Chris Dufresne's preseason top 25: No. 15 Virginia Tech

The Times' Chris Dufresne unveils his preseason college football top 25,

one day (and team) at a time:

No. 15 Virginia Tech

Michael Vick is in the news, and some people think Virginia Tech can ride a cushy schedule to the Bowl Championship Series title game.

Hey, who opened the time capsule?

The headline here could be "Ten years after."

Some of us have misty-colored memories of 1999 season, the year Florida State won the national title in New Orleans and everyone left the Superdome talking about the losing quarterback.

Vick, then a redshirt freshman, became a superstar in Virginia Tech's 46-29 defeat, accounting for more than 300 passing and rushing yards. Vick made cuts on the turf that literally buckled the knees of two Florida State defenders -- sending both to surgery.

Now that was a "60 Minutes" episode.

The real bargain came the next day, when souvenir salesmen, eager to unload merchandise from the losers, were selling No. 7 Vick jerseys for $10.

Rankman snatched up two but hasn't busted them out in public since, well. . . .

So here we are again: Frank Beamer is in his third decade coaching in Blacksburg and has a team all the pundits (except this one) love.

Virginia Tech is preseason No. 5 in Lindy's, No. 6 in the Sporting News, No. 7 in the USA Today coaches' poll and No. 11 in Phil Steele's magazine.

Rankman had the luxury of reassessing the school's poll position after this week's news that running back Darren Evans, the most valuable player of last year's Orange Bowl, will be lost for the year with torn left knee ligaments.

We won't argue the straight-shot premise for Virginia Tech is solid. The Hokies have a talented quarterback in Tyrod Taylor, a formidable defense and a schedule built to win.

If the Hokies can escape a huge Sept. 5 opener against Alabama at Atlanta, the only road game that appears perilous is at Georgia Tech on Oct. 17.

Actually, the slog toward undefeated will be much tougher than in 1999, when Virginia Tech toiled in the Big East at a time when Rutgers and Temple were horrible and the nonconference schedule included James Madison and Alabama-Birmingham -- that was four wins without breaking a sweat.

Virginia Tech didn't like it then when folks suggested the Hokies greased the schedule skids en route to New Orleans, but Rankman doesn't see it that way now.

Though home-field advantage heavily skews to Virginia Tech this year, any schedule that includes Alabama, Nebraska, Miami, Boston College, North Carolina and Georgia Tech can't be described as puffery.

Granted, Nebraska, Miami, Boston College and North Carolina all have to play at Blacksburg, but Rankman detects more potholes than he saw in 1999, when Virginia Tech entered the BCS title game at 11-0 and No. 2 in the rankings.

The Hokies' defense is going to be strong as long as the school signs checks over to coordinator Bud Foster, but the loss of Evans stings and going undefeated, frankly, isn't as easy as it used to be.


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