Every team in the ACC has a couple games they wish they had back from 2011. Whether they didn’t bring their A-game, or the other guys just got lucky, every school would love another shot at an opponent, for the ability to prove it won’t happen again. Luckily, because of conference play and parity in the ACC, many will get a chance at redemption immediately, with rematches already on the books for 2012.
As part of our 2012 college football season preview, we’ll be running through the biggest “payback” games for each school. As no team finished with just one loss, there are likely multiple choices for each — none more “right’ than another, necessarily. Still, every selection should help provide some extra motivation for fans as they gear up for this season’s slate of games.
Team: Virginia Tech Hokies
Last Year: Loss, 23-3 vs. Clemson/Loss, 38-10 vs. Clemson
This Year: October 20, @ Clemson
The only double-loss occurrence on our list, the Hokies suffered the rare feat in embarrassing fashion last season. Even though they boasted one of the nation’s best defensive units, Virginia Tech was blasted for a combined 61 points in the two meetings, as Clemson’s play-calling managed to keep them consistently on their toes. The keys — run-and-gun (a big part of the Tigers’ 2011 offense, which had a very low time-of-possession) and a balanced attack that got the team’s bevy of weapons involved. With four big targets, plus QB Tajh Boyd, Tech couldn’t account for every man, and paid the price repeatedly (especially in the ACC title game).
VPI’s games against Clemson also exposed the team’s greater issues on offense, too. When the defensive line experienced early success shutting down the run, the play-calling shifted dramatically toward the pass. After the ACC Championship Game, David Wilson even expressed shock about this tact, openly questioning the decision aloud to media. Leaning solely on QB Logan Thomas, the offense showed how quickly it could become one-dimensional, and how poorly it reacted to that situation as well. When pressured, Thomas’s usual poise turned into indecisiveness and mistakes. In the two games, he was just 37-of-71 passing, with one touchdown and three picks. Keep in mind, this was also a Clemson team that got lit up repeatedly in the secondary. Yet, behind the swarming pass rush of Andre Branch, those same corners were able to bat down pass after pass, and really limit the field for Thomas.
In 2012, the potential exists for yet another Clemson-Virginia Tech double-dip, should they both advance to the conference championship game. But Tech needs to take it one game at a time. With a whole new offensive line, and some new schemes in the works (pistol formation, for one), the Hokies attack may be a work in progress in the season’s early goings. If they can’t manage to work out those kinks, however, it could set up another feast for Clemson defenders. New Tigers defensive coordinator Brent Venables is all about fundamentals and consistent pressure — both of which seemed to only apply when CU faced VPI last year. If Tech expect to win this time around, it’ll be up to Thomas to control the tempo and a balanced gameplan to keep from repeating past mistakes.