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5 Thoughts ... Hokie, Hokie, Hi
Virginia Tech QB Tyrod Taylor
Virginia Tech QB Tyrod Taylor
Posted Sep 29, 2008

Does BYU really deserve to be in the national title discussion, and will it be a shock if it's playing in Miami on January 8th? That, and two of the better under-the-radar teams to come from this weekend, including Tyrod Taylor's Virginia Tech, in this week's 5 Thoughts.

5 Thoughts ... Sept. 29

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Utah Might Have Something To Say About This, Too.

By Pete Fiutak   

1. After a breathtaking weekend of upsets and shockers, one thing was proven among all else.

You can’t be in a non-BCS league and play for the national title.

I know, I know, I’m the one yelling to anyone who’ll listen that if everything is equal, this year, the Mountain West champion probably deserves to be given every consideration for the big games ahead of the Pac 10 champion, but there’s simply no comparison to the week-in-week-out grind the big league teams have to go through when the intensity of conference games gets ramped up to 11. That was NOT the same Oregon State team that showed up against Penn State.

If you want an eight-team playoff with the six BCS league champions, the top non-BCS league team, and one at-large spot given to the highest ranked team left on the board, count me in. But if you’re telling me that a team like BYU or Utah would be in the national title chase if it were in any of the BCS leagues, I’m just not buying it.

Can BYU play with, or beat, anyone in America? In a one-game shot, absolutely. There’s no question that BYU or Utah or Boise State or Fresno State, on the right day, could beat Oklahoma, Alabama or LSU. And of course BYU could beat Ole Miss at home or Oregon State in Corvallis. Could the Cougars go unscathed against Tennessee at Tennessee, Ole Miss, LSU, Kentucky, Georgia (on a neutral site), at Vanderbilt, South Carolina and at Florida State, and then maybe beat Alabama or LSU (in other words, the tough games on Florida’s schedule)? No way. And the same goes for any BCS team’s schedule. If BYU needed to come up with a few huge plays to get by a miserable Washington team, what would it need to do to get by Michigan State in East Lansing, or Oregon in Eugene, or South Florida in Tampa in the meat and grind of a conference campaign?

It sounds like a simple (and yes, elitist) concept, but it’s an important one we’ll have to deal with going forward because BYU is currently seventh in the Coaches’ Poll. Already in a slot to earn a spot in a BCS game, if the Cougars keep on winning, because pollsters are loath to move teams who win down, the climb up the charts will be swift.

Oklahoma and Texas play in two weeks, so one of those two will likely fall below an unbeaten BYU. Missouri plays Texas on October 18th, so one of those two would drop. LSU and Alabama play on November 8th, and Penn State has to go to Wisconsin and to Ohio State before the end of October. Just by beating Utah State, New Mexico, TCU, UNLV, Colorado State and San Diego State, BYU would be almost certain to be one of just two, at most, unbeaten teams currently ranked in the top seven by mid-November with road games at Air Force and Utah to go. I think that road trip to TCU is a beartrap, but if that’s your one game to worry about before November 15th, Merry Christmas.

By comparison, over that same stretch before mid-November, Missouri has to play at Nebraska, Oklahoma State, at Texas, Colorado, at Baylor, and Kansas State. LSU, the nation’s No. 2 team, has to play at Florida, at South Carolina, Georgia, Tulane, and Alabama. If you really want to get unfair, No. 5 Texas has to play at Colorado, Oklahoma, Missouri, Oklahoma State, at Texas Tech, and Baylor, before going to Kansas on November 15th.

Could BYU beat each of those teams on those schedules? Sure. Could BYU handle the cumulative effect of all those games in a row? No way. Almost no one can.

However, Don't Be Surprised ...

Richard Cirminiello   

2. Here we go again. Sure, there were plenty of surprises this past weekend, but please tell me you weren’t shocked that three of the top four and nine overall ranked teams went down to defeat since last Thursday. If so, where were you last fall? This is where we’re at in college football, a time when no one is safe and parity has swept through the country like a tropical storm. Get used to it because it’s not changing. Not now, and not in the near future.

