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Preseason college football countdown: No. 15 Virginia Tech

The Hokies could contend for a national title, if only they can avoid another slow start.

August 16, 2011|Chris Dufresne
  • Jarrett Boykin (81) enters his senior season with 123 receptions for 2,123 yards in his career.
Jarrett Boykin (81) enters his senior season with 123 receptions for 2,123… (Geoff Burke / Getty Images )

Virginia Tech is the only major-college football team to win at least 10 games the last seven seasons and also lose to James Madison.

You've heard the phrase: "all stuffing, no turkey"?

OK — we just made it up.

It must be confounding, though, being a Hokie in Gobbler Town.

Last year, Virginia Tech won 11 straight games from Sept. 18 to Dec. 4. The Hokies finished as undefeated champions in Atlantic Coast Conference action but walked away with an empty feeling.

The beginning and end were collapsing bookends. The Hokies opened with a last-minute loss to Boise State in Landover, Md., and followed with an inexplicable home loss to James Madison.

The James Madison defeat was used against Virginia Tech, but also against Boise State, trying to leverage victory over the Hokies into a national title run.

It took a strong constitution for Virginia Tech to persevere, but the Hokies did, winning all of their remaining games — until a season-ending, 40-12 loss to Stanford in the Orange Bowl.

The season Virginia Tech evens out the rough edges is the season it wins the national title. But will it ever happen?

The Hokies got close in 1999 when Michael Vick led his team to an exciting, Bowl Championship Series title-game loss to Florida State.

Last year was supposed to be the year, with the Hokies returning veteran quarterback Tyrod Taylor and what figured to be a lights-out defense.

The loss to James Madison, though, put Virginia Tech out of the race before the first homework assignments were due.

This year's team will be solid, as usual. Frank Beamer's special teams will block their share of kicks. The schedule is easier too. There's no Boise State at the front end, but there is Appalachian State, which has a history of causing Labor Day weekend pains (ask Michigan circa 2007).

If Virginia Tech can elude Appalachian State, East Carolina, Arkansas State and Marshall, they'll be 4-0 entering an ACC schedule the Hokies tend to dominate.

The Hokies get Miami and Clemson at home and miss Florida State in the regular season.

Could a team with less talent than last season end up with a better record and possibly challenge for the national title?

It's possible.

Taylor left as the school's career passing leader, but the Hokies are confident in sophomore Logan Thomas, who is listed at 6 feet 6 and 250 pounds. Tailbacks Ryan Williams and Darren Evans left for the pros, but the Hokies still have David Wilson, a blazing-fast runner and freakish athlete.

Wide receiver is anchored by Jarrett Boykin, on pace to set school records for catches and yards.

The defensive line loses three starters, but sophomore James Gayle is poised to become the team's next great end.

The Hokies could use a great end this season … and a great beginning.

The countdown so far: 25. Texas; 24. Georgia; 23. Arkansas; 22. Arizona State; 21. West Virginia; 20. Auburn; 19. Ohio State; 18. USC; 17. Michigan State; 16. Florida.

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

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