- The Washington Times - Friday, November 4, 2005

Don’t believe the hype: The Hokies still have BCS hope.

No. 3 Virginia Tech can take the first step toward surpassing Texas in the BCS standings with a victory tomorrow night over fifth-ranked Miami.

It’s been very fashionable of late for college football’s talking heads to assume that the Hokies (8-0, 5-0 ACC) are in a no-win position of futility with respect to the BCS standings and the national title-game chase. It seems like every person with a microphone or a laptop has spent the last several weeks propagating the rumor that if USC, Texas and Virginia Tech all win out, this season’s BCS behemoth (Rose Bowl, Jan. 4) will feature the Trojans and Longhorns.

Most folks simply look at the current BCS standings, which have the Hokies ranked third, and assume Virginia Tech is on the verge of getting Auburned by the system.

Well, it’s time to cue up the old world-play cliche about assumptions, because the computer gurus think the Hokies have just as good of a shot at partying in Pasadena as the ‘Horns.

“If Florida State wins out and then loses to Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship (Dec. 3 in Jacksonville), then it’s actually quite likely that Virginia Tech would pass Texas in the computer rankings,” Kenneth Massey said earlier this week.

Massey, a mathematics professor at Carson-Newman, supplies one of the six computer rankings that make up a third of the BCS formula.

“Now, the polls and overall BCS standings are more difficult to predict, that’s a different story,” he said. “But assuming all three of the teams win out and Tech beats a one-loss FSU team in Jacksonville, I think Virginia Tech will finish ahead of Texas in the computer portion of the BCS formula. Then things get really interesting, because you’re talking about a handful of votes in the polls making all the difference in a final margin likely to come down to a few percentage points between Nos. 2 and 3 in the overall BCS standings.”

As irony would have it, Massey is both a Virginia Tech graduate and an ardent fan who likes to joke that his allegiance to the Hokies began in the womb when his father and pregnant mother attended a Virginia Tech-Florida State game at Lane Stadium in 1975. While Massey’s bias in no way impacts his computer ratings, one might think it could color his projection of where those computer rankings are headed.

But the only other computer-rating supplier who responded to inquiries by The Times this week, Richard Billingsley of the Billingsley Report, agreed with Massey.

“It’s far too premature to assume USC and Texas are going to end up in the Rose Bowl, because November is going to show us two programs moving in opposite directions in terms of strength of schedule,” said Billingsley, a stress-management consultant whose computer rankings have been used in the BCS formula since 1999. “Texas’ remaining schedule is as weak as Virginia Tech’s is strong, so I think you could see a total flip in the computers if both teams win out.”

Tech needs Virginia and Florida State to finish strong, while Texas needs Colorado to keep winning, so it can face a top-25 opponent in the Big 12 title game.

“Virginia Tech could easily finish with games against two top-10 teams [Miami and Florida State] and a ranked Virginia team, while Texas could easily finish with four unranked opponents,” Billingsley said. “Honestly, I think we’re going to see a major narrowing in both the computer polls and the overall BCS standings if Virginia Tech beats Miami this weekend.”

Virginia Tech’s four remaining opponents (No. 5 Miami, Virginia, North Carolina and likely No. 9 Florida State in the ACC Championship), have a combined record of 20-9. Texas’ final four opponents (Baylor, Kansas, Texas A&M; and presumably Colorado in the Big 12 Championship) have a record of 19-13. And the Buffaloes face three more 5-3 hurdles (Missouri, at Iowa and Nebraska) en route to a possible Big 12 title game appearance.

And though the computer rankings only make up one third of the overall BCS standings, don’t think that Tech’s considerably stronger remaining schedule won’t influence the pollsters that account for the other two-thirds. After all, it would be hard to overlook the fact that Texas’ strongest remaining opponent, Colorado (6-2), was blasted 23-3 on Sept. 24 by the same Miami team (6-1, 3-1) Tech plays tomorrow.

“What irks me the most about the assumption that it’s going to be USC and Texas [in the Rose Bowl] is the fact that such talk does affect voters,” said Billingsley, who despite his association with the BCS is a proponent of the Plus-One playoff format. “You also get the unsettling sense that some of the USC-Texas talk is generated by commercial preference.

“I understand that a game featuring Matt Leinart and Vince Young [the Heisman-contending quarterbacks from USC and Texas] and two traditional powers like USC and Texas might be sexier from a marketing standpoint. But the only consideration for anybody involved with or discussing the BCS should be indentifying the two best teams.”

The Hokies, who have won seven of their last 10 meetings with Miami, have the chance to present Exhibit A in their argument tomorrow night in Blacksburg.



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