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BCS Championship Projection: Virginia Tech-Oklahoma

by Dave Congrove
August 27, 2012 (Updated August 31)

Rarely am I not surprised by what my own computer formula reveals in its preseason picks. But more often than not, the computer proves itself to be correct while human opinion, including mine, proves to be misguided.

Still, I am somewhat stunned by the computer's projection of a Virginia Tech-Oklahoma championship game and a preseason modeling of games in which only the Hokies escape the regular season and the conference championship weekend unscathed.

I understand that it is only the Virginia Tech half of the equation that will stun most people. The Oklahoma half is understandable as the Sooners have played in four previous BCS title games, though it has emerged victorious just once. Virginia Tech hasn't been back to the big dance since losing to Florida State at the end of the 1999 season. And speaking of the Seminoles, the Hokies will have to beat them twice to make the computer's prediction a reality.

Oklahoma and Virginia Tech are projected by the Congrove Computer Rankings to play for the BCS Championship. The teams are led by quarterbacks Landry Jones (left) and Logan Thomas.
Oklahoma and Virginia Tech are projected by the Congrove Computer Rankings to play for the BCS Championship. The teams are led by quarterbacks Landry Jones (left) and Logan Thomas.
Oklahoma and Virginia Tech are projected by the Congrove Computer Rankings to play for the BCS Championship. The teams are led by quarterbacks Landry Jones (left) and Logan Thomas.

Virginia Tech is favored to beat the 'Noles, which the computer says will be undefeated at the time, in Blacksburg on a Thursday night on November 8. Three weeks and two days later, the teams will meet again in Charlotte with the Hokies prevailing to capture the the ACC Championship. Virginia Tech is favored by 4.74 points in the first matchup and 1.74 points in the subsequent game.

Prior to taking on Florida State the first time, Virginia Tech has to survive a trip to Clemson to face the team that defeated them twice last season with relative ease - 23-3 in Blacksburg and 38-10 in Charlotte.

It isn't hard to fathom the Hokies running the rest of a schedule that is ranked the 41st toughest largely because Clemson and Florida State are on it. The nonconference portion features FCS member Austin Peay at home, Big East contender Cincinnati at FedEx Field in D.C., MAC middleweight Bowling Green at home and a road trip to Big East member (and future ACC member) Pittsburgh.

Meanwhile, the computer shows the Big 12 to be the toughest in the nation in 2012 and, perhaps, the most competitive. Seven teams will begin the season with power ratings between 81.04 and 87.86 - Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, West Virginia, Kansas State, Texas, Baylor and TCU.

Ultimately, the computer takes Oklahoma to capture the conference crown and advance to the BCS Championship game with an 11-1 record, losing only at West Virginia. When the teams face off in Miami, Oklahoma gets the computer's edge by 4.40 points.

The computer has Oklahoma beginning the season at No. 1, but falling back with a loss at West Virginia. Virginia Tech starts 10th and works it way up through the ranks as others fall by the wayside.

If you're not familiar with "the computer", let me provide a brief background. "The Computer" is the Congrove Computer Rankings which I developed in 1993, five years before the BCS was established. My purpose was to create a "true" ranking of teams through a mathematical formula that contained no personal opinion or preconceived bias.

The computer correctly predicted the national championship matchup and game-winner the very first year of its existence. That same season, it correctly determined the exact matchup for 7 of the 19 bowls that were around at the time, and it put 27 of 38 teams in the correct bowls before a single snap of the season was taken. It then went 14-5 in picking bowl winners.

My rankings began as a personal experiment but the first-year results were so astounding, even to me, that I continued my annual rankings as a hobby.

In 1999, collegefootballpoll.com was born and the website is now beginning its 14th season. It seems like such a short time ago that I literally put pen to paper to work on the formula, but this will be the 20th season of the Congrove Computer Rankings.

So what else does the computer say about 2012?

In short, it says that 2012 will be the most wide-open race since I began the rankings. Fourteen programs are forecasted to end the regular season with just one loss. Feed it the anticipated championship game matchups and 11 teams still exist with no more than a single defeat.

I already listed the teams that will closely compete for the Big 12 title. All seven of those schools are ranked in the computer's opening day top 21 and four - Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, West Virginia and Kansas State - are ranked among the top 7.

