Heading into their Week 9 matchup with Duke, the Virginia Tech Hokies appeared to be one step away from meeting Florida State in the ACC Championship Game. Defeat fellow Coastal Division contender Miami on November 9, and the Hokies would waltz into Charlotte in December with a chance to play in a BCS game.
Not so fast.
Someone forgot to tell the Blue Devils to, you know, be Duke. Being Duke generally consists of an easy win for the top teams in the conference. This incarnation of the Blue Devils doesn't represent your typical Dookies, though. Head coach David Cutcliffe has them playing pretty well. Virginia Tech found out the hard way on Saturday.
The Hokies' 13-10 loss to Duke this past weekend is a tough pill to swallow. But it doesn't end their season. They have four games left, and if things go right, they still have an opportunity to represent the Coastal Division.
Tech can still control its own destiny. All four remaining games are conference opponents. Next week, the team heads to Chestnut Hill to face Boston College. The Eagles always give the Hokies a run for their money. Expect that to be the case next week, too.
Controlling your own destiny is great and all, but does anyone think this team doesn't need a little help along the way? Before Saturday's loss to Duke, you could actually see the Hokies winning out. Their defense was, and continues to be, outstanding, and their offense was making just enough plays to take advantage of its opportunities.
They struggled with Duke; who's to say they won't struggle to score against BC or Maryland?
Obviously the Hokies winning their four remaining games would be the best possible scenario for their ACC title hopes. However, is that likely at this point?
VT faces a struggling BC team next week. The Eagles are in their first year under new head coach Steve Addazio. BC (3-4) is playing hard under Addazio, and it gave both Clemson and FSU all they could handle before finally losing.
Both of those teams are much better offensively than the Hokies.
Fortunately for Tech, BC is much worse than the Hokies are on offense. And with a shutdown defense, expect Virginia Tech to win a close game next week.
Beating Miami, in Coral Gables in two weeks, will be much tougher. However, the 'Canes have looked mighty beatable in recent weeks. They resemble the Hokies in a lot of ways. Both teams have outstanding defenses and are led by struggling senior quarterbacks. For all of the criticism he receives, and rightfully so after Saturday, Logan Thomas is still better than Stephen Morris.
That game could come down to which passer makes the fewest mistakes. With an outstanding secondary that leads the country in interceptions, the Hokies could beat Miami with their defense.
It's also worth noting that Miami travels to Tallahassee to play FSU next week. If the Hokies win and Miami loses, the following week becomes even more crucial.
VT has dominated Maryland since entering the ACC in 2004. However, it had dominated Duke, too, and we see how that turned out. The Terps have lost too much talent on offense to beat the Hokies in Blacksburg, so expect VT to pull this one out.
After a bye week, Tech heads to Charlottesville for the annual season finale. It's generally an easy game to predict, but the Cavaliers will beat the Hokies again at some point. However, it won't be in 2013. Have you seen them play?
The Hokies head to Massachusetts next week and struggle on offense again, leading BC to pull off the upset. The Eagles came close in 2012 before the Hokies won it in overtime. A win by Boston College is a real possibility next week.
Fortunately for the Hokies, Miami does play FSU next week. Does anyone expect the 'Canes to beat the 'Noles?
While Miami has had its fair share of struggles on offense, the Hurricanes do still have Duke Johnson. He is one of the more explosive, big-play backs in all of college football. Bud Foster surely remembers last season's game when Johnson ran for 100 yards and finished with 217 all-purpose yards. He could prove to be the difference.
If the Hokies lose either or both of these games, they could be headed for another less-than-stellar bowl.
And while Virginia has been the Hokies' whipping boy for the last 15 years, could this be the year where the Cavs squeak one out? Can you imagine the outrage in Blacksburg if that happens?
VT clearly is in a good position for the remainder of 2013. Next week will be a big test for Frank Beamer and Co. Can they bounce back from an embarrassing home loss to Duke?
If they don't, it could very well derail what was shaping up to be a very impressive campaign.