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Travon McMillian, Virginia Tech’s leading rusher, leaving Hokies as graduate transfer

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This one might raise an eyebrow or two.

Earlier this week, rumors began circulating that Travon McMillian was considering a transfer from Virginia Tech.  Friday afternoon, the speculation came to fruition as the running back announced that, after talking with his parents, he has decided to transfer from the Hokies.

McMillian will be leaving Tech as a graduate transfer.

McMillian led the Hokies in rushing this season with 439 yards.  However, 2017 continued a trend in which his production decreased every year, going from 1.042 yards as a redshirt freshman to 671 last season.  He finishes his Tech career with 16 rushing touchdowns, as well as 35 catches and another seven touchdowns through the air.

A four-star member of Tech’s 2014 recruiting class, McMillian rated as the No. 8 dual-purpose back in the country.

No. 2 Clemson stays perfect, gets by big ACC road test at No. 12 Virginia Tech

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Clemson and Virginia Tech played a fun, back-and-forth ACC title game last season that send both off to big postseason wins. While there were a lot of new faces on the field for their rematch on Saturday night, there wasn’t much of a back-and-forth between the two top 15 teams this time around.

As a result, Clemson looked every bit of a national title contender once again in passing their biggest road test of the young season to beat the Hokies 31-17 in a game that the Tigers controlled throughout.

Quarterback Kelly Bryant started off hot in the passing game before cooling down in just his second road start, eventually throwing for 186 yards and a touchdown. Where he really made an impact though was with his legs, weaving through Bud Foster’s defense to record 109 yards rushing. His budding stars in the backfield, sophomore Tavien Feaster and freshman Travis Etienne, were limited to fewer than 60 yards combined however as things were tough going outside of scrambles.

While the offense’s effort was notable, the story of the night was once again Clemson’s defense. They didn’t let Tech cross midfield until late in the first half  and were swarming on nearly every play, recording eight tackles for loss and two sacks. Even when the Hokies looked like the could put points on the board, Brent Venables’ unit stuffed out a fake field goal in the third quarter and pulled down two interceptions (one of the pick-six variety) in the fourth to put an exclamation point on the victory.

Things were not all bad for Virginia Tech despite the rather lopsided final score. Young QB Josh Jackson topped the 250 mark passing (with a touchdown) and used his ability to take off and run to avoid dozens of sacks that seemed like he could have had on every one of his 44 dropbacks. Tailback Travon McMillian did break off a big 29 yard run in the first half but was otherwise kept in check with 30 yards and the nation’s leading receiver, Cam Phillips, was held to just 74 yards. For a very young team that remains in the running to win the division, it wasn’t a night they were hoping for but could be a solid building block against one of the nation’s best despite the loss.

Given Alabama’s dominance in the SEC so far in 2017 and what Clemson has shown so far in early ACC play, one still gets the feeling that no matter what happens with teams over the next few weeks that we’re headed for a rubber-match rematch between the two superpowers and everybody else could just be playing out the string until then.

Banged up North Carolina down three starters after trio of season-ending injuries

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North Carolina’s injury situation has gone from bad to worse in the blink of an eye this week.

The school confirmed via their weekly injury report on Thursday night that three starters were lost for the rest of the season as linebacker Andre Smith, offensive lineman William Sweet and receiver Thomas Jackson all won’t return to action. The trio, who were not listed with a specific injury, were part of a whopping 19 players who were banged up on the report.

Smith did not play in last week’s game for the Tar Heels but it appears both Sweet and Jackson went down against Old Dominion and did not return.

“It is what it is. It’s the same old thing: The next guy has to get up, and the next guy has to play,” head coach Larry Fedora said earlier in the week. “You hope you can build some type of continuity at some point.”

The three starters join a lengthy injury list for the Tar Heels that is now up to nearly a 1/10th of the roster — nine names long — out for the year.

Defensive lineman Jalen Dalton was also ruled doubtful for UNC’s game against triangle rival Duke on Saturday, along with cornerback Corey Bell. offensive lineman Cam Dillard and Bentley Spain, as well as wideout Dazz Newsome, were all listed as questionable.

Shai McKenzie details restrictions Virginia Tech placed on transfer

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Right or wrong, but unsurprisingly, Shai McKenzie‘s departure from Blacksburg comes with some strings attached.

Nearly two weeks ago, McKenzie took to Twitter to announce his decision to transfer from Virginia Tech and continue his collegiate playing career elsewhere.  On the same social media site Monday, the running back revealed that his future elsewhere won’t include any ACC schools as well as none of the teams on the Hokies’ 2017 and 2018 non-conference schedules.

The latter group includes Notre Dame, West Virginia, East Carolina, Old Dominion, Delaware and William & Mary.

