Friday, October 19, 2007

Virginia Tech and the BCS

As of today, Friday, Virginia Tech is #11 in the BCS. Of course, with USF's loss to unranked Rutgers last night that's likely to change soon, but here's the current top 15:
1. Ohio State (7-0), Big 10
2. South Florida (6-1), Big East
3. Boston College (7-0), ACC Atlantic
4. LSU (6-1), SEC West
5. Oklahoma (6-1), Big 12 South
6. South Carolina (6-1), SEC South
7. Kentucky (6-1), SEC South

8. Arizona State (7-0), Pac 10
9. West Virginia (5-1), Big East
10. Oregon (5-1), Pac 10
11. Virginia Tech (6-1), ACC Coastal
12. California (5-1), Pac 10
13. Kansas (6-0), Big 12 North
14. USC (5-1), Pac 10
15. Florida (4-2), SEC East

Keep in mind that the only team I really care about here is Virginia Tech, which means I'm concerned with who we need to pass and who could conceivably pass us. I'm also assuming that Tech runs the table, which would be hard but not impossible in a year full of ACC parity.

While a two-loss Florida would be hard to put over Tech, especially if they don't win their conference, Cal, Kansas, and USC could do so by winning theirs. In particular, it'd be really hard to justify putting us ahead of an undefeated Kansas.

The good news is that many of the teams above us have to play each other. Assuming Tech goes 12-1 and there's no more carnage than necessary above us in the polls, I would see us ending up at #6. Obviously USF is gone, which would move us to #10. Beating Boston College (perhaps twice...) would make it #9. Oregon and Arizona State play each other, meaning we'd move up one more to #8. Among LSU, South Carolina, and Kentucky only one can win the championship, meaning that two of these teams would likely drop below us, vaulting us two places to #6.

This leaves (probably) Ohio State, LSU, Oklahoma, West Virginia, and either Arizona State or Oregon, plus any of the four behind us that might make a run. However, we can essentially discount these last few as they are in the same conferences as the teams before us. If one of them gets in, one of the top five pretty much has to go.

So how do these remaining teams look? Ohio State has to play five 5-2 teams to close their season, including Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Illinois. If they can survive that then they obviously deserve to be #1; even with a close loss to a good team they may still have a chance at the championship game. LSU has survived the hardest part of their schedule, although they'll likely play either Kentucky or South Carolina. Two losses and they're out; undefeated from now on probably gets them #2. Certainly, they have a tiebreaker against us if the records are even. Oklahoma beat Texas, but they've still got Texas Tech, in-state rival OK State, and a champion from the surprisingly strong Big 12 North to deal with. If they make it through, I still think LSU has a better loss against UK than OK's loss to Colorado. If Kansas and Oklahoma each suffer one more loss, though, I think the Big 12 is out of the picture for the Big Dance.

West Virginia might pull it out, but they've got to play away games at both Rutgers and Cincinnati (yeah, it feels weird to write that). Even if they win the Big East, I suspect a 12-1 ACC Champion Virginia Tech would jump over an 11-1 Big East Champion West Virginia. Maybe not, but probably. WVU is also the Big East's only major contender now that USF has fallen. That leaves us with the Oregon/ASU/USC/Cal conundrum. ASU and USC still have to play the other three, while Cal beat Oregon before themselves losing to Oregon State. An undefeated ASU or one-loss Pac 10 Champion of the other three should be higher ranked than Tech, but significant carnage is probably headed our way on that front.

As for the Hokies, we still have some challenges. We host BC next Thursday night and travel to Georgia Tech one week later. We host weaker-than-usual iterations of Miami and Florida State before traveling to unsteady UVA for our season closer. If we win out, we almost certainly re-face Boston College in the ACC Championship, barring a complete meltdown on their part (Clemson and Maryland being the only teams with any hope of unseating them).

The good news is that, given the ACC's weakness, we can probably still win the Coastal division even if we lose to BC this week so long as we can beat UVA. A BCS bowl is attainable, and even the national championship game isn't completely off-limits yet. If there's as much carnage in the next few weeks as there has been already, anything is possible.

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