Halfway through their first seasons at their schools, coaches Justin Fuente of Virginia Tech and Dino Babers of Syracuse are headed in different directions.
Fuente seems to have picked up where Frank Beamer left off: the Hokies (4-1, 2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) are ranked 17th and lead the Coastal Division going into Saturday's game against the Orange in the Carrier Dome. Syracuse (2-4, 0-2 ACC) has lost four of five and faces three ranked teams in the second half of the season, its chance at the postseason seemingly out of reach already.
"There's a long season ahead of us," Fuente said. "We can take pride in winning a couple games. There's nothing wrong with that. But you've got to move past those things."
Moving past the Orange once was a struggle when both teams were in the Big East - they split their 12 meetings before Virginia Tech left for the ACC in 2004. The Orange bolted for the ACC three years ago and this will be the teams' first meeting as conference members.
The Orange strives to thrive on offense. The Hokies have been dominating opponents with a stifling defense that's become the perfect complement to an efficient offense.
"You're talking about a defense that's ranked in the top five," Babers said. "And then when you watch the D-linemen redirect and get after the football, these guys are running down screens, wide receiver screens, running back screens from behind, pressuring quarterbacks. It's fun to watch them play, but it's not fun to know that you've got to play them."
The last time Virginia Tech won in the Carrier Dome was 2000, when quarterback Michael Vick overcame eight sacks by an Orange defense led by Dwight Freeney in a 22-14 victory. >> Read more
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