How Does the USA Today Preseason Poll Alter Virginia Tech's BCS Path?

Bryan ManningFeatured ColumnistAugust 5, 2012

How Does the USA Today Preseason Poll Alter Virginia Tech's BCS Path?

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    The first USA Today Preseason Poll was released last week and as expected, SEC schools were the two top-ranked teams followed by USC.

    Now, releasing a poll before the season is meaningless. But it gives fans good fodder to discuss why or if their chosen team was ranked too low. Or, it gives the same fans time to gripe about why a conference rival is ranked too high.

    The point is, preseason rankings don't matter. However, it does get fans excited because it means the season is right around the corner. 

    The Virginia Tech Hokies, who were ranked 20th in the preseason poll, are the third highest-ranked ACC school in the poll behind Florida State (seventh) and Clemson (14th).

    How do folks in Blacksburg feel about being ranked 20th in the preseason?

    Here are three reasons last week's poll could alter the Hokies' BCS path.

Lower Expectations

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    Each year, when the preseason poll is released, Hokie fans around the country rejoice about the team's ranking.

    Also, fans of opposing teams always say the Hokies are ranked too high.

    This year, the Hokies are ranked right about where they should be. Defections on the offensive side of the ball will put a lot of pressure on highly-touted junior quarterback Logan Thomas. How will he handle that early in the season?

    Those defections have helped lower expectations around Blacksburg, and it should. The Hokies could be really good this year, or they could struggle at times. It all depends on how well the team's offensive line and running backs adjust. 

    In recent years, the Hokies always seem to perform better when less is expected. That should be the case in 2012. 

Less Margin for Error

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    Many folks argue the problem about polls is if a team loses, they are essentially out of the running for the national championship.

    Being ranked 20th could be an issue for the Hokies if they get through the early part of their schedule unscathed.

    If some of the top teams lose early in the season, they will not drop too far in the polls. If the Hokies lose one game after starting out 20th, they'll be finished, regardless of who the loss is against.

    By contrast, if teams like LSU, Alabama and USC lose an early game, they will likely remain in the top 10. 

It Won't

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    The great thing about the preseason poll is that it has no bearing on where or how a team will finish.

    The Hokies, or any other team, has to play well enough to be relevant when the BCS standings are released in Week 8. 

    The preseason poll means nothing to the players. It isn't going to affect a player or coach's preparation nor will it lead teams to giving more effort on the field. 

    The Hokies are ranked right about where they should be, and if things fall into place as they are hoping, they will be much higher in December, when it truly matters.