Though Virginia Tech had its most dominating win of the year over in-state rival Virginia on Saturday, the Hokies saw their slim national championship hopes end with the release of the latest Bowl Championship Series standings Sunday night.
The Hokies remained at No. 5 despite Arkansas’s loss to LSU on Friday as Stanford jumped from No. 6 to No. 4 in this week’s rankings. There’s also now a wide margin separating Stanford and Virginia Tech after the Cardinal’s win over Notre Dame this weekend.
The Hokies were No. 3 in this week’s coaches’ poll — one spot ahead of the Cardinal — and No. 4 in the Harris poll, which make up two-thirds of the BCS formula. But Virginia Tech was ranked No. 10 in the country according to the six computer models used by the BCS, and none had Virginia Tech rated higher than No. 8. One computer ranking — the Sagarin Ratings — has the Hokies as the No. 18 team in the country.
Even if Virginia Tech were ranked ahead of Stanford, its chances of making the BCS national championship would still be virtually nonexistent. No. 1 LSU is unlikely to drop below No. 2 in the BCS standings even if it loses to Georgia in next week’s SEC championship game and No. 2 Alabama is done with its regular season after beating Auburn in the Iron Bowl.
During a teleconference for the ACC championship game, Coach Frank Beamer said once again that he is a proponent of a plus-one model, which would create two national semifinal games followed by a matchup between the country’s two best teams. But he conceded that idea might also cause some controversy this year.
“You look at it and there’s some one-loss teams there that I think are really good,” Beamer said. “This might be one of those years where there’s more than four, but generally speaking I think there’s about four teams that have a chance to win a national championship.”
None of this BCS talk seems to bother the Hokies’ coaching staff, though. When told Sunday evening that the Cardinal had moved ahead of Virginia Tech in the rankings, both offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring and running backs coach Shane Beamer barely flinched, saying “We’re just trying to get ready for Clemson.”
The Hokies will face the Tigers in the ACC championship game Saturday in Charlotte. But even though Clemson beat the Hokies, 23-3, in Blacksburg on Oct. 1, some of the luster has been taken off this rematch.
Clemson’s loss to South Carolina on Saturday night was its third in four games and dropped the Tigers to No. 21 in this week’s Associated Press poll. In the past two contests, Clemson’s offensive line has allowed 11 sacks and it seems to have bothered quarterback Tajh Boyd.
Since the Tigers improved to 8-0 on Oct. 22, Boyd has thrown seven interceptions and just four touchdown passes. Compare that to the first eight games of the year when Boyd had 24 touchdowns and just three interceptions.
“I’m not naive enough to think that you’re going to have a first-year quarterback and it’s going to be all perfect for him. I tried the best I could to prepare him for that,” Clemson Coach Dabo Swinney said of Boyd. “At Clemson, when you have that kind of success, there’s a lot of ‘atta boys’ that come with it and all of a sudden then you start having not-so-good performances, and you get that added pressure, and when you’re a young player sometimes you don’t handle it quite like you need to.”
The Hokies, meanwhile, haven’t lost since that setback against the Tigers. But as Swinney pointed out several times Sunday, this championship game is a chance for Clemson to wipe its slate clean after a disappointing finish to the regular season.
The winner will head to the Orange Bowl and likely face the Big East champion (either West Virginia, Louisville or Cincinnati). The loser will likely head to the Chick-Fil-A Bowl in Atlanta to face an SEC foe (the top candidates are Auburn or Florida, but that could change depending on whether Georgia wins its conference title game).
“It’s kind of like a tale of two different stories right now,” Swinney said of his team. “Regardless of what’s happened, you play your whole season to kind of jockey for the best postseason opportunity you can have. We’ve both earned the right to be in this game, and like I say, it’s irrelevant what we’ve done, good or bad. You know it’s about this game Saturday night and trying to find a way to win it, and that’s what we’re going to try to do.”