We ask the heavy hitting questions and get down to the heart of Virginia Tech football, including conference realignment, Virginia Tech's offense, and what it's like to exhibit cannibalism every year.
We are joined today by Gobbler Country, the haven of Virginia Tech sports and a place where I generally avoid at all costs on account of a vomiting of maroon and orange. Notwithstanding, we exchanged a few questions, and they were very gracious to send us some thoughtful and entertaining answers. Also, turns out not all Hokies love Colin Cowherd, which is educational for me. Check out our answers to their questions.over at Gobbler Country (it'll get posted soon if not already!).
Streaking The Lawn: Maryland. Big Ten. VT. ACC/SEC. UVA. ACC/B1G. What is going on with Part 17 of conference realignment? Will the ACC lose any more teams before the end of the academic year, and if so, where do you see or want Virginia Tech and UVA to end up?
Gobbler Country: Oh man, that's a tough one. The only way I really know on that one is by spinning the conference wheel of destiny. Seriously though, these rumors go from water cooler talk to a done deal within 48 hours. I mean, no one really even had a pulse on the Maryland to the Big Ten thing until just a few days before it happened, right? Or at least those rumors weren't being taken seriously. Then all of the sudden, POOF, no more Maryland in the ACC. So I really can't say for sure. Nobody can. So guessing is a little bit of a pointless exercise. But I will guess that if Maryland is held to the $50 million fee down to the very last penny, the conference will not experience any more shuffling (out at least) before the end of the academic year. And as for the Hokies and the 'Hoos, I think they'll still be in the ACC at that time. Past that? It's anyone's guess. So although I was one of the loudest voices against Tech heading to the SEC when the rumors cropped up a year ago, I think it's something that would have to be seriously considered now. It's still not as much of a surefire thing as most fans think (again, non-revenue sports have to be considered too), but I'd rather be hating life in the SEC than sulking as a member of the ACC's wet dream (A.K.A. the Big East's current basketball configuration) or an independent again.
STL: Despite an overall poor season by the Hokies, Logan Thomas isn't having too bad a year, generating the third most offense in the [down-year] ACC with a strong ground game. What do the Hoos have to do to rein Thomas in, while not giving up big pass plays?
GC: I would personally disagree that he isn't having too bad of a year. Whether or not this is realistic, remember that prior to the year, NFL Draft experts had him almost unanimously in the top-5 picks of this year's draft. 20 scouts visited the Hokies' first game against Georgia Tech just to see him. He was a dark-horse Heisman candidate. So for him to have the year he's had amidst those expectations speaks to how poorly he has played. Granted he has had very little help, but he is an altogether different player than we saw dominate down the stretch a year ago. As far as Virginia stopping him, normally I would recommend rushing a lot to overwhelm the Hokies underwhelming offensive line and forcing him into poor decisions, but since the 'Hoos aren't a very good rushing the quarterback team statistically, I would just say, sit back, stay tight in your coverages, and eventually he'll hit you with the ball. The defensive player that is.
STL: This is the first year since the Michael Vick era that the Hokies are in danger of a losing season. What's been the fan reaction so far (aside from, obviously, disappointment) and what would that mean for Hokie Nation going forward?
GC: The Michael Vick era? Wanna go back a few more years? 1992 was the Hokies last losing season, and 1997 was the last time the team failed to win eight games, or one year prior to the elder Vick arriving on campus. But to answer the other part of your question, I've never seen the amount of apathy in the fan base that exists now. Originally it was vitriol, borne of a culture of winning in the last decade that wouldn't tolerate this. But after the losses continued to pile up, and nothing seemed to change like we thought it would, apathy...just apathy. [STL Note: I picked the Michael Vick era because that was when the Hokie program really turned the corner...and that's when UVA stopped beating Tech.]
STL: Since you offered me the opportunity, why don't you take a moment here to get on a soapbox and rant about UVA fans for a little bit? Note that if your rant is along the same lines as Colin Cowherd's, (i) I will lose tremendous respect for you for a lack of creativity and (ii) nobody actually likes Colin Cowherd, so I'm not sure you want to align yourself with him anyway.
GC: Here's the deal...I agree with what you said about Cowherd. I think the guy is a blow-hard, good-for-nothing muckraker who screams nonsensically about things for ratings, and like much of ESPN's talent pool, he's argumentative for the sake of being argumentative. While I did enjoy this the first time, and may be inclined to agree with his thesis (i.e. if you're calling into a guy like that to argue that because of Virginia Tech AND Virginia it's a top-10 football state, you need a reality check), I think that Cowherd showed his idiocy again on this rant, including his comment that the Cavaliers would go into the "fertile" position when playing the Hokies. While I like to poke fun at the Cavaliers' football fan base as much as any other Hokie for those reasons, I'm sure you guys don't know anyone named Carruthers, and while you may do much of that other stuff (i.e. wearing ascots and suits), it's permissible...just not at a football game.
STL: On the flip side, what would you say is the most redeeming quality for UVA fans?
GC: I would have to say the most redeeming quality for UVA fans is that they are more often than not from the Commonwealth. That, or the outpouring of support that Virginia Tech received from them (as well as many others) after the tragedy of April 16.
STL: I have very few good things to say about Virginia Tech. Can you help?
GC: We're passionate. Even if you don't appreciate us, we care deeply about our football team and the university. We show up (like you said in your answers of our Q &A), even if we're not winning (ahem...Auburn). We're apparently pretty good hosts (I know, I know, this seems at odds with what we've exhibited towards you guys, but ask other teams' fan bases. Apparently we're different with them). And though we can be typecast too as deer-hunting, suspender-wearing, country bumpkins (not that there's anything wrong with that), it's not an entirely accurate generalization either.
STL: Knowing that Rocco's talents are in the short passing game (and can tend to throw picks when attempting to go the distance) and that Sims has the arm (but perhaps not a full grasp of the playbook), who would you rather Virginia play, given Tech's defensive strengths?
GC: I would rather see Rocco. We've conquered Rocco once, and most all of our starters are returning, so they will have that experience against him. Also, defenses hate covering that extemporaneous quality that mobile quarterbacks typically possess.
STL: How did you enjoy eating your mascot for Thanksgiving?
GC: I enjoyed it. Asking those who are close to me, you'd find out that as a child, I was so intense about avoiding Hokie cannibalism that I fasted from it for three years. But I broke down on a day where I was eating for the first time at like 5 or 6 in the afternoon and smelled a smoked turkey leg...and the streak was up. Let's be honest with ourselves here, turkey is delicious. It just is. There's no getting around that. So if you want to go there, we'll have to fall back on the whole ritual sacrifice to better our cause (winning games) thing. Thanks Aztecs/Mayans. But on the other hand, I'm guessing you've eaten fish (drinking variety or otherwise) recently, no?
STL: Shoot it to me straight here - what's the final score and how do we get there?
GC: I think UVA will come out fired up in this one, and even gets an early 7-0 lead on the Hokies. But with the fans behind them, the Hokies, who will be pretty fired up as well, will respond and pull away in the second half, though they'll find a way to let UVA back in it. I think Rocco and Thomas will both throw a pick (or two), Tech will get a couple of sacks and UVA will be the next team to stop the Tech running game dead in its tracks. I've got the final as a 27-21 Tech win. But even then, I'm only about 60% confident in this one.