We’re only five weeks into the season, yet the maximum number of BCS unbeatens we can have is already down to four. That figure is going to dwindle with time, and the likelihood that there are no perfect teams in early December is very strong. The biggest beneficiary? How about BYU, the 410-pound Cougar in the room? Attrition is going to take a bite out of the big boys over the next two months. Oklahoma still must play Texas and Texas Tech. Alabama hosts LSU on Nov. 8. Penn State must go on the road to Wisconsin and Ohio State in October. All the while, BYU, now No. 8 in the AP poll, will climb closer to one of the top two spots, creating a ferocious national debate that’ll make the folks in Provo swear. The Cougars still have a pair of brutal road games at TCU and Utah, but they’re good enough to win both, and the overall success of the Mountain West this season is going to help with strength of schedule. In other words, don’t be blown away if BYU earns a trip to the title game in Miami. At the end of September, Duke, Vanderbilt, and Northwestern are 12-1 combined. Nothing should surprise you.   

Oh Yeah, Virginia Tech.

By Richard Cirminiello

While it’s sure to get lost in a weekend that saw USC, Florida, and Georgia get upset, someone needs to point out that Frank Beamer is quietly doing one of the best coaching jobs of his brilliant career.

Saddled with a staggering dearth of skill position talent, wholesale changes on defense, and an opening day loss to East Carolina, he and his staff have rallied the Hokies to wins over Georgia Tech, North Carolina, and Nebraska. All of a sudden, the program that was having dirt heaped on it less a month ago is the highest ranked ACC team and the favorite to repeat as league champion. Beamer moved swiftly after the first game, changing direction with sophomore QB Tyrod Taylor, who was slated to redshirt in 2008. The decision has been the difference in Tech’s turnaround, especially in Saturday’s unexpected win in Lincoln. In the face of a roaring sea of red that was looking for a coronation, Taylor helped lead the Hokies to 35 points, their biggest output of the season. With Western Kentucky and a bye week up next, Virginia Tech will have come full circle in time for a rugged four-game stretch that’ll define its postseason fate.

Forget about blue-chip recruits and storied histories. College football success has been and always will be about the men on the sidelines and in the coaching booths. Frank Beamer has proven that once again over the past four weeks.      

Or Maybe Ole Miss And Oregon State Dominated On The Lines.

By Matthew Zemek

4. Does anyone need any more evidence to understand why mental toughness is the most important factor in all of college football?
Does anyone need any more explanation, after this weekend, in order to understand why one week's seemingly discouraging performance against Little Sisters of the Poor Valley State Poly Tech has very little, if anything, to do with the following week's hugely-hyped contest against the AP No. 5 team?
Does anyone require further proof, after this weekend, as to why one week's awesome performance against Big Boy University can and will be followed up by a clunker against a lowly loser or lucky lurker on the college football scene?
Does anyone, after this weekend, now see why the terms "hangover game," "look-ahead game," "letdown," "ambush," "trap," "sandwich," and others are rightly entrenched in this beautifully baffling sport's lexicon?
If you're only looking at pure talent and pure technique and pure physical ability, you're only seeing half of this sport, maybe even less. To ignore fluctuations in performance, which are caused by the fragility of the human organism--especially among the ranks of hyperactive, hormonally volatile 19- and 20-year-old males playing a sport that requires them to act a little crazy--is to, flatly and factually, ignore the 139-year history of college football.
If you've ever knocked the centrality of psychology--in college football or, for that matter, any other sport--you don't have to knock it anymore.

And Gary Barnett Is Nowhere To Be Found.

By Steve Silverman  

5. Lost in all the wackiness and excitement of the last weekend was one of the best stories no one is noticing ... Northwestern.

No, the unbeaten Wildcats aren't going to be in the hunt for the national championship and will likely be out of the Big Ten title chase soon, but that shouldn't undermine the turnaround done by one of college football's youngest head coaches just a few years removed from Randy Walker's tragic death.

Pat Fitzgerald has shown that he's learned quite a bit about coaching now that he’s in his third year on the job. Now he's getting the most out of his team.

When Northwestern has been competitive in recent years, they've been good-to-great on offense and forgotten about defense. This year’s team plays defense and provides just enough offense to get the job done, holding Iowa scoreless in the second half to come back from a 17-3 deficit late in the second quarter for the 22-17 win. The Wildcat defense recovered four fumbles and also had an interception led by safety Brad Phillips, who forced a Shonn Greene fumble that was recovered by defensive tackle Corbin Bryant in the fourth quarter. The hit knocked Greene out of the game. Wildcat middle linebacker Malcolm Arrington said the Hawkeyes were a “much different team” after that.

The Wildcats are 5-0 for the first time since 1962. They may not stay that way after Michigan State comes calling on Oct. 11, but they won’t go faintly into the night. They are a hard-hitting and punishing team that doesn’t care what anyone thinks. They just want to hit, and they're just finding ways to win.