Eye strain notwithstanding, researching a college football program’s record against the top 25 is not manual labor. Most, if not all, conference and school media guides note such results, albeit often in agate type.
But those records reflect the polls at kickoff. Might a more revealing measure be your record against opponents that FINISHED among the top 25?
That’s certainly how NCAA tournament selection committees operate. When the men’s and women’s basketball panels cite a team’s record against the RPI’s top 50, that’s the top 50 at regular season’s end, not the top 50 when you played a particular opponent.
For example, when Virginia defeated Minnesota in last year’s ACC-Big Ten Challenge, the Gophers were 10th in the RPI. Great win, right?
By regular season’s end, Minnesota was 85th. So no top-50 victory for the Cavaliers.
Conversely, when Virginia Tech defeated Penn State in December, the Nittany Lions were 67th. Yawn. But they closed at 39th, giving the Hokies a quality win by committee standards.
This train of thought, by the way, was prompted by a chart on a college football trivia website. It shows the records of all current Bowl Subdivision programs versus the final 25 (Associated Press or coaches’ poll) from 2006-10.
At 9-10, Tech is far and away the ACC’s best, and only Auburn (13-10), Southern California (12-6), Ohio State (12-8), Texas (11-7), Boise State (8-3) and TCU (7-6) are over .500.
So let’s see how the commonwealth’s two FBS programs fare by the two standards, only we’ll start the clock in 2004, the season Virginia Tech joined Virginia as an ACC member.
In the seven seasons since, the Hokies are a sterling 19-12 versus teams that were among the AP's top 25 at kickoff. Against the top 10, Tech is a credible 5-8.
But against the final 25, the Hokies are 14-14. Versus the top 10, they’re a meager 2-8, the victories over West Virginia in 2005 and Boston College in the 2007 ACC championship game.
The in-season to end-of-season change cost Tech three top-10 victories: Miami in 2004 and ’09, and Clemson in 2006. That Tigers’ squad, rated 10th when the Hokies beat them 24-7, finished the year unranked.
Virginia’s numbers dip dramatically, too. Since 2004, the Cavaliers are 7-17 against opponents ranked at kickoff, not horrible for a program in transition.
But versus teams among the year-end top 25, Virginia is 2-20, the lone wins over Florida State in 2005 and Georgia Tech in 2008.
Judge for yourself which standard is best. Each has merits, especially when you consider injuries, suspensions, etc.
But there’s no question which is the most demanding.
Here’s a season-by-season breakdown for Tech and Virginia against the final 25, which you won’t find in any media guide.
2004: Lost to No. 1 USC and No.2 Auburn; beat No. 11 Miami and No. 23 Virginia.
2005: Beat No. 5 West Virginia, No. 18 Boston College and No. 19 Louisville; lost to No. 17 Miami and No. 23 Florida State.
2006: Beat No. 18 Wake Forest; lost to No. 20 Boston College and No. 23 Georgia.
2007: Lost to No. 1 LSU, No. 7 Kansas and No. 10 Boston College (regular season); beat No. 10 Boston College (ACC title game) and No. 21 Clemson.
2008: Beat No. 17 Cincinnati and No. 22 Georgia Tech; lost to No. 21 Florida State.
2009: Lost to No. 1 Alabama and No. 13 Georgia Tech; beat No. 14 Nebraska and No. 19 Miami.
2010: Lost to No. 4 Stanford and No. 9 Boise State; beat No. 17 Florida State and No. 25 North Carolina State.
2004: Lost to No. 10 Virginia Tech, No. 11 Miami, No. 15 Florida State and No. 22 Fresno State.
2005: Lost to No. 7 Virginia Tech, No. 17 Miami, No. 18 Boston College; beat No. 23 Florida State.
2006: Lost to No. 19 Virginia Tech.
2007: Lost to No. 9 Virginia Tech and No. 22 Texas Tech.
2008: Lost to No. 3 USC and No. 15 Virginia Tech; beat No. 22 Georgia Tech.
2009: Lost to No. 6 TCU, No. 10 Virginia Tech, No. 13 Georgia Tech, No. 19 Miami and No. 24 Clemson.
2010: Lost to No. 16 Virginia Tech, No. 17 Florida State and No. 23 Maryland.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun