During the past few days, it has been impossible to look at a college football website without seeing a negative article about Virginia Tech and their berth in the All State Sugar Bowl.
The Hokies went 11-2 during the 2011 season with both losses coming to Clemson.
It is impossible to defend how the Hokies lost to the Tigers on both occasions, but do the Hokies really deserve this backlash?
After all, their opponent in the Sugar Bowl, Michigan, is ranked lower then Virginia Tech. The Wolverines are ranked 13th in the BCS polls, but that doesn’t present an issue to sports analysts.
The main arguments against Virginia Tech are their strength of schedule (specifically out of conference), the Clemson losses and the fact that the Hokies are in the ACC.
Let’s compare Virginia Tech's and Michigan’s strength of schedule.
The Hokies out of conference schedule is considered a cakewalk; they defeated Appalachian State, ECU, Arkansas State and Marshall.
Michigan’s out of conference schedule consisted of Western Michigan, Notre Dame, Eastern Michigan and San Diego State.
The only difference between those two schedules is Notre Dame, and it's time to assess the Fighting Irish as what they really are—a name. Notre Dame is no longer a national power; it's simply a pretty name on a schedule.
So is there really a big difference between what the Hokies did and what the Wolverines did?
Both Michigan and Virginia Tech lost two games this season. The Hokies lost to the eventual ACC champions twice by large margins. The way they lost those games is unacceptable.
Virginia Tech is lucky that margin of victory isn’t included in the BCS computer polls.
Michigan’s losses were to Michigan State and Iowa. Michigan State is a good team that eventually lost in the Big 10 Championship game. The Spartans beat Michigan by 14.
Iowa, on the other hand, was not a very good team this year. The Hawkeyes managed to beat the Wolverines by eight.
Virginia Tech lost to a good team twice, while Michigan lost to one good team and one marginal team.
This brings us to the real reason the Hokies are being met with such venom while the Wolverines are skating by unscathed—the problem of perception; it is simply assumed that the ACC is the fifth-best conference in the land, and the Big 10 is third or fourth.
Look at the Hokies' schedule and the Wolverines' schedule; there's a big difference between the two.
Michigan’s best win came against Nebraska. The Cornhuskers are currently ranked 20th in the BCS polls.
Virginia Tech’s best win was either against Georgia Tech or Virginia. Neither of those teams are currently ranked, but both were ranked when the games took place.
The simple fact is that the differences between Virginia Tech and Michigan are marginal at best.
The only difference between the two Sugar Bowl participants is the name. Michigan commands respect—despite the fact that Rich Rodriguez ran the program into the ground—while Virginia Tech draws jeers from the crowd because they haven’t done well in bowl games.
Boise State and Kansas State may have deserved a bid over Virginia Tech, but if that is the case, then they also deserved it more than Michigan. There is no reason to spew hate toward the Hokies and then give Michigan roses.
The Hokies need to win in New Orleans come January in order to reverse perception and make Virginia Tech a good name rather than the team that didn’t deserve the bid.
Note: Everyone in Blacksburg, please be careful during this tragic day.