The SEC will be just as close with Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, LSU and South Carolina beginning the year with power ratings between 80.52 and 85.03. All seven of those schools are among the computer's top 22 teams in the country on opening day.

The rest of the top 25 slots on opening day are taken by three teams each from the ACC, PAC-12 and Big Ten and a pair of independents. All are fairly predictable. The ACC schools are Virginia Tech, Florida State and Clemson. The PAC-12 members are USC, Oregon and Stanford. The Big Ten teams are Michigan, Michigan State and Nebraska. The independents are BYU and Notre Dame.

The Big 12 and SEC need playoffs of more than 4 teams just to determine their own conference champions. How in the world can anyone believe that a 4-team playoff is sufficient to determine a national champion!?

By the way, the computer offers up a surprising SEC title match, too. It picks Arkansas, not Alabama or LSU, to win the western half. And it takes Florida - not South Carolina or Georgia - to take the eastern division. It then takes Arkansas to capture the conference championship game by 3.56 points over the Gators in Atlanta.

The computer has LSU and 'Bama each losing three games during the regular season. LSU is projected to stumble by 2.10 at Auburn, 2.24 in "The Swamp" and 5.80 at the Hogs. Alabama is expected to fall at Arkansas (6.75) and LSU (3.95), as well as on opening day by 4.47 points to Michigan in Cowboys Stadium.

Consensus PAC-12 favorite USC gets the computer's endorsement as the victor over Oregon for the PAC-12 title. But that conference as a whole is rated the weakest of the "big 6" conferences behind the Big 12, SEC, Big Ten, ACC and Big East. Not much at all is expected out of half the conference - Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, Washington State, UCLA or Oregon State. It's viewed as top-heavy league entirely driven by USC and Utah in the south and Oregon and Stanford in the north while Washington and Cal could factor into the discussion.

REALIGNMENT
The team makeup of seven conferences were affected by the latest round of realignment and the 2012 season will kick off with 8 teams in different leagues. Additionally, 4 teams are transitioning from the FCS to the FBS to increase the ranks of the Football Bowl Subdivision to 124 schools. None of the four new FBS entrants - Massachusetts, South Alabama, Texas State and UTSA (Texas-San Antonio) are eligible to receive a bowl bid or claim their respective conference's championship.

The Big 12 loses Missouri and Texas A&M to the SEC. It gains TCU from the Mountain West and West Virginia from the Big East.

The Big East loses West Virginia to the Big 12. It welcomes back Temple from the MAC. (The Owls were evicted from the Big East after the 2004 season for their failure to be competitive. The computer picks them to finish 4th in the conference this season.

The MAC loses Temple and gains UMass as it moves up from the FCS ranks.

The Mountain West bids adieu to TCU to the Big 12, but the MWC welcomes three of Boise State's former WAC foes in Fresno State, Hawaii and Nevada.

The SEC adds Missouri to the eastern division and Texas A&M to the western half of the league, increasing its overall membership to 14 schools.

The Sun Belt adds South Alabama from the FCS.

The WAC loses Fresno State, Nevada and Hawaii to the Mountain West. It welcomes Texas State and UTSA from the FCS as band-aids to survive the 2012 season. The conference revealed on August 20 that it will abandon football after the 2012 season.

ALL EYES ON ISAAC
Hurricane Isaac made landfall in Louisiana on Tuesday and necessitated changes to this week's schedule. It forced the postponement of the Texas A&M-Louisiana Tech tussle to October 13, the UTSA-South Alabama game from Thursday to Saturday and the Nicholls State-Oregon State contest to (possibly) December 1.

THIS WEEK'S TOP GAMES
The season now kicks off with 15 (instead of 17) games on Thursday night. The best to watch is South Carolina at Vanderbilt, UCLA at Rice and Washington State at BYU.

The 5-game slate on Friday is highlighted by Boise State at Michigan State and N.C. State-Tennessee The latter is the first of two Chick-fil-A kickoff games.

The computer has Penn State losing its opener by a touchdown to visiting Ohio as new head coach Bill O'Brien make his debut for the Nittany Lions.
The computer has Penn State losing its opener by a touchdown to visiting Ohio as new head coach Bill O'Brien makes his debut for the Nittany Lions.

