CFN Analysis ... ACC Champ.
Virginia Tech 44 ... Florida St 33
Florida State didn't lose to Virginia Tech because Christian Ponder's elbow was hurting. Florida State lost to Virginia Tech because the defense couldn't stop the best team in the ACC.
With a third ACC championship in four years, it's time for America to acknowledge that Virginia Tech is the league's dominant program and deserves the respect that comes with it. Known for being a wacky league full of parity and several good, but not great teams, the truth is that the ACC has its Ohio State. It has its Oklahoma. It has its USC (at least from a few years ago). It has its anchor program that has come up with seven straight ten-win seasons and is the big dog that everyone needs to be shooting for from here on.
After losing to Boise State to start the season and in the much-ballyhooed choke to James Madison, the team showed great resiliency to not only blow through its last 11 games, but do it in dominant fashion. Only one game, the 28-21 win over Georgia Tech, was decided by fewer than double digits, and in every challenge, the Hokies came through. But now they have to win the Orange Bowl. The first two losses of the season are still going to be brought up, and while the 11 wins so far are impressive, it's time to get a 12th to maybe, possibly, start to get the respect the program has earned.
- The Florida State coaching staff didn't ask E.J. Manuel to do anything crazy, but he came through with a terrific game. He threw two picks, but he also completed 23-of-31 passes for 288 yards with a score. However, he wasn't able to get the ground game moving.
- Yeah, Manuel was good, but it would've been nice to have seen what Christian Ponder could've done. The Hokies defense stacked up everyone and the waterboy to stop the run, daring Manuel to win the game deep.
- Tyrod Taylor doesn't get nearly enough respect as a passer. He wasn't just completing passes; he was throwing darts. He picked a great job to pitch an almost perfect game.
- The Seminole defense is among the best in the nation when it comes to getting into the backfield, but the pressure didn't bother Taylor. He made every right read and every right decision under fire.
- Florida State didn't commit any penalties. Virginia Tech got flagged four times.
Tyrod Taylor is Exhibit A why it's a luxury to have a senior behind center.
Taylor has quietly had an outstanding final season in ways that extend beyond the numbers. Yeah, he's one of the most efficient passers in America and just got done burning Florida State for four touchdowns, but that only tells part of the story about his value. No. 5 is a winner and a proven leader, who has earned the respect of his teammates. When he speaks, the other Hokies pay attention. When he makes things happen, the other Hokies want to emulate him. And when Tech needed a captain to lead the program out of an 0-2 abyss, he was willing and able. Taylor will be missed in Blacksburg, but he leaves behind a legacy for younger Hokies to follow.
- While he's only been on campus for two seasons, I've yet to see Florida State QB E.J. Manuel show glimpses of being the five-star recruit he was coming out of high school. Maybe he'll start to blossom next season when Christian Ponder has graduated.
- While the numbers weren't great tonight, RB David Wilson has a nice future at Tech. Carries will always be hard to come by in Blacksburg, but he has the skills to make the most of them.
- James Madison defeated one of this year's BCS bowl participants. Go figure that one out.
- From top to bottom, the Hokies have one of the best coaching staffs in America. Frank Beamer just does things right with this program, which is how he keeps talented assistants from moving on to other jobs.
By Matt Zemek
When they lost to Boise State, they had to hear about how they just couldn't measure up on the big stage in college football. When they lost to James Madison, they were viewed by many as an embarrassment to their sport. Their offensive coordinator, Bryan Stinespring, has held them back over the years, and until their 2009 Orange Bowl win over Cincinnati, they hadn't won a BCS bowl since the (pre-BCS-bowl-era) 1995 season. Yes, the Virginia Tech Hokies have usually fallen short against other elite teams across the country, and that's why coach Frank Beamer has encountered so much exasperation and frustration over the course of his decorated career.
Virginia Tech message boards were not a very nice place to be after a Thursday night loss to Boston College in late October of 2007 (just to give one prominent example). On many occasions, Beamer and Stinespring have endured the level of heat that should only be applied to the Hokies' failing ACC rival, the Miami Hurricanes. It's sad but true that a man's quality as both a coach and as a person – Beamer has fought to ensure that his assistants are justly compensated – have often been criticized instead of being seen as a human virtue. There is this eternal tension with Virginia Tech football: Beamer does things the right way, especially in terms of the people he puts on his staff, but that very fidelity has created a coaching staff that, at least on the offensive side of the ball, has limited the height of the Hokies' ceiling. Virginia Tech has lived in a cozy flat instead of a sprawling suburban three-story loft.
Yes, it's reasonable to say that Virginia Tech has room to improve on a national level. This team needs to win more intersectional encounters against the biggest brand names in the sport. However, two-thirds of each regular season is played against one team's own conference. The national-title race is fully in the control of the preseason top two, but for 99 percent of FBS clubs, the conference championship is the only prize that can be won by the sweat of the brow and not a set of computers (unless, of course, you're in the Big Ten or Big 12 and you insist on having the BCS standings break a three-team tie lacking a head-to-head tiebreaker). In light of this fact, the conference championship is the number-one metric for measuring a program's success, even though the national population is obsessed with the national championship competition.
Therefore, with this emphatic dismissal of the Florida State Seminoles on Saturday night in Charlotte, Virginia Tech has now won four ACC titles since joining the league in 2004. The Hokies have won three of the six ACC title games and have claimed the league crown in three of the last four seasons. Virginia Tech has won four of the six Coastal Division titles in the league, and since there was no title game in 2000 – when Florida State ran the table in the conference – this edition of the Hokies is the first team to post a 9-0 ACC record in one season.
They're criticized frequently. They don't win as many national games as they could, no question. However, the Virginia Tech Hokies are the ACC's standard-bearer, the team that wins the league almost as reliably as Florida State once did in the 1990s. That's an accomplishment worth a great deal of praise. If you want to knock teams for underachieving, put Virginia Tech at the back end of the line.
--The 2009 version of Tyrod Taylor would not have made the plays he made in this game. Other junior quarterbacks looking for an elusive breakout season can take heart from what Taylor did in 2010, and especially in this contest.
--Florida State needed help from Maryland to get to this game, but the Seminoles are young and appear primed to own the ACC Atlantic next year. Skill-position players were making plays against a Bud Foster-coached Virginia Tech defense. That's with Christian Ponder out of the game, too. Jimbo Fisher is making a difference in Tallahassee that should emerge in even fuller relief when 2011 arrives.