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Go ahead: Crown 'em

There's no use. The more we buzz-killers attempt to muffle the hype swirling around Virginia Tech's football team, the more wide-eyed optimists ratchet up the volume.

So consider the following a white flag, our when-in-Rome-drink-the-Chianti moment.

Another Coastal Division title for the Hokies? Slam dunk.

A fourth ACC championship in six years and third straight? Book it.

An undefeated regular season? Nick Saban plays checkers, Frank Beamer chess.

Then it's off to the national title game in Pasadena, Calif., where Bud Foster will be chillin' with Johnny Depp, Tyrod Taylor chatting with Tyra Banks, and the Daily Press sports staff dining at Spago.

Go ahead and scoff.

Remind us that Tech is untested at linebacker and kicker, unproven at receiver and along the offensive line. Point out that the Hokies dropped four games a year ago and were fortunate to prevail at North Carolina and, believe it or not, at home against Duke.

Also cite a non-conference schedule that includes Nebraska, East Carolina and the Sept. 5 opener in Atlanta against Saban's Alabama Crimson Tide. It's arguably the nation's most difficult.

None of this dissuades true believers. We see a defense — end Jason Worilds is poised to emerge as a fierce pass rusher — that should be its typically stingy self and an offense brimming with playmakers at running back, receiver, quarterback and tight end.

Special teams? Beamer always seems to unearth a former walk-on kicker who's money from 45 yards and in.

The most recent Hokies hosannas rang from this week's ACC preseason shindig.

"I think we'll be awesome," Tech safety Kam Chancellor told reporters, who then jumped aboard the bandwagon en masse.

We confess to joining the majority that picked the Hokies to win the league, but the margin was startling. Of the 87 voters, 69 tabbed Tech. Florida State and Georgia Tech were next with seven each.

Ahmadinejad would kill for those numbers. (Some say he does.)

"You're going by history when you pick them," Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said of the Hokies.

Bowden is familiar with the role. His Seminoles led the ACC preseason poll 14 consecutive years from 1992-2005, a span in which they won or shared 12 titles.

But after Virginia Tech arrived in 2004, the balance of power shifted north. The Hokies ruled the conference during their first season and have since appeared in three of the league's four championship games.

Virginia Tech closed last season with four consecutive victories. The Hokies defeated Boston College for the ACC title, and their Orange Bowl conquest of Cincinnati ended the conference's nine-year Bowl Championship Series losing streak.

Still, why not more love this preseason for Georgia Tech? The Yellow Jackets tied the Hokies atop the Coastal Division last season and return 17 starters, among them the ACC player of the year, running back Jonathan Dwyer.

Or Florida State? The Seminoles whipped Wisconsin in the Champs Sports Bowl last year, defeated Virginia Tech during the regular season and seem stacked on offense.

Nope, it's a Hokies world and we're just along for the ride. Not even Beamer, who by game week will be calling Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy a Joe Namath-Ken Stabler cross, could contain his enthusiasm.

Like any good evangelist, Beamer began slowly, warming up the congregation. He called the preseason chatter "legit" and pronounced himself "excited."

"Last year I thought there was a lot of us in the ACC that were about the same," Beamer continued, "and I think every team in the ACC is going to be better. … We were just fortunate in the end to play well in the ACC championship game and the Orange Bowl. …

"I think we're a step closer to affecting the national level. Last year I didn't think we had a great team in the ACC. We had a lot of good teams. I think we're all stepping it up a notch, and so I think we're getting closer to affecting the national stage. Whichever one comes out of the ACC. But we've got a lot of competition there."

By session's close, Beamer was rolling.

"I do like this football team," he said, emphasizing the second word. "I like their character as a group. I like the way they respect other people. I like the way you like being around them. I like their work habits. So there's a lot of things there that I think point toward good chemistry for this football team."

Chemistry + talent = Pasadena.

Poor Tim Tebow won't stand a chance.

Hokies' schedule Sept. 5: vs. Alabama, 8 p.m. ABC 8 13Sept. 12: vs. Marshall, 1:30 p.m.Sept. 19: vs. Nebraska, 3:30 p.m., ABCSept. 26: vs. MiamiOct. 3: at DukeOct. 10: vs. Boston CollegeOct. 17: at Georgia TechOct. 29: vs. North Carolina, 7:30 p.m., ESPNNov. 5: at East Carolina, 7:30 p.m., ESPNNov. 14: at MarylandNov. 21: vs. N.C. StateNov. 28: at VirginiaOn Page 5 • Preseason All-ACC team.
David Teel can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at dteel@dailypress.com. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/teeltime.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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