the ‘15 Virginia Tech season was a complete inverse of the ‘14 season, yet still wound up in the same position. Two years ago, it looked like the Hokies were back after they handled eighth-ranked Ohio State on the road in their second game. Even after losing to East Carolina (in a major hangover game) and to Georgia Tech (who wound up winning the Orange Bowl), they managed to rattle off a couple of wins to stand at 4-2. They promptly lost four out of their next five, meaning they needed to beat Virginia (which they did) in order to become bowl eligible.
That’s right - they went from beating Ohio State to nearly bowl ineligible by the end of the year.
In ‘15, it was the opposite. They lost five of their first eight games with two of their three wins coming against Furman (FCS) and Purdue (who finished 2-10). Then they rallied to beat Boston College and Georgia Tech, pulling them to .500, but a loss to North Carolina meant they needed to beat Virginia (which they did) in order to become bowl eligible.
That’s right - they were 3-5 with games remaining against Boston College (best defense in the nation), Georgia Tech (defending division champs), North Carolina (division champions), and Virginia (in-state rivals). And they became bowl eligible.
It’s almost like Virginia Tech became the new Clemson in the process. While Clemson shook the moniker by winning big and often, Virginia Tech became the emotional roller coaster. With high expectations, they teased their fans with a big win (over Ohio State), only to fall flat and wind up with a blown tire on their bandwagon. Faced with incredibly low expectations, they nearly won out (losing to UNC in overtime), picking up a bowl win in the process.
Preseason Excitement Level: 6/10
The third game of the season always represents the settlement of the season’s grind. The excitement of the first game is long gone, and with two games in the tank, there’s real data from which coaches can crunch. The third game is where teams need to start making their move, especially because conference play kicks up in earnest for everyone.
Virginia Tech excites me because we have no idea what they’re capable of. The Hokies have been all over the board over the past four years. They’re a team with oodles of natural talent, and their recruiting classes always bring in solid athletes. They’ve proven they can hang and beat good teams, even as they prove they can lose to everyone and finish the year with an entirely mediocre record. The same goes for BC, which means this game could wind up all over the place - even after we have some data to digest in two games.
This game will feel like a rivalry game. It might not be either team’s biggest rival, but it’s still something with history. There’s plenty of people who remember hearing about how good Virginia Tech is supposed to be, how their QB will win a Heisman Trophy, how they’ll win the division and contend for an ACC Championship.
Those same people know that BC has played the grim reaper for those hopes and dreams more than once, with the promise of more dramatics out in Blacksburg in mid-September.