With a few weeks left until the start of the 2021 season, the Virginia Tech Hokies are looking to make a big splash. The Hokies believe they can get back to ACC Conference title contention. Outside of the program, some do not have that kind of faith in the Hokies this season.
On Tuesday, the Coaches Poll was released, which depicted the first official rankings of the 2021 College Football season. The Hokies were not in the top 25 as they received nine votes.
No Surprise, No Top 25 Ranking
The decision to exclude the Hokies in the top 25 was not too much of a surprise. Last season, the Hokies finished the shortened season with a 5-6 record. There are some concerns on both sides of the ball, despite several players returning. The defense was ranked 82nd in points allowed per game (32.1), while the offense lacked explosiveness.
There are only three ACC teams ranked in the Coaches Poll Top 25. Those three teams in the #2 Clemson Tigers, #9 North Carolina Tar Heels, and the #16 Miami Hurricanes have three things in common, a steady defense, a preseason Heisman Trophy contender, and an experienced coaching staff. All three make the Tigers, Tar Heels, and Hurricanes contenders for the ACC Conference title and a chance for the College Football Playoffs.
The Hokies look to be more efficient on defense, they have a potential playmaker in quarterback Braxton Burmeister, and an experienced staff led by head coach Justin Fuente. The defense will get a chance to prove themselves this season. Burmeister has not shown yet to be durable and consistent but has developed significantly this off-season.
Fuente will be entering his sixth year as the head coach of the Hokies, along with offensive coordinator Brad Cornelsen. He has shown he can win on the field, but the Hokies have a dropped in productivity since starting his first two seasons at 19-8. Fuente is 38-26 at Virginia Tech, with this season being his potential last chance to get back to eight to ten wins.
While coaches and Hokie Nation have seen the development of their players during the off-season, the coaching staffs of other teams have not. They created this ranking based on results from last year and who has made the most noise with returning players. The Hokies are not concerned, but they have to show they can rise above their unranked results.
Liberty and NC State got more votes
If there is anything that can add fuel to the fire for Virginia Tech this season, it will be that the NC State Wolfpack and the Liberty Flames have more votes in the Coaches Poll. The Liberty Flames received 68 total votes, which is the fifth-highest among all teams not in the top 25. Last season, the Flames went 10-1, with their only loss coming to the Wolfpack with a 15-14 score. The Hokies lost them to the smaller in-state independent team at home with a 38-35 score. The Flames’ ranking is boosted by the leadership and playmaking abilities of potential first-round 2022 NFL Draft pick in quarterback Malik Willis.
Last season, the Wolfpack finished the 2020 season with an 8-4 overall record (7-3 in ACC play). Despite losing to the Hokies with a 45-24 score, the Wolfpack finished with the better overall record. The Wolfpack returns 17 total starters from last season. They are projected to finish 2021 second in the Atlantic Division, just behind the Clemson Tigers. The Coaches Poll believes that NC State is more likely to be a threat to the ACC than the Hokies.