I want to preface this article by saying that I have absolutely nothing against the Hokies. In fact, I considered going there, and I believe they have a good team. I'm not claiming that any kind of regional bias affected their rankings, and, if anything, a conference bias would hurt their ranking because the ACC is looked down upon.
I'm simply trying to figure out why exactly they're ranked so high, because I feel it's going to have a ripple effect, causing Alabama and other schools to look better than they are. I'll also note that I'm referencing rankings prior to the BCS, and when I say "ranked" for the 2007 season, I mean in the AP Poll.
Okay, let's do a chronological analysis of VT, starting two years ago.
VT goes 11-3, a very respectable record. They get blown out by LSU, who ended the season ranked No. 1 and eventually won the BCS title. They lost a heartbreaker at home to Boston College. However, they beat Clemson who ended the season ranked No. 21, and they got their revenge on Boston College in the ACC Title game, winning with a decisive 30-16 score. They ended their season with a close loss in the Orange Bowl against No. 7 Kansas.
So just to summarize, their 2007 season was strong, proving that while they weren't a top-five team, they deserved their ninth ranking.
Here's where the discrepancy starts. They finished their 2008 season 10-4, which is definitely a good showing, but they lost to East Carolina in their opener, they lost to a Matt-Ryan-less Boston College, they lost to No. 25 Florida State and they also lost a game at an unranked Miami (Florida). They went on to win the ACC title game again versus Boston College, and they won the Orange Bowl against Cincinnati. Again, a seemingly strong season finish, but let's look a bit closer at Boston College and Cincinnati.
Boston College lost their all-star QB Matt Ryan to the NFL and finished the season a moderate 9-5, including three regular season losses to unranked teams. BC finished the season losing a non-BCS bowl against unranked Vanderbilt. They still had a lot of pieces left over before Matt Ryan left, but their team was obviously incomplete without him.
Cincinnati ended the season 11-3, but their only victory against a team ranked at the end of the year came against No. 23 West Virginia. More importantly, they were absolutely blown out by No. 5 Oklahoma and UNRANKED UConn. It isn't a stretch to make the claim that Cincinatti's 11-3 record was more the product of an easy schedule.
So I must ask the question: why exactly was Virginia Tech ranked No. 15 to finish the season? Their key wins to finish the season were against two teams that a light inspection shows weren't that great, and without those they're a mediocre 8-4 team from the ACC. And while I don't think they're that far behind, I would agree that the ACC is slightly weaker overall than other conferences...and looking at other teams with eight wins (Arizona 8-5, LSU 8-5, Kansas 8-5) most weren't ranked. Even several nine-win teams (like Iowa, Michigan State, Nebraska, Georgia Tech, Cal and Oregon State) had to fight for the 20-25 rankings at the end of the season.
So 2009: what exactly did Virginia Tech do to deserve a preseason rank of No. 7 in the country?