Sunday, November 16, 1997
Orangemen Win; Cavaliers Lose
Syracuse 32, Pittsburgh 27: Syracuse got up 19-0 and 26-7 on Pittsburgh, only to wet their pants when Pitt came storming back and took a 27-26 lead. Syracuse eventually won on a beautiful pass from McNabb to Spotwood with 28 seconds left to secure a 32-27 victory.
So the Panthers almost did the Hokies a big favor. A Pitt win would have meant that all the Hokies had to do to secure an Alliance Bowl bid would be to win at Pitt next weekend, which would have given Tech their first outright Big East championship. Now we're back where we started, and the end result is the same - just keep winning, and we'll go.
The AP pollsters, who have been kind to Tech this year, returned to form by jumping the Orangemen over the Hokies. The teams entered the weekend with Tech tied at #19, and Syracuse occupying #21. Now the Orangemen are #18, and the Hokies are #19. The AP poll has a knack for moving every team except Tech up in the polls during an off weekend.
I'd like to get really angry about that, but for me, this is the bottom line: if the Hokies win out over Pittsburgh and UVa, then we'll be 9-2, ranked about 12th, and we'll deserve to go to the Alliance Bowl as the Big East rep. In another scenario, if we beat Pitt and then lose to UVa, then we'll be 8-3, and, independent of what the pollsters do and what the Syracuse Orangemen do, I don't think we'll deserve an Alliance Bowl bid. 8-3 isn't good enough, and a Tech team that goes 8-3 will not have earned the bid like the Tech teams that went 9-2 and 10-1 the last two years.
And of course, if we lose to Pittsburgh, then we'll only be 5-2 in the Big East, and I'd be ashamed to go to an Alliance Bowl as a 5-2 team from the weakest conference in the Alliance.
An Alliance Bowl trip will mean $3.5 million to Tech, and I will grant you that a $3.5 million check is a good check, and it's worth the same amount of money regardless of whether or not you "earned" it. But from a fan's standpoint, if we wind up in an Alliance Bowl with a 8-3 record and a ranking in the neighborhood of #20, then I'm not going to say a word while the press bashes us in the days leading up to the Alliance Bowls.
If I was a Top-10 Kansas State team, or I was a second place, Top-12 SEC team, and I had to go to a second-tier bowl while an 8-3, 20th-ranked Tech team went to the Fiesta Bowl, I would have some choice things to say about it. And you can bet that if that scenario unfolds, then VT will be raked over the coals by just about everybody. It'll be bad enough going to an Alliance Bowl at 9-2 and having to hear about it from the press - if we go with an 8-3 record, you'll never hear the end of it. So just go and enjoy the game and the $3.5 million, and have a good time rooting for the Hokies.
Syracuse and Miami now both have a weekend off before meeting at the Orange Bowl on November 29th. For 8-3 Syracuse, an Alliance Bowl trip is on the line, and for 5-5 Miami, a bowl trip of any kind is on the line. Syracuse was going like gangbusters for a while, but in their last two games, they have stumbled, winning 20-13 over BC and now 32-27 over Pitt.
I like the Canes in their showdown with Syracuse. I think Miami will win it. The question is, will anybody show up? Miami has averaged just 22,219 fans in their last three home games against Temple (26,351), Arkansas State (20,559), and Rutgers (19,747).
N.C. State 31, Virginia 24 - in Raleigh, the Wolfpack ran up a big 28-10 lead and held on to defeat Virginia. UVa now stands 6-4 and needs another win to qualify for a bowl, since one of their victories is over 1-AA Richmond.
Many Hokies are not happy that UVa lost. Their reasoning is that a UVa team that needs a win to qualify for a bowl will be more motivated than a UVa team that doesn't need a win. Well, horse hockey. If the Hoos can't get fired up to play a team (Tech) that has beaten them three out of the last four, regardless of whether a bowl trip is on the line, they don't deserve to win.
We discussed this on the message board, and here's my take on it. I want to beat UVa and shut them out of the bowls, because that means that the day after we beat them, media coverage of UVa stops cold. Then, for the entire month of December, the state media will have one team to cover in the bowls: Virginia Tech. We will get the undivided attention of every newspaper in the state.
Of course, whether that's a good thing or a bad thing remains to be seen, ha-ha.
When it comes to Virginia, I'm more worried about how we're going to stop their talented wide receiver, Crowell, and what our offensive game plan is going to be when we play them. Going into the game with N.C. State, UVa was ranked #10 in the country in run defense. Surprisingly, the Wolfpack ran up 245 yards rushing against the Cavaliers.
This worries me, because I don't want our coaches thinking we can go into that game and run 55-60 times with only 10-12 passes. Mark my word, if we pull that stuff with UVa, they'll thrash us. I still think they're one of the best teams we'll play this year, if not the best, and we better not fool around with them if we want to win that game.
But enough about them! I'll have some comments later in the week on the upcoming Pitt game.
An Important "Fine" Point About the Big East Tiebreaker
Bill Roth mentioned something in the latest Hokie Huddler that needs to be amplified. If Tech and Syracuse end up tied at 6-1 for the Big East championship, then Tech will go to the Alliance Bowl, because the Hokies beat SU in the head-to-head meeting. However, Syracuse can be selected by the Alliance if they are ranked five spots above Tech. The ranking is calculated as an average between the coaches' and AP polls.
Hold on there, partner. According to the Big East tiebreaker, Syracuse has to be ranked more than 5 spots ahead of Tech. So the Orangemen must be ranked 6 spots above Tech in that scenario in order to go to the Alliance.
With the two teams ranked where they are now, that one spot could mean the world. Tech's rankings are #15 and #19, for an average of #17. Syracuse's rankings are #17 and #18, for an average of #17.5.
If the Hokies beat Pitt and lose to UVa, while Syracuse beats Miami, this could get very interesting, indeed.