As the Sept. 3 kickoff at FedEx Field for Virginia Tech-West Virginia nears, it’s a fair question to ask: Where does this year’s opener rank in terms of intriguing Hokies openers?
Here’s a look at a top 5 ranking (plus one thrown in) of openers since 1990. We obviously don’t know the outcome of my No. 5-ranked opener … but Tech is surely hoping it’s not a repeat of the others on the list. Because while the Hokies have played a number of interesting opponents in openers over the past 25 years or so, they didn’t win any of those games.
Here’s my list:
2000: No. 11 Virginia Tech vs. Georgia Tech
Perhaps one of the most interesting inaugural games in Tech’s history is the one that never happened. In 2000, the Hokies were scheduled to play the Yellow Jackets in the BCA Bowl, but the weather had other plans. Lane Stadium was hit with a storm so bad that lightning actually stuck the car of ESPN’s Lee Corso. And it was caught on camera. The College Gameday commentator went on to say, “I don’t know what a Hokie is, but God is one of them,” referencing the ’00 lightning strike. The game was postponed and eventually cancelled.
2017: No. 21 Virginia Tech vs. No. 22 West Virginia
A dormant rivalry renewed, the Hokies and Mountaineers head to Maryland on the eve of Labor Day to claim, or reclaim, the Black Diamond Trophy. It’ll be the first meeting for these two rivals since the Bush administration. Will Grier vs. Josh Jackson, Dana Holgerson vs. Justin Fuente, 3-3-5 vs. 4-2-5. Whatever the narrative may be, this shapes up as a great game outside the nation’s capitol.
2015: No. 1 Ohio State 42, Virginia Tech 24
Two years after opening against a No. 1-ranked Alabama team coming off a national title, Tech got yet another. This time it was defending national champion Ohio State, which came to Blacksburg with a bit of payback. Not only did the Buckeyes win the title in 2014, but their sole loss that year was to an upset at the hands of Virginia Tech. So, this was a bit of a grudge match. Tech led early, but Ohio State quickly proved to be too much, blowing the doors open at the end.
2010: No. 3 Boise State 33, No. 10 Virginia Tech 30
Back to Landover, Tech played Boise State in the Allstate Kickoff in the Capitol. This game was actually ranked in 2015 as the best opening game in the history of college football, according to Athlon Sports. Tech held a lead with less than two minutes to go, before Kellen Moore led Boise State to a 33-30 win over the Hokies.
2004: No. 1 USC 24, Virginia Tech 13
The defending national champions met Tech in front of 90,000-plus in FedEx Field in 2004 in the BCA Classic. The Hokies almost (key word: almost) pulled off a monstrous upset, but a loaded Trojans team had too much firepower. Tech was in its inaugural year in the ACC and opened by giving USC quite a battle. The Trojans, behind guys like Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush, beat Tech and then ran the table, clobbering No. 2 Oklahoma 55-19 in the Orange Bowl for the national championship.
2009: No. 5 Alabama 34, No. 7 Virginia Tech 24
It’s tough to argue with this one. A back-and-forth battle, the Hokies scoring then the Crimson Tide. Ultimately, the 2009 Heisman winner, Mark Ingram, and the Tide pulled away late. This game was action-packed with featured two top-10 teams playing in prime time. It’s going to take quite a game to top this one.