The Illinois Hokie did one of these at the beginning of the season (The Path to Pasadena) but his was contingent upon us beating Alabama. A quote from that post: “If you're reading this post after the Bama game and we lost, quit reading now. Seriously. It'll just depress you.” Now that we’re four weeks into the season and we’ve managed to climb to #6, a spot higher than our preseason ranking when the IH wrote that original post, we once again have a shot at the NC. We would be in a much better position if we had beaten Alabama, obviously, but we made a good showing in that game and it’s still possible that we get a national championship berth. Here’s how it happens:
First off, we’re assuming we win out from here on. To quote the IH, “If you're reading this post after [another loss], quit reading now. Seriously. It'll just depress you.” Also, we just need to get to #2, not #1. Our main concern at this point is just getting into the game. That being said, here is the current ranking of the top 6 in the AP and USA Today Polls:
In addition to winning out, we obviously need the teams ahead of us to lose. Notice that out of those five teams, THREE are all in the same conference—the SEC. This means that they each have a chance to beat up on each other to our benefit.
Here is LSU’s upcoming schedule:
The Tigers have to play four (currently) ranked teams, including Florida and Alabama. They might get a loss as early as this weekend against #18 Georgia on the road. With this schedule I think we can assume at least one loss. If they don’t lose then that means they’ve beaten both Florida and Alabama. I’m hoping LSU does lose, though, because that would pretty much guarantee we jump them. Beating Alabama and Florida would move LSU up but might not necessarily drop those teams below us. The best possible scenario would be for LSU to lose to Georgia and drop a decent amount in the rankings and then come back to beat Florida and/or Alabama. That could be enough to move LSU back up to just behind us while also knocking Florida/Alabama out of the top 5. Don’t bet on that scenario actually happening though.
The next of our SEC teams is Alabama. Here’s their schedule:
At first this schedule doesn’t look too tough. Bama only has two (currently) ranked opponents in #21 Mississippi and #4 LSU, both of which Bama is completely capable of beating. The Ole Miss game is on the road, though, which should be noted. Personally I think Bama wins out on this schedule. But not so fast! Let’s not forget what happened last year—Bama had to meet Florida in the SEC championship. I think we all remember how that turned out—Bama got its first loss of the season…and then its second loss against Utah. That loss against Florida dropped Alabama from #1 to #4. At this point in the season we should be in the top 5 (assuming an LSU loss). Alabama, if they win out until this point, should be in the top 3. If we win the ACC championship convincingly and Alabama loses, we have a good shot at moving ahead of them.
That’s with a little help from the third SEC team, Florida:
I think Florida will go undefeated, however I wouldn’t be surprised if they do get one loss on the season. If they get that loss it will most likely be against Alabama in the SEC championship. Next most likely is against either LSU or Georgia. Tebow’s recent concussion probably shouldn’t be much of a factor against LSU given Florida’s bye week that happened to occur at the most clutch time possible in the Gators’ season.
Now we come to our two wildcards: Texas and Boise State.
Boise State is not in a BCS conference so I really don’t see them making it to the national championship, even if they win out. They’re schedule from here on out is so easy that I’m not going to post it. It’s safe to assume they finish undefeated. Maybe one of the night games at Tulsa, Louisiana Tech, or Utah State will be too much for Boise State to handle but I’m not betting on it. If they do lose one of those games, rock on. If they don’t, hopefully we jump them just based on our strength of schedule. I don’t see the voters putting a non-BCS school in the national championship (remember Utah?). Again, convincing wins will help us make jumps. More games like we had against Miami would be great, especially if the ACC teams we play are ranked at the time. Boise State just isn't ready for the NC and won't be until at least next year when they have a better non-conference schedule (cough us cough).
The Longhorns might be the toughest team to overcome. They’re schedule isn’t easy, but they should be expected to win all of these games:
I’m praying that Oklahoma actually loses to Texas (preferably a close loss, but just so OU doesn’t jump us). I’m then praying that Texas goes on to lose at Oklahoma State or even against Kansas. Hopefully both. The key is for teams ahead of us to lose, but not to someone ranked only slightly behind Virginia Tech.
So, after all that, here is the schedule of important games as far as Hokies are concerned (rankings are obviously as of week 4):
10/3/09 #4 LSU at #18 Georgia
10/10/09 #4 LSU at #1 Florida
#3 Bama at #21 Mississippi
10/17/09 #8 Oklahoma at #2 Texas
10/31/09 #18 Georgia at #1 Florida
#2 Texas at #14 Oklahoma State
11/7/09 #4 LSU at #3 Alabama
11/21/09 #18 Kansas at #2 Texas
#1 Florida vs. #3 Alabama*
*This game is not set in stone, it is just the most likely as I see it. It is still possible that this match up might be between Florida and LSU. Hell, it might even be Georgia against Alabama/LSU.
How it all happens:
Of the games listed, we need LSU and Bama to lose. One of them will have to lose because they play each other. They both will (probably) play Florida, and both will probably lose. Hopefully this is enough to drop both of them just below the Hokies. Again, we need big losses from those two teams and at the same time, big wins for the Hokies. Computer rankings can be our friend.
Now that LSU and Alabama are out of the way, we need to jump Boise State and Texas (we’re assuming Florida remains at #1 the whole season). We desperately need a Texas loss unless by some stroke of luck the SEC beats itself up and we manage to wind up ahead of LSU, Bama, AND Florida. This isn’t likely. I’ll take a Texas loss at Oklahoma State or Kansas (or anywhere else) but preferably NOT against Oklahoma (unless Oklahoma loses to Miami and is ranked lower than 8th when they play Texas). Again, all of this is based on the week 4 rankings.
If Texas also manages to lose, we very well may find ourselves with no one to worry about except Florida and Boise State. This is where Boise State becomes last year’s Utah. It will be difficult because we are currently ranked behind them, but a near loss for Boise State could do it for us. If the rankings end up as #1 Florida, #2 Boise State, and #3 Virginia Tech I really believe the voters will try and move Boise State down. It’s the glass ceiling that non-BCS schools face. If that happens, as well as everything else I’ve described, Virginia Tech has a solid shot at sneaking up into that #2 spot.
Also to be considered:
I am aware that it is WAY too early in the season to speculate on the rankings at the end of the season. I expect to update these scenarios as the rankings change, assuming Virginia Tech keeps this win streak alive. I am also aware that I’ve probably completely missed some scenarios or aspects of the scenarios that I've described. Point out my errors or post your theories in the comments. I wish I had some sort of flow chart to show all the possibilities
EDIT: Something else that's been brought to my attention--the possibility of Oklahoma losing to Miami. This probably drops Oklahoma far enough down the rankings that they could then beat Texas without jumping us. It would also make the ACC look good by giving Miami a good non-con win, which could then make us look even better for having beaten Miami.