A four-star 2014 recruit, only one signee was rated higher than McKenzie in Tech’s class that year.

The Pennsylvania native’s career actually began with promise as he was second on the team in rushing as a true freshman when he went down with a torn ACL in the fifth game of the season.  At that time, McKenzie had 269 yards on the ground; in the two years since, he ran for a combined 126 yards.  His 2015 season was limited to two games because of the lingering effects of the ACL injury.

Ew, Pig Sooie! Virginia Tech scores 35-unanswered points to win Belk Bowl, 35-24

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For one half of football, it appeared as though Arkansas (7-6) could do no wrong in the Belk Bowl against No. 22 Virginia Tech (10-4), but the Hokies roared back from a 24-0 halftime deficit with 35 unanswered points in the second half to capture a wild bowl victory. It may be a tad cliché, but this truly was a tale of two halves that showed why football games are 60 minutes long.

Bud Foster coached up his defense to tighten things up in the second half, and they responded with flying colors. The Hokies sacked Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen six times in the second half, with Mook Reynolds notching two. Reynolds and Tremaine Edmunds each recorded an interception as well to help turn the game around in Virginia Tech’s favorite. With the defense doing its part to prevent Arkansas from scoring again after taking a short-lived, yet commanding 24-0 lead, the Hokies offense had to do their part as well. And oh boy did they.

The Hokies scored five touchdowns in the second half, starting early in the second half after the defense forced an Arkansas turnover on the third play of the half. Jerod Evans completed 21-of-33 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns and he led the Hokies on the ground with 87 rushing yards and two more touchdowns. Travon McMillian had 34 key yards as well, including a six-yard scoring run one play after rumbling 21 yards for a big gain. McMillian’s touchdown run was likely the final nail in the coffin for the Razorbacks, who went from being down four points to down 11. Arkansas went three-and-out on their next drive and fumbled the football away on their next offensive series after that.

The play of the game may have been a one-handed touchdown snag by Sam Rogers to help cut the Razorbacks’ lead to 10 points.

The comeback from Virginia Tech goes down as the third-largest comeback in a bowl game over the last 10 seasons. Last year’s Alamo Bowl saw TCU dig its way out of a 31-point deficit against Oregon. Texas Tech also played its way back form a 31-point deficit in the 2006 Insight Bowl against Minnesota, going from trailing 38-7 to winning 44-41 in overtime.

The ACC’s impressive bowl season continues

With Virginia Tech’s victory over the Razorbacks, the ACC improved to 5-1 in the bowl season. No other conference has won more than four games so far in the bowl season. The ACC’s lone bowl loss so far was suffered by Pitt in the Pinstripe Bowl (the Panthers lost to Northwestern of the Big Ten). The ACC has winning records against the SEC (2-0) and Big 12 (1-0), is even with the Big Ten (1-1) and owns a victory over the AAC champion (Wake Forest beat Temple in the Military Bowl). The ACC is close to clinching a winning record this postseason with six postseason games to go (seven if Clemson advances to the College Football Playoff National Championship Game).

The SEC drops to 1-4 this bowl season after South Carolina and Arkansas each lost today. The SEC still has a very good chance to see Alabama win a national championship and there are still six additional games to be played to turn things around this bowl season, but this is a bit of a sloppy start to the bowl season for the SEC.

Looking ahead

So, where do we go from here? At Virginia Tech, the Hokies will go into the offseason very positive about the future of the program under the leadership of Justin Fuente. In Fuente’s first season on the job, Virginia Tech won 10 games to capture the ACC Coastal Division and gave Clemson a good battle in the ACC Championship Game, and it all ends with a victory over an SEC school in a bowl game. The 2017 season will commence in Landover, Maryland against former Big East rival West Virginia from the Big 12 on September 2, 2017. The Hokies will play an ACC schedule that includes a home game against Clemson in addition to North Carolina and Pittsburgh and road games against Miami and Georgia Tech. The Hokies should be one of the teams to watch in the ACC once again in 2017 as Fuente’s offense continues to come together in year two.

Arkansas will go back to the drawing board and contemplate just how this season went so up-and-down and ended the way it did. The Razorbacks will still be a team worth paying close attention to and not take for granted in 2017, and if they can find any positive consistency next fall they should be at least a mnild factor in how the SEC West plays out. They won’t be likely to de-throne Alabama, of course, but they can mess with teams like LSU, Texas A&M, and Auburn. Of course, Arkansas will only play Auburn at home, while Alabama and LSU will be played on the road and Texas A&M will be played in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Arkansas begisn the 2017 season at home against Florida A&M on September 2, 2017 in Little Rock, and the Razorbacks host TCU of the Big 12 on September 9, 2017 in Fayetteville.