2 0 1 8 SEASON I N R E V I E W :
THE B E S T O F T H E B E S T
By Tom Nondorf
In these pages, we look back at each week of the 2018 college football season in real time,
which is to say, we wrote a recap of each week’s top performance a day or two after it happened
and didn’t go back and change any of our choices as the season unfolded. Thus, you get some
interesting takes on games that seemed important at the time but whose luster diminished
somewhat over the course of the season. So be it! It is a snapshot of some of the most intriguing
plays and players over the course of this season. And frankly, we didn’t do too badly.
Every team who had a player as our choice for the notable player of the week ended up playing
in a bowl game—except for one, Colorado, whose win over Nebraska, led by Laviska Shenault Jr.,
was, though exciting, not in retrospect what one would call a heavyweight bout.
In Week 4, we briefly mention Old Dominion’s shocking win over Virginia Tech, and that
became less shocking as the Hokies’ mediocre season unfolded. Yet on the final day of the season,
Virginia Tech defeated Marshall in an added replacement game that earned them a 6-6 record and
a continuation of their 26-year streak of playing in bowl games. A week prior, Tech had to upset
Virginia in their rivalry game just to get their fifth win, then the blowout of the Thundering Herd
turned mediocrity into magic and a Military Bowl bid for the Hokies.
I’m old enough and weird enough to actually remember the first bowl game in the Virginia
Tech streak, back in 1993. I was a big Indiana fan and they were matched up in the Independence
Bowl against Frank Beamer’s squad. I remember thinking the then-bowl-regular Hoosiers would
wreck Tech, who had barely any bowl history. In fact, Virginia Tech dominated the game, and
within the decade would be playing in the BCS championship game, while Indiana has been to
three bowl games since. Whatever you’ve been doing for the last 26 football seasons, if you’ve
even been alive that long, Virginia Tech has been playing bowl-caliber football. This made me
think of all that goes into postseason preparation for all the schools in all the bowls, not just the
teams’ extra practices, but the preparation for things like the game programs you read such as
this one in your hands.
The first major bowl program I worked on as a then copy editor was the 2000 national
championship Sugar Bowl game between Virginia Tech and Florida State. A woman named
Anne Panella at Virginia Tech gathered and sent us all the materials we needed to publish the
program, which meant in those days, sending us zip disks of bios and hundreds of slides of player
mugshots, etc. How things change! But Anne Panella never changed; she was always there for us
every time the Hokies were in a game for which we handled the program, getting us everything
we needed with nary a complaint until she retired last year.
A lot goes into a season, a bowl game, a game program…And for every school in a bowl, from
Alabama to Eastern Michigan, here’s hoping all the little details, all the fan excitement, the pageantry,
and the games themselves add up to an experience as memorable as the 2018 football year.
Now on to the best of each week!