The overarching question is: How steep and extended will the fall be?
History offers some, but no certain, guidance for fans of nationally prominent teams hoping to rebound.
* Twice in the last 30 years
But third-year coach
But at 7-2 this season and with a manageable late schedule, Nebraska is headed for a fifth straight nine-win record.
* Perhaps the most remarkable dynasty was
The Seminoles remained among the top 25 until 2006, when they fell to 7-6, a record they repeated in 2007 and ’09. Their national-best run of consecutive bowl appearances will extend to 31 this season and with an 8-1 record entering Thursday’s game at Virginia Tech,
* Long-time Hokies rival
Moreover, from 2000-03, Miami went 46-4 and won another national championship. All this the Hurricanes accomplished amid coaching transitions from
The only serious downer was a 5-6 year in 1997 under Davis, the product of
All of which made their fall to 5-7, 2-6 in the
The Longhorns rebounded slightly to 8-5, 4-5 last year. They are 7-2 this season, but a 63-21 loss to Red River rival
The Gators bottomed out at 7-6 in 2011, their fourth year outside the final polls since 2002. At 8-1 this season under second-under coach Will Muschamp, they will extend their bowl streak to 23 consecutive appearances.
* Southern California and coach Pete Carroll captured two national titles, played for a third and never won fewer than 10 games from 2002-08. The past three years – 9-4, 8-5 and 10-2 – haven't been horrible, either.
But it's still unclear how much scholarship reductions, imposed by the NCAA over the Reggie Bush mess, will damage the Trojans and third-year coach Lane Kiffin.
Like the seven programs mentioned above, Virginia Tech has authored uncommon sustained success, though the Hokies lack one recruiting trump that sustained the others: national championships.
Tech's streak of eight consecutive seasons with at least 10 victories, the nation's longest active run, is over. And three other streaks are in serious jeopardy:
* Fourteen straight years with at least eight wins, also a national best. Tech (4-5) needs to stun Florida State on Thursday, defeat
* Nineteen consecutive bowl bids, third among current streaks behind Florida State and Florida. Tech must win twice more.
* Eight straight years among the final AP top 25, the nation's longest active streak and well ahead of second-place Oregon's five. Difficult to fathom that run continuing.
The linchpin of Tech’s success has been coach
Understandably, Beamer wasn't much into big-picture navel-gazing Monday when asked about the Hokies' dip. After all, he's preparing for the season's most difficult game Thursday.
"Just haven't played well enough," he said. "Played some good teams that played well against us, and we didn't play well enough. That's kind of the bottom line. … I think everybody in our operation here could have done something better. …
"Winning every Saturday, it's hard. You play a lot of people that you're not better than, or are just barely better than. The way that ball bounces on Saturday, it's just a thin line. We got used to 10-win seasons, we're proud of those. I'm proud of this football team. If you look at us play the other night (in the loss at Miami), it wasn't lack of effort. Our kids played hard throughout the game. We just didn't play well enough.
"I went over with our football team about eight things that happened during that game that were critical to the outcome. And in every one of them, really, it's things that we can do better. That's what it's all about right now, it's us doing better."
Tech's return to its standards hinges not only on the 66-year-old Beamer but also his successor.
As Florida State learned with Bowden and Texas is with Brown, timing an icon’s retirement is challenging. As Notre Dame learned with Gerry Faust and Charlie Weis, Nebraska with Bill Callahan, Miami with
All of which makes the next few weeks, and years, at Virginia Tech intriguing, indeed.
I can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP