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A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.

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The Drawback to an Easy Slate

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, it’s 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?

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  1. DMK says:

    Tech would go. Pretty easily, I think.

  2. Paul,

    A similar scenario to this did kinda play out in 2007, albeit the resumes weren’t that sweet. At the end of the year, Ohio State was 11-1 and had played four ranked teams all season (none higher than No. 19). The computers actually had Va. Tech w/ two losses ahead of OSU in the final BCS standings, but the voters went w/ Ohio State at No. 1. That pushed Va. Tech into the national championship against LSU.


  3. rb says:

    Yeah have to agree with DMK, no chance it’s not Tech in this scenario… in the SEC’s run, I don’t think a non-SEC champ has made the BCS title game. If we subbed in an undefeated Boise St for Va. Tech in this exact analogy, I’d be much more interested in Paul’s and other’s answers.

  4. michael says:

    What about Boise State?

  5. schedule nit says:

    So, undefeated #6 beats 11-1 #5? Well, they’d easily jump over at least a couple of the other 1 loss teams in the polls, and the BCS weighting of no losses should put them in the top two, as DMK said, pretty easily. Where it would get interesting is if there were other undefeateds ahead of the before the ACCCG.

  6. Andrew says:

    Watch for the Pac-12 to slide in right behind the SEC as far as schedule crazyness.

    Not only are the teams in the Pac-12 getting deeper, but the Pac-12 requires 9 conference games, where the SEC requires 8.

    Now, I’m not silly enough to say that the SEC isnt dominating CFB. 5 consecutive titles from 4 different teams? There is no arguing that. But the idea that the Pac-12 is an “Easy Slate” will change and change soon.

  7. Dontel says:

    A one loss SEC team (Bama) would get in over Tech in this scenario. We have seen a conference runner-up play for the national title before (Nebraska) and it would happen again in this scenario. The computers, voters, SOS will have Bama ahead of VA Tech. But if. like you said in your scenario, South Carolina does beat Bama in the SEC title game, hopefully my Gamecocks will be playing the Sooners for the title.

  8. Dave says:

    If a 1-loss BCS team ever beats out an undefeated BCS team for a spot in the championship they might as well not even play the games anymore – just award the title to the team with the toughest schedule at the beginning of the year and chalk up any subsequent losses to “flukes” or “disinterest” or “post-big game letdowns” or whatever other excuse gets thrown out there whenever a top team gets upset.

    That said, if the above scenario transpires, Va. Tech will have nobody to blame but themselves. An FCS team? A Sun Belt team? Come on – even UF scheduled ONE marquee OOC game!

  9. Gotham Gator says:

    Under Paul’s scenario, Va Tech should get the bid over both the 1-loss SEC teams. But, if there is a 1-loss SEC Champion, I think that team gets in ahead of the Hokies. Strength of schedule matters.

  10. gtwrek says:

    It won’t be a suprise to me if GT wins this year. Foster has yet to stop a GT offense. It’s typically a high scoring, close game as neither side can stop the other. I honestly think Tech wins it at home this year. With VT, UGA, and Clemson all at home, this could be a great year.

  11. gtwrek says:

    Last year, your number 8 and 26 teams played for the title.

    If that happens this year, It would be VT vs. UGA. Yikes.

    Although with their schedule, if OU gets past FSU, it’s hard to see them getting tripped up. And FSU is probably a bit overrated as has been the case since 2000… FSU is a powerful brand name.

  12. Hokieshibe says:

    I think the key to this scenario is that niether oif the SEC teams that were 1-loss would be SEC champs. It’s not reasonable to have a team playing for the national championship if they aren’t even conference champions… If a 1-loss LSU (whos only loss was a respectable one to let’s say, Bama) wins the SEC, they would almost certainly push VT out. But I can’t see them edging an undefeated team without winning the conference.

  13. BobJ says:

    Not to worry. The Bob Rankings account for all of this. Just leave it to me.

  14. Dave says:

    @ rb (“If we subbed in an undefeated Boise St for Va. Tech in this exact analogy, I’d be much more interested in Paul’s and other’s answers.”)

    I think that particular can of worms will be opened in the forthcoming Boisie posting. But at the risk of jumping the gun, for me, the success of teams like Boisie, Utah, and TCU over the past decade in BCS games over teams from AQ conferences makes this a no- brainer – Boisie gets the nod in this scenario. Of course, there are those who are willing to overlook any number of losses so long as their team is a member of the traditional college football elite, plays a tough schedule, and is stocked with plenty of 5-star recruits. By this logic, of course, there’s no need to actually play the games, but what can you do.

  15. vaudvillain says:

    One thing that hasn’t been mentioned yet is what the wins and losses actually look like. If VTech looks dominant all the way through, while the SEC teams mentioned looked bad in their sole losses, then VTech has a much better shot getting in. Humans and computers do both consider the score of a game, after all, when sorting out rankings. If VTech wins everything but looks ordinary doing so, while the SEC teams both lose nailbiters (last-minute field goals, overtime games, fluky issues with the clock, that sort of thing), then I see the 1-loss SEC team going (even if that team isn’t a conference champion). As Dontel pointed out, we’ve seen a team that wasn’t even a conference champion play for the title before. It’s unlikely, but it could happen.

  16. George says:

    Suppose Tech faces and beats a 12-0 Florida State — who, in this scenario would have beaten Oklahoma. I think that definitely would put Tech in the title game.

  17. Colin says:

    Computers, I believe, aren’t allowed to consider the scoring margin. At least, not those computers used in the BCS rankings.

  18. vaudvillain says:

    I’m pretty sure that the BCS computers do consider the scoring margin, but that they only do so to a limited degree…once you win by a certain amount (according to the computers), piling on extra points won’t do anything. But while I think the computers don’t care about the difference between a 40-point win and a 20-point win, I think they do care about the difference between a 20-point win and a 1-point win. It would seem kind of silly to have a computer model with no differentiation whatsoever indicating the quality of the win.

    Of course, just because I think it doesn’t make it true. Colin could be right. Any experts on the matter to help us out?

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