For the eighth-consecutive year, Virginia Tech football will begin the regular season ranked in the USA Today coaches poll. But the voters don’t seem to be as optimistic about the Hokies as they have been in recent seasons.

Virginia Tech came in at No. 20 in the coaches poll released Thursday, its lowest preseason ranking since being unranked to start the 2004 season. Those Hokies, however, ended the year ranked No. 10 in the country and their only losses came against national champion Southern California to open the year and undefeated Auburn in the Sugar Bowl.

To start 2012, Virginia Tech was picked below both Florida State and defending conference champion Clemson, who were the only other ACC teams to earn a ranking. The Seminoles will begin the year ranked No. 7 and received one first-place vote. The Tigers are ranked No. 14.

Other ACC teams that received votes in the poll included Georgia Tech (35), North Carolina State (31) and Virginia (9). Cincinnati, whom the Hokies will face at FedEx Field on Sep. 29, received 32 votes.

LSU will start the year as the preseason No. 1 even though it received fewer first-place votes than both No. 2 Alabama and No. 3 Southern California. It’s the first time that has happened since the coaches poll began in 1991. Oklahoma and Oregon rounded out the top five.

For the record, Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer is one of the 59 coaches who vote in the USA Today coaches poll.