Monday, September 22, 1997

What a Difference a Year Makes

I’ve got to admit that Sunday's college football polls surprised me. Why? To find out why, simply send your mind back in time a year. Last year, the Hokies started out ranked #15 in the AP poll, and throughout the first four weeks or so of the season, they went 3-0. Their reward? Tech dropped 3 spots in the poll to #18. The drop in rankings was largely the result of an uninspiring 21-18 win over Akron in the season opener that the AP voters never quite recovered from.

This year is the same, only different. When the preseason rankings were released, the Hokies were #25 in the coaches poll and #29 in the AP poll (my numbers may not be exact, but they're pretty close). It's now approximately a month later, and once again, Tech has gone 3-0, but the reaction from the pollsters has been the polar opposite. The Hokies are now ranked #12 in the coaches poll and #14 in the AP poll, for an average rise in the polls of 14 spots in their 3-0 run. That sure beats dropping 3 spots, doesn't it?

That goes to show that pollsters respond much more positively to 59-19 victories and 31-3 victories than they do 21-18 victories. But this week was the chance for the pollsters to get back at us, since we only beat the "lowly, pathetic Temple Owls" 23-13. A quick review of last week's polls indicated to me that if you just go on the basis of who won and who lost, we would rise from #14 to #12 in the coaches poll (Alabama and LSU lost) and from #18 to #15 in the AP (Arizona State, Clemson, and Alabama all lost - LSU was far enough ahead of us that I didn't think their loss would drop them below us, knowing the AP voters).

Imagine my surprise when I found out that we jumped 4 spots in the AP poll! For some reason, the writers saw fit to move the Hokies in front of a Colorado team that didn't even play!

Frankly, I'm amazed. I thought for sure that upon viewing the 23-13 score, the AP voters would jump a few teams over us to make up for the few in front of us who lost, and that we would wind up ranked around #16 at best. Instead, they gave us our due, and perhaps even more credit than we deserved, moving us ahead of every team that lost and - holy cow! - jumping us over a Colorado team that didn't even play!

Interestingly enough, Colorado actually dropped a spot from #15 to #16 by not playing. I thought that only happened to the Hokies!

Note that this doesn't mean that the AP voters are off the hook. I'm just surprised, that's all. Check out the polls yourself: the USAT/ESPN Coaches' Poll and the AP Poll.

How 'Bout Those Owls? ... and Those Eagles? ... and Those Panthers?

About two weeks ago, I made a statement about how Boston College officially joined the "dung heap" at the bottom of the Big East by losing to Temple.

As the evil ESPN troll Lee Corso might say, "Not so fast, my friend...."

Since then, BC has beaten WVU at BC and has dismantled Rutgers on the road to raise their record to 2-1, while Temple put a tremendous scare into the Hokies on Saturday. So maybe it wasn't a case of BC falling to the bottom. Maybe it was a case of Temple leaving the bottom to the sole possession of Rutgers (since Pitt also appears to have vacated the premises).

By my account, Temple outplayed the Hokies on Saturday night, or at least, they played us even-up. The Temple offense was starting to have their way with the vaunted Hokie defense late in the game. If the Owls hadn't coughed up two fourth-quarter fumbles, I don't even want to think about how we might be feeling today.

I mean, the Owls weren't just getting lucky against the Hokies. They were peeling off gains on rushing plays of 5-15 yards. And in watching the Virginia Tech Sports Today show Sunday, I saw some tremendous individual plays by the Owls team, most notably by the receivers.

If I go any further, I'll be stealing material from tomorrow's game report, so I'll just stop here and make the statement that it's not business as usual in the Big East anymore. Pitt, BC, and maybe even Temple don't appear to be fooling around, and if Tech doesn't watch themselves, the Hokies could get a surprise from either BC or Pitt later this year.

Temple still has to explain that 34-14 shellacking they received from Western Michigan, however...


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