Q: The Hokies are leading the Coastal at 3-0 (4-2 overall) but are without quarterback Josh Jackson and the defense doesn't seem up to its usual standards (95th in total defense). What's your sense of how good this team is?
A: After the Florida State win in the opener, I would have told you this team could be a Top 10 team and the Coastal champ. The defense, with just a handful of experienced players, looked like it would be a typical Bud Foster unit. After the Old Dominion loss, I would have said Tech might be in a fight to keep its bowl streak going, as that young defense got exposed. Such is life with an inexperienced defense and now, a backup quarterback. I honestly don't think Ryan Willis is a major downgrade from Josh Jackson, if Willis can keep his emotions in check and make good decisions. That's a big if.
The defense continues to learn and develop week to week. So in the end, I do think Tech is Top 15 and division title material, if it can become a bit more consistent.
Q: Virginia Tech has played well on Thursday nights. I saw in the notes that the Hokies are 23-9 on the Thursday night ESPN games and 6-0 against Georgia Tech (including wins in Atlanta in 2007-11-13-15). Is there some sort of explanation for this beyond tradition/loud fans (the latter of which obviously doesn't apply in four of the wins over Georgia Tech)?
A: I wish I had some brilliant insight here. Certainly, in its 10-wins-a-year heyday under Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech started to make its Thursday night mark. So, being pretty good when it played a lot of those Thursday nighters helped. Lane Stadium is a great home venue but like you noted, that doesn't explain the road wins.
When No. 8 Florida State played at VT on a Thursday night in 2012, the Hokies lost. Tech has lost three times to Miami on Thursday nights.
I guess I'll leave it as cliche as I can and say Virginia Tech gets up for Thursday night, but really, it's probably got a lot more to do with the matchups than any mystical Thursday-night magic.
Q: Who's one player that Georgia Tech has to slow down on Virginia Tech's defense?
A: We already talked about Ricky Walker, the senior defensive tackle and leader of the young team. He'd be a great choice here but so would sophomore inside linebacker Rayshard Ashby. Ashby has emerged as a force in the middle of the defense, leading the Hokies with 51 tackles, including 6 1/2 for losses and a forced fumble. This is Asbhy's first year as a a starter but he's been surprisingly steady. Ashby talked this week about what he remembered from last year's Georgia Tech prep. It wasn't much. He knows to expect a physical game but the speed of the triple option could slow Ashby down.
Q: What's the craziest/most memorable thing you've heard from a fan regarding your ballot in the AP top 25 poll?
A: I love this question. A few years ago, I was the only write who didn't have Notre Dame ranked in the preseason poll. I didn't think the Irish would be very good defensively and I thought the schedule would eat them up. I'm not kidding you when I say I received hundreds of emails and tweets from upset Irish fans. To their credit, when Notre Dame finished 4-8 after struggling defensively, a few actually emailed to give me props.
That's been the biggest reaction, though just this week, Michigan fans upset that I have the one-loss Wolverines too low (I have them No. 10) on my ballot, questioned what I was smoking and/or drinking while doing my rankings.