53 games on Saturday include Alabama-Michigan and the best of the two Chick-fil-A matchups as Auburn and Clemson face-off at night. You can classify as "interesting" Toledo-Arizona, Miami-Boston College, Nevada-California, Colorado-Colorado State in Denver, FIU-Duke, Western Michigan-Illinois, Northern Illinois-Iowa at Soldier Field in Chicago, Tulsa-Iowa State, Marshall-West Virginia, Miami (O.)-Ohio State, Notre Dame-Navy from Ireland, Southern Miss-Nebraska, Northwestern-Syracuse, Ohio-Penn State, Oklahoma-UTEP, San Diego State-Washington and Wyoming-Texas.

Saturday also features (moved from Thursday) a battle between two of the four newcomers to the FBS level as South Alabama entertains Texas-San Antonio at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Alabama.

Sunday delivers SMU-Baylor and Kentucky-Louisville.

The weekend concludes with an important ACC matchup as Virginia Tech hosts Georgia Tech on Labor Day Monday night. The last time these two schools tried to kickoff a season was in the year 2000 when Michael Vick was still the Hokies' QB. Lightning struck Lee Corso's car in the parking lot as a storm hit Blacksburg seconds before the game was scheduled to begin. That contest was eventually cancelled and never played.

FBS vs. FCS:
FBS teams went 91-6 (.938) vs. FCS teams last year to raise their record to 638-55 (.921) in such games since 2003.

This year, 101 FBS teams play a total of 108 games against FCS foes. UTSA is in its first year of transitioning from the FCS and plays 4 such schools. Cincinnati, Florida State, Pittsburgh and Texas A&M each play two such games.

The 6 teams that fell victim to FCS teams a year ago were Minnesota, New Mexico, UNLV, Western Kentucky, Duke and Oregon State

STREAKS:
Northern Illinois - 9 straight wins overall, 8 straight conference wins and 15 straight home wins.

TCU - 8 straight wins overall. 24 straight conference wins.

LSU - 17-game home winning streak.

Arkansas State - 8-game conference win streak.

Virginia Tech - 13 straight wins in true road games (at opponents' venue).

Kansas - 10 straight losses overall.

Tulane - 10 straight losses overall.

New Mexico - 21 straight road losses.

Mississippi - 14 straight conference losses.

NEW COACHES:
28 teams have a new college football coach in the FBS ranks this season. Last season saw 24 new head coaches, 10 of whom matched or exceeded the W-L record of their predecessors' final season.

Here are the opening games for each new head coach:

Team Coach Game
Akron Terry Bowden Thursday vs. UCF
Arizona Rich Rodriguez Saturday vs. Toledo
Arizona State Todd Graham Thursday vs. Northern Arizona (FCS)
Arkansas John L. Smith Saturday vs. Jacksonville State (FCS)
Arkansas State Gus Malzahn Saturday at Oregon
Colorado State Jim McElwain Saturday vs. Colorado (at Denver)
FAU Carl Pellini Friday vs. Wagner (FCS)
Fresno State Tim DeRuyter Saturday vs. Weber State (FCS)
Hawaii Norm Chow Saturday at USC
Houston Tony Levine Saturday vs. Texas State
Illinois Tim Beckman Saturday vs. Western Michigan
Kansas Charlie Weis Saturday vs. South Dakota St. (FCS)
Massachusetts Charley Molnar Thursday at UConn
Memphis Justin Fuente Saturday vs. Tennessee-Martin (FCS)
Mississippi Hugh Freeze Saturday vs. Central Arkansas (FCS)
New Mexico Bob Davie Saturday vs. Southern (FCS)
North Carolina Larry Fedora Saturday vs. Elon (FCS)
Ohio State Urban Meyer Saturday vs. Miami (O.)
Penn State Bill O'Brien Saturday vs. Ohio
Pittsburgh Paul Chryst Saturday vs. Youngstown State (FCS)
Rutgers Kyle Flood Saturday at Tulane
Southern Miss Ellis Johnson Saturday at Nebraska
Texas A&M Kevin Sumlin Game Thursday vs. Louisiana Tech (at Shreveport) moved to 10/13
Toledo Matt Campbell Saturday at Arizona
Tulane Curtis Johnson Saturday vs. Rutgers
UAB Garrick McGee Saturday vs. Troy
UCLA Jim Mora Thursday at Rice
Washington State Mike Leach Thursday at BYU