After devoting a post yesterday to Oregon’s slim chances at earning a national title game bid despite one regular season loss, it’s probably important to note that Virginia Tech faces the same dilemma, likely more so. For while Oregon’s schedule lacks SEC luster, the Ducks will travel to Stanford to take on a very good Cardinal team, and may end up facing one or two additional ranked teams — maybe U.S.C., maybe Arizona State — when all is said and done. The Hokies won’t, if most projections hold, which makes their regular season all the more vital. Even more so than the Ducks, the Hokies need some help.
In a strange turn of events, Virginia Tech will be rooting for the rest of the A.C.C. to run the table. Well, if not run the table, at least exceed expectations. For Miami (Fla.), for instance, the Hokies hope the number of off-field distractions don’t bury a team talented enough to earn a national ranking. Likewise with North Carolina, to a slightly lesser degree.
Same old, same old. Tech always roots for the rest of the A.C.C. to win, just not when they meet on Saturday. Oregon does the same with the rest of the Pac-12. The difference? Tech’s road to 12-0 is far easier, seeing that it lacks L.S.U. and Stanford — this schedule is closer to starring Louisiana Tech and San Jose State, though that’s a bit of a stretch.
Who’s going to test the Hokies? Miami, maybe. But the Hurricanes are under a tremendous off-field cloud, and the off-field mess could affect the on-field product should a number of suspensions remain in place indefinitely. Clemson could be a surprise, though I’m thinking the Tigers are going to be far more dangerous in November, once the offense clicks, than they’ll be in early October, when the two teams meet.
Boston College? The Eagles are a mess, thanks mainly to injuries. Virginia? That team continues to get better under Mike London, but this won’t be the year. Georgia Tech stands out as a team that could surprise, and the Yellow Jackets get the Hokies in Atlanta.
Simply, its a schedule tailor-made for a team with national title hopes. It’s one that lays out the red carpet for 12-0, should the Hokies play up to expectations. And it’s one that a team that opens the year in the top five could ride all the way to the B.C.S. National Championship Game.
And there’s the problem for Virginia Tech. The Hokies open the year ranked No. 13 in The A.P. Poll, which while not too far outside the national title picture leaves the Hokies outside looking in as we head into September. And while wins matter most of all, the Hokies aren’t going to impress with its strength of schedule.
What could happen is that the Hokies go undefeated in the regular season and head into the A.C.C. title game ranked, say, sixth in the country. For this argument, let’s say Tech is behind 12-0 Alabama, 12-0 Oklahoma, 11-1 L.S.U., 11-1 Stanford and 11-1 Florida State. Let’s say Alabama loses to South Carolina in the SEC championship, dropping to 12-1; Oklahoma remains 12-0, thanks to the Big 12’s lack of a conference title game; and Stanford loses to Utah.
Now, let’s say Tech upends F.S.U. to stand at 13-0. So Tech’s 13-0, Oklahoma’s 12-0, Alabama’s 12-1 and L.S.U. is 11-1 — and Alabama handed L.S.U. its lone defeat. That’s your top four. What’s the final two? Oklahoma is definitely one. Who’s joining the Sooners?
Oh, wait for the arguments for this should it come to pass. Alabama will say it deserves a spot, having rolled through the SEC regular season unscathed. L.S.U. will say it warrants a spot thanks to a strong finish and only one loss, to the Crimson Tide. Tech’s there, undefeated, but everyone’s going to point out how easy the road was to get to 13-0.
So what’s it going to be? A one-loss SEC team or an undefeated Tech team with only one top-notch win?