19 for ’19 Offseason Topics, No. 18: The five teams about to rebound big from a mediocre 2018.
Not everything goes according to plan.
Every year there are a few highly-ranked teams that have a rough run, go into the tank, or simply don’t play up to their brand name expectations.
These five teams were ranked highly last season – partly because of brand name, partly because they were supposed to be great – that should bounce back in a huge way.
Call them the aberration seasons. Hiccups. Anomalies. Whatever 2018 was for these five, get ready to see them become their old selves again.
5. Virginia Tech Hokies
2018 Preseason Ranking
AP 20, Coaches 17
Final Record: 6-7
In 1992, Virginia Tech went 2-8-1. The following season, it shocked the college football world with a 9-3 run, and the program hadn’t known a losing season until 2018.
For the Hokies, having a bad year was winning seven games, but at least there was always a bowl game to count on. Last season, it took everything possible just to have a shot at a bowl.
In all, for one of the most consistently solid programs for almost three decades, 2018 was sort of … pathetic.
Start with the the contrived way of trying to keep the bowl eligibility streak alive. After missing the East Carolina game earlier in the year thanks to Hurricane Florence, Virginia Tech was going to make it up by playing Marshall on December 1st – but only if it meant it would be for a shot at going bowling.
It took a thrilling win over Virginia to get to five wins to trigger the Marshall game. The Hokies got the win, but suffered the indignity of losing to a Group of Five program – Cincinnati – in the Military Bowl.
The defense that has been such a bedrock couldn’t tackle, got lit up by Old Dominion for 48 points, and in all, gave up 403 points a season after allowing just 192.
Part of the problem was an early injury to star QB Josh Jackson. He’s now at Maryland, but Oregon transfer Braxton Burmeister is coming in to challenge Ryan Willis, who did an okay job filling in when needed. The quarterbacks are good enough.
Some key receivers took off, and the O line returns just two starters, but RB Deshawn McClease decided to stay after considering transferring, and the defense should be far better with nine starters expected back.
Best of all, the schedule works out just fine. There might be trips to Notre Dame and Miami, but there’s no Clemson to deal with, and there are more than enough winnable games to expect a third nine-win season in the last four.