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Virginia Tech Football 2016 Team Preview: The Fuente Fix

Did you know Frank Beamer is gone?

Michael Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports

Virginia Tech traded an old coach for a young one. Let's preview the Hokies and see how they will stack up against the Irish this fall.

2015 Record: 7-6

F/+ Ranking: 59

S&P Ranking: 59

FEI Ranking: 56

Wins: Furman, Purdue, NC State, Boston College, Georgia Tech, Virginia, Tulsa

Losses: No. 4 Ohio State, East Carolina, Pitt, Miami, Duke, No. 15 North Carolina

*****

For the first time since 1986 there will be a head coach at Virginia Tech not named Frank Beamer. Most will remember the good times, including an 84-24 run from 2004 until 2011, 8 straight seasons of at least 10 wins, and 13 out of 17 years with at least 10 wins.

When the Hokies moved to the ACC they became the league's premier power. In recent years, things have changed rather dramatically. Virginia Tech is 29-23 since 2012 and just 16-16 in league play over that span. Over Beamer's final 4 seasons the Hokies went 1-8 against ranked teams, although that one win was against eventual National Champion Ohio State in Columbus in 2014.

In steps sneaky young (39) new head coach Justin Fuente fresh off a wonderful reclamation project at Memphis that sent a quarterback into this past spring's NFL Draft 1st round.

This will be only Fuente's 5th season as a head coach which is pretty remarkable but he's been tabbed as one of the next coaching stars by most in the media. They always love a good old fashioned reclamation project!

Low Moment

Losing to in-state East Carolina isn't supposed to happen to Virginia Tech no matter how good the Pirates have become in recent years. It definitely shouldn't happen after you build a 14-0 lead in the first quarter.

Last season the Hokies gave up 4 straight touchdowns to ECU and ended up falling 35-28. It was the second straight season in which Tech was defeated by the Pirates.

High Moment

It has to be the Independence Bowl if only because it was the most un-Virginia Tech game imaginable. The Hokies out-paced Tulsa 55-52 as the team's combined for over 1,000 yards of offense.

Virginia Tech was responsible for 598 yards of total offense which has to give them a nice feeling heading into the off-season.

2016 Schedule

Home: Liberty, Boston College, East Carolina, Miami, Georgia Tech, Virginia

Away: North Carolina, Syracuse, Pitt, Duke, Notre Dame

Neutral: Tennessee

This will be the 4th straight year in which Virginia Tech avoids both Clemson and Florida State in league play during the regular season. Conferences! They mean so much!

The game against Tennessee at Bristol Motor Speedway is sure to be a spectacle yet it's kind of an important game. The Vols are getting a ton of hype and won't want to lose and that could be a major statement game for Fuente in his first season in Blacksburg.

Projected S&P Ranking: 32

Using these projections Virginia Tech is supposed to be the 5th toughest game for Notre Dame sandwiched just behind Miami and just ahead of Texas.

Predicted Kickoff Spread: Notre Dame (-4.5)

Virginia Tech is getting a lot of love as a team that will excel in Fuente's first year and is talked about a lot in Notre Dame circles as a possible loss outside of the usual suspects. I can agree with much of that to a point.

S&P is projecting a jump of 27 spots which isn't shocking but it's pretty easy to bet against it when Virginia Tech doesn't have a proven quarterback, there could be a 3-way quarterback controversy, and the defense has plenty of questions.

We also have to wonder just how quickly the Hokies will improve on offense. Granted, Fuente started with nothing while at Memphis but his first two seasons with the Tigers resulted in FEI offense ranks of 114 and 110, up from 116 the year before he arrived. Even in 2014 they only rose to 65th before finally exploding last year up to 13th nationally. That took 4 years, the final 3 with Paxton Lynch at quarterback.

I'm not saying Hokie fans shouldn't be excited about improvements coming on offense just that it might not happen right away. Fuente strikes me as a smart offensive coach but he wouldn't be the first guy to ride the coattails of a great college quarterback over a small sample size of 4 years.

At any rate, this will be the first meeting between Virginia Tech and Notre Dame which is exciting. It comes in a really weird spot--final home game in South Bend after a Shamrock Series game in San Antonio and coming before the trip to USC--which I think favors the Hokies a little bit.

Notre Dame is going to have to shake off 2 weeks of triple option preparation and come back against a "new" Virginia Tech offense without trying to look ahead to the Trojans in California. Now you see why some in the media see a trap game!