Despite moving up to No. 2 in both major college football polls, Virginia Tech yesterday remained in third place in the Bowl Championship Series rankings that determine the participants in the national championship game.
Minnesota's upset of Penn State allowed the Hokies to move into second place in the USA Today/ESPN coaches poll and in the Associated Press media poll, but in the BCS rankings, defending national champion Tennessee--with one loss--leapfrogged the undefeated Hokies into second place behind top-ranked Florida State.
The two highest-rated teams in the BCS will meet in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans on Jan. 4 to decide the national championship.
Tennessee (7-1) jumped from fifth to second despite its early-season loss to Florida and its third-place ranking in both national polls because of a stronger schedule than the Hokies and its 24-point victory over Notre Dame on Saturday. The Hokies' schedule ranks 60th out of 114 Division I-A football programs; the Seminoles' and Volunteers' schedules rank 16th and ninth, respectively.
Virginia Tech struggled to a two-point victory on the road against West Virginia last Saturday, which dropped the Hokies' computer average, one of the components in the BCS rankings. The computer average is calculated using eight computer polls from around the country.
"Well, I said all along, I think you play your games and the two best teams will play at the end," said Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer, who has refused all season to talk about more than his team's upcoming opponent. "And I think that's exactly what we need to do right now: just keep playing."
With three or four games still remaining on each team's schedule, the rankings likely will change more than once as the season unfolds. It appeared last season that several teams would finish the season undefeated, but Kansas State and UCLA lost their final games of the regular season, ensuring a Tennessee-Florida State matchup in the title game.
No. 19 Miami, which Virginia Tech will host at 7:30 p.m. Saturday on ESPN, was the team that knocked UCLA from the unbeaten ranks last season. The Hurricanes (5-3) have knocked 11 teams out of the national championship race since 1983.
"We've got a big, big ballgame here against Miami this week, and, you know, we're going to have to prepare like heck and make a very focused preparation to have a chance to win that football game," Beamer said. "So that's what I'm going to concern myself with right now."