Hokies Likely Atlanta Bound

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Virginia Tech capped the 2006 football season in style with a 17-0 win over
UVA on Saturday. With that win and a Georgia Tech loss, the Hokies jumped to #14
in the polls- and are now the highest ranked team in the ACC. They have also set
themselves up for an invitation to a high-profile bowl, likely the Chick-fil-A
Bowl in Atlanta.

Heading into last weekend’s games, there were five teams from the ACC that
were still under consideration for the Chick-fil-A Bowl. That list was trimmed
after Saturday’s games, and the Hokies now appear to be the team to beat. Let’s
take a look at what happened to the other teams, and their remaining chances.

Boston College had a chance at going to Atlanta, but they were defeated
in the Orange Bowl on Thursday night by Miami. The Chick-fil-A Bowl isn’t likely
to select a team that is barely in the top 25 (#25 to be exact) and doesn’t
travel, over a team like the Hokies, who have a better record, are ranked
higher, and will take thousands of fans. The Eagles will be going somewhere
other than Atlanta for the Holidays.

Georgia Tech needed to beat Georgia to still stay in the race for
Atlanta. But Reggie Ball was Reggie Ball, and the Bulldogs prevailed. The Yellow
Jackets can still go to the Orange Bowl if they beat Wake Forest in the ACC
Championship Game. But if they lose to the Demon Deacons, the Chick-fil-A Bowl
will not select a 9-4 and possibly unranked football team over the Hokies.

Maryland still held out some hope for the Chick-fil-A Bowl until
Saturday. Here is a direct quote from the CFA Bowl’s website: “The Terps can
still get to Atlanta, but they have to win and look good doing it against Wake
Forest to stay in our selection process.” Instead, Maryland lost and looked bad
doing it. They are out of the race for the Chick-fil-A Bowl, but it was still a
nice season for the Terps.

Wake Forest whipped Maryland 38-24 on Saturday night. They’ll play
Georgia Tech for the ACC Championship on Saturday, December 2. If the Demon
Deacons lose, they’ll definitely be on the Chick-fil-A Bowl’s radar. But how
likely is it that Wake will get selected above the Hokies when they lost by
three touchdowns to Tech, they have the same number of wins, and they won’t sell
many tickets? Highly unlikely.

As it stands now, the Hokies are almost definitely at the top of the Chick-fil-A
Bowl’s list. Probably the only thing that is keeping them from extending the
official invite is the BCS holding Virginia Tech as a possible at-large team. So
the Hokies still have a chance to go to the BCS? It’s very unlikely, but yes.

If the Rose Bowl decides they want a rematch of Michigan and Notre Dame, then
the Sugar Bowl will have an open at-large spot against the SEC Champions, either
Florida or Arkansas. Virginia Tech will be one of the teams considered for this
spot. Who is Virginia Tech’s chief competition for this at-large spot?

One highly-ranked team, the #7 Wisconsin Badgers, have already accepted a bid
to the Capital One Bowl on January 1 in Orlando. So cross them off the list. If
Rutgers defeats West Virginia this Saturday, then they will earn the Big East’s
automatic bid to the BCS, most likely the Orange Bowl. In that scenario, Louisville would have a good
shot at an at-large bid, providing they beat UConn. They would be 11-1 overall
and ranked at least #6 nationally.

But if Rutgers loses to WVU as expected, Louisville will get the automatic
bid, and no other Big East team would have a chance at an at-large bid.

That takes us to Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish finished 10-2, losing to #2
USC 44-24, and #3 Michigan 47-21. But with a 10-2 record and a #12 ranking, the
Irish are likely heading to the BCS as at at-large team. But which one? If the
Rose Bowl wants a rematch of Notre Dame and Michigan, then the Irish are heading
to Pasadena. If not, then they are Sugar Bowl bound. It’s the former scenario
that the Hokies want.

The Hokies don’t have a shot at a Rose Bowl at-large bid. If the Rose decides
against Notre Dame they will take LSU, or perhaps Florida if they lose the SEC
Championship Game. But if Notre Dames ends up in Pasadena, the Sugar Bowl can’t
take an SEC at-large team, because they would be facing the SEC Champions. Let’s
take a look at the other eligible at-large teams if this scenario plays out. All
of this is assuming that USC beats UCLA this weekend and plays Ohio State for
the National Championship, Notre Dame goes to the Rose Bowl, and Louisville wins
the Big East.

Eligible Teams
Team Notes

#1 Ohio State

National Championship Game

#2 USC

National Championship Game

#3 Michigan

Rose Bowl

#4 Florida

SEC Team, unlikely Sugar at-large pick

#5 LSU

SEC Team, unlikely Sugar at-large pick

#6 Louisville

Auto-bid to Orange Bowl

#7 Wisconsin

Accepted Capital One Bowl bid

#8 Arkansas

SEC Team, unlikely Sugar at-large pick

#8 Oklahoma

Likely Big 12 Champs, Fiesta Bowl

#10 Boise State

Likely Fiesta bowl bound

#11 Auburn

SEC Team, unlikely Sugar at-large pick

#12 Notre Dame

Rose Bowl

#13 Rutgers

Would Not be picked as an at-large

#15 West Virginia

A two-loss Big East team

Under those scenarios, it appears that the Hokies would have a good chance to
return to New Orleans for the second time in three years.

But unfortunately, the Rose Bowl probably doesn’t want a Michigan-Notre Dame
rematch and will select LSU. That will send Notre Dame to the Sugar Bowl. In
that scenario, the Hokies would drop off the radar of the BCS bowls, and they
would become eligible to be selected by the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

Tech’s Defense Back on Top

After dominating the offense of their in-state rival, the Virginia Tech
defense is back to #1 nationally in total defense. In fact, the Hokies rank #1
in three important defensive categories.

Tech’s Defensive Rankings
Category Yards/Points National

Rushing Defense
92.92 13

Passing Defense
128.17 1

Total Defense
221.08 1

Scoring Defense
9.33 1

Bud Foster’s unit has been on a roll lately. The Hokies have held four of
their last five opponents under 100 yards passing, and as a result they are #1
in pass defense and #2 in pass efficiency defense. Wisconsin is #2 in pass
defense, and they allow a full 10 yards per game more than the Hokies.

In their six-game winning streak, the Hokies have allowed 6, 7, 10, 0, 6 and
0 points. The Hokies have pitched four shutouts on the season. That has helped
their scoring defense to the #1 ranking nationally. Ohio State is #2, allowing
10.4 points per game.

The Hokies are dominating everyone in total defense. They are allowing just
over 221 yards per game. The #2 team in total defense, the LSU Tigers, allow
238.75 yards per game, a full 17 yards per game more than Tech. With that big a
margin, they have virtually no chance to catch the Hokies.

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