Two games. That’s all Virginia Tech must win to maintain one of the most impressive streaks in college football.
With victories in their final two contests, the Hokies will qualify to play in a 20th consecutive bowl game. Even in a time where more than half of the Football Bowl Subdivision teams qualify for the postseason, the streak is still quite impressive.
But it’s nowhere close to a given.
Hokie Nation is still thinking about scenarios their team can represent the Coastal Division and play for another Atlantic Coast Conference championship. But Frank Beamer’s team must walk before it can run. And the only way to do that is to win at Boston College and close with a home victory over rival Virginia.
Virginia Tech is 4-6 overall (2-4 ACC), its worst start since it went 2-8-1 in 1992. The following season, the Hokies went 9-3 and routed Indiana in the Independence Bowl, beginning a run that is now hanging by a thread. And to take care of the first leg of this two-game stretch, the team must do it on the road. The Hokies are 0-4 on the road this season.
“Before that streak, I thought we had a pretty good streak of wins away from home,” Beamer said. “We really don’t do anything different. We have talked this season about mental toughness and physical toughness away from home. I think there’s something to that. Other than that, I think the effort has been good; we just haven’t gotten it done.
“I think we’ve played some good football teams away from here and got teams who played extremely well against us away from here. Again, we haven’t played as well as we need to, that’s for sure.”
Translation: Other than the particulars of the defeats, Beamer doesn’t know why his program is suddenly struggling. But he better figure it out soon, or thoughts of a spot in the ACC title game will seem foolish and a spot in a bowl game could be lost.
It isn’t that Boston College can be overwhelming. The Eagles (2-8) have many issues on both sides of the ball, but they did play Notre Dame tough this past weekend in a 21-6 loss. If they have anything left for the Hokies, they could contradict Virginia Tech’s plans for these final two weekends of the season.
And that would close the door on a streak has seen the program grow from a Southern independent that played in a 42,000-seat stadium to a national entity in a much larger facility known for the fans’ rabidness, noise and one of the great home-field advantages in the nation.
Before the bowl streak, Virginia Tech had played in only six postseason games. By the 1995 season, the Hokies reached the Sugar Bowl, and in 1999 they played for the national championship. During the life of the streak, Virginia Tech has competed in eight major bowls and faced the likes of Texas, Nebraska, Alabama, Florida State, Auburn, Georgia and Michigan, among others.
This year, the Hokies will take any bowl versus any opponent.
To make that happen, they must leave Chestnut Hill with a victory before returning home to take on suddenly-hot Virginia, which hosts North Carolina on Thursday night. Seeing how the Cavaliers beat North Carolina State 33-6 on the road and came from behind to knock off Miami 41-40 this past weekend, it’s fair to say they are playing better football right now than the Hokies.
So keeping his players from viewing these final contests lumped together must be one of Beamer’s great tasks right now.
“I think when you play at this level, you have to be able to handle pressure,” he said. “And right now . . . we have to win the next two to be bowl eligible. It’s very clear what we have to do.”
The Hokies have their mandate. How will they handle it?