The preseason AP and coaches' polls are both out, and interestingly enough the top seven spots are identical, though if your clickin' finger is just too worn out from all the Alabama message board flaming (or porn) then I'll just repost those aforementioned seven spots here. If I get sued by the AP and/or coaches association, I'm holding you accountable.
6. Ohio State
7. Virginia by-God Tech
It should be mentioned here that these rankings were finalized prior to word getting out that Darren Evans would be watching the season from the rehab department at Montgomery Regional Hospital. Eventually this simple instance of timing might be viewed as the single biggest stroke of luck in the 2009 season...or completely forgotten. Who knows? But more on that later.
The obvious question on everyone's mind is how does VT get from #7 to the BCS National Championship Game in Pasadena? And here, devoted reader, is the simple, straightforward answer. Come with me as we progress on a fantastic voyage through the 2009 football season.
We begin with the Hokies ranked #7. Since the Hokies are the consensus preseason #7 pick, and because the Harris poll very closely mirrors the coaches' poll, we're going to assume that translates to a #7 ranking in the BCS poll, which won't be available until week 8. Our goal here is to watch VT rise in the rankings to the #2 spot.
Why #2 instead of #1? Primarily because that's good enough to get in, and as the old adage goes, it doesn't matter how you get into the postseason, it just matters that you get in. Also, for the purpose of this little exercise, we're going to assume that Florida is going to do something that has never been done and will have an undefeated season (God bless).
Now in case you haven't heard, we play Alabama in about a week and a half. So right off the bat, right out of the gate, right whatever other lame sports analogy you want to use, VT has the chance to climb one rung up the ladder. To say it's a must win in terms of getting to Pasadena is like saying we need Tyrod Taylor to stay healthy and become a better passer: a lobotomized chimpanzee could tell you as much. It's a hell of a way to start the season, sure, but no one else in 1A college football gets a chance to make a statement to the nation this early. Beamer, Taylor, et al., get the chance to set the tone for the 2009 season, and I'm talking about the NCAA season.
If you're reading this post after the Bama game and we lost, quit reading now. Seriously. It'll just depress you.
So after Bama VT sits at #6. Unless, of course, we dismantle the Tide, in which case we might jump OSU to #5. But we're going to be conservative here and assume a one spot jump.
The very next week - a week filled with empty shelves where Alka Seltzer boxes once sat in Blacksburg, I'm certain - the Trojans of USC (no condom jokes, please, we're a family site) hop a plane to Columbus, Ohio, to take on He of the Sweater Vest in the one game that is actually more over-hyped than VT/Bama. The significance, of course, is that both are ranked ahead of the Hokies, which means VT jumps another spot one week later, assuming the Hokie hangover has been cured with a little fried chicken and tomato juice (seriously, it works) by the time the Marshall Thundering Herd comes to Lane Stadium for the home opener.
So by Sunday, Sept. 13, Beamer could be at the helm of a top-5 team. But wait, there's more. On October 17 VT can sail the Red River Rivalry to the #4 spot by virtue of a loss by either Texas or Oklahoma. A 7-0 start would practically guarantee the Hokies to move up a minimum of three spots in the rankings. So when the initial BCS rankings of the 2009 season debut after week 8, which is a bye week for Tech, the Hokies should be sitting at #4 and well within striking distance.
From here it gets a little tricky. There are no more matchups between two teams ranked higher than the Hokies, which means we have to examine each team's schedule for potential losses. And hey, I've got the time.
Texas, assuming they beat Oklahoma, play two other ranked teams in Oklahoma State(9) and Kansas(25). There are also potential trip-ups against Texas Tech and Colorado, the quasi-cultish rivalry game against Texas A&M, and the Big XII championship game, which could very likely wind up being against Nebraska.
Oklahoma beating Texas, meanwhile, would still leave the Sooners with four ranked opponents in BYU(20), Kansas(25), Nebraska(24), and Oklahoma State(9). They, too, could potentially sleep on Texas Tech, and would also face a test in the Big XII championship.
USC getting past Ohio State would mean the Trojans still have to deal with Cal(12), Notre Dame(23...seriously??? has anyone seen them play the last two years???) and Oregon(16).
Ohio State surviving the Trojans leaves the Buckeyes with Penn State(9) and Iowa(22) waiting in the wings, the always pesky Wisconsin Badgers, and the last-time-before-Turkey Day, mother of all college football rivalries with Michigan. Of course, it doesn't help the Hokies much that the Wolverines are probably gonna suck like a Kirby this year.
As you can see, there's plenty of potential slips for all the teams standing in the Hokies' way. However, assuming the nightmare scenario of multiple unbeaten teams, the one thing that distinguishes the '09 Hokies from the '99 Hokies is strength of schedule. VT plays four top-25 teams, two top-15 teams, and one top-5 team. Of the 8 unranked teams on the schedule, four of them received votes in the AP poll. There are no 1AA teams on the schedule, and of the two mid-majors scheduled for non-conference games only one of them sucks. In short, VT's schedule stacks up with just about anybody's.
All of this, and still essentially all talk of Virginia Tech as a national championship contender has fallen as silent as Lane Stadium when Darren Evans' knee went pop. No one thinks the Hokies can do it without their leading rusher from '08, which is understandable except when you consider that by the defense's own admission Evans wasn't even the best back on the team last season. Of course there's a lot riding on Ryan Williams, David Wilson, and, to a lesser extent, Josh Oglesby and Tony Gregory this season. The offense lost a lot when Evans went down, but if there was a position at which VT could afford a loss it was unquestionably the backfield. Hokie fans know this. That's why when I asked if we were screwed, 64% of you said no.
And now, returning to that timing issue I spoke of previously, it is no small good fortune that the rankings were finalized before Evans was lost, because VT would undoubtedly be ranked lower had the voters had knowledge of Evans' injury. As it stands now, the #7 ranking is a bit of an afterthought. It has an asterisk by it, if you will. It's where VT is ranked, but as far as anyone in the know in college football in concerned it's unearned. No one expects the Hokies to live up to it. Which would make it all the more impressive if they do. Because this is Virginia Tech, the team where a freshman broke a rushing record but the quarterback threw only two touchdown passes last season, where the run is as sacrosanct as it is on any team that doesn't run the option. To win without our leading rusher returning, now that's a statement, and one that will only make those last two rungs on the ladder to Pasadena that much easier to climb.
FBS Mission Statement:
We at FBS believe that offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring bears the largest share of the blame for years of sub-par output from some of the most talented players ever to set foot on Worsham Field. We believe the main objective of the VT football program - a national championship - will escape us as long as Stinespring is making the calls. We therefore advocate the improvement of our football program through the replacement of our offensive coordinator.