Virginia Tech and the AP Poll
by Tom Stecher, 5/28/02

Looking at the history of Virginia Tech and the Associated Press (AP) poll, found on page 259 of the 2001 Virginia Tech Football media guide, it is incredible how far Tech has come under Frank Beamer. However, there are also some disappointing points as well.

Before Beamerball, Tech played top ranked teams infrequently. From 1946 to 1986, Tech played 429 total games but only played 39 games against AP-ranked teams. The Hokies' record against these teams was 6 wins and 33 losses Ė OUCH!

Some interesting points during this period:

  • Techís first and last opponent during this time was N.C. State, both wins (remember the KICK?)
  • Tech BEAT Florida State (ranked 10th and 18th) twice during this time
  • Duke was ranked #16 in 1948
  • Techís worst historical loss was against #2 Alabama in 1973, 77-6

Since Beamerball began in 1987, Tech has played 47 times against AP-ranked teams, in only 174 games -- what a difference compared to the 40 years prior to Coach Beamer. Unfortunately, the record against ranked teams in the early years for Coach Beamer was nothing to write home about (2-17-1 prior to 1993).

Tech's win against 9th-ranked West Virginia in 1989, the electrifying win against the 17th-ranked Hoos in 1990, and a tie against 13th-ranked N.C. State during the tough 1992 season were perhaps building blocks to the current ride that Tech is on, plus joining the Big East helped tremendously.

While they didn't win many games against ranked teams from 1987-1992, Virginia Tech did make many of these teams sweat. The following teams had their fill of the "Men from Blacksburg" in that time period:

Narrow Losses by VT to Ranked Teams, 1987-1992

Year

Opponent

Result

1987

#10 Clemson

L, 22-10

1987

#3 Miami

L, 27-13

1988

#7 West Virginia

L, 22-10

1988

#8 South Carolina

L, 26-24

1990

#2 Florida State

L, 39-28

1990

#7 Georgia Tech

L, 6-3

1991

#6 Oklahoma

L, 27-17

1991

#1 Florida State

L, 33-20

1991

#14 East Carolina

L, 24-17

1992

#21 N.C. State

T, 13-13

Since the start of Tech's current nine-year consecutive bowl streak, their record against ranked teams is 15 up and 12 down, not great, but certainly better than the Southern Conference and independent days.

The other surprising fact is the history of Tech playing games when ranked by the AP. Prior to Coach Beamer, Tech had only two years when they were ranked while still playing Ė 1954 and 1956. In '54, Tech won five and tied once, and then in '56, Tech won twice and lost once to 13th-ranked Clemson. During this two-year stretch, the Hokies bounced between 14th and 18th rankings.

It would be 37 years and five coaches before Tech would again play games as a team ranked in the AP poll. During the Beamer years, the Hokies have played 81 games as a ranked team (again, compared to past Virginia Tech teams, another amazing fact). Obviously, Coach Beamer has taken Tech to unprecedented heights in the college football world.

Although the Hokies are now a perennial top 20 team, there is room for improvement. Since 93, Coach Beamerís record against top 10 teams is 1-7 (with the 1995 Sugar Bowl win over 9th-ranked Texas being the only W). Add on the early years (1987-1992) and the record against top 10 drops to 2-19. Hopefully, by toughening the schedule as they are this season, the Hokies will be better prepared for these top teams.

Finally, the other disappointing fact during these glory years: an unranked team or a huge underdog will beat Tech. If you throw out the Vick years of 1999 and 2000, since '94 Virginia Tech has had at least one disappointing/upset loss each year.

Upset Losses by VT, 1993-2001

Year

Game

1994

unranked Tennessee beats 17th-ranked Tech

1995

16-0 loss to Cincinnati

1996

unranked Syracuse crushes 18th-ranked Tech

1997

unranked Miami of Ohio beats 14th-ranked Tech

1997

unranked Pittsburgh beats 19th-ranked Tech

1998

unranked Temple shocks 14th-ranked Tech

1998

unranked Syracuse beats 16th-ranked Tech

2001

unranked Syracuse beats 5th-ranked Tech

2001

unranked Pittsburgh crushes 12th-ranked Tech

By comparison during the Beamer era, unranked Tech teams have only won four times and tied once in 25 total games against ranked teams. Besides the previously mentioned games against West Virginia, Virginia, and N.C. State, unranked Tech also had victories over #17 Miami and #20 Syracuse, both in 1995. Losing to top 10 teams is unfortunate, but losing to this many unranked teams is, well, insert your own negative word here.

How about the Hokies games against higher ranked teams during the current bowl streak? Tech's chances were:

VT's Record Against Higher-Ranked Teams, 1993-2001

Year

Matchup

Result

1993

#25 VT vs #23 Virginia

W, 20-17

1993

#22 VT vs #21 Indiana

W, 45-20

1994

#13 VT vs #6 Miami

L, 3-24

1995

#20 VT vs #13 Virginia

W, 36-29

1995

#13 VT vs #9 Texas

W, 28-10

1996

#21 VT vs #18 Miami

W, 21-7

1996

#10 VT vs #6 Nebraska

L, 21-41

1997

unranked VT vs #7 North Carolina

L, 3-42

1998

#20 VT vs #16 Virginia

L, 32-36

1999

#2 VT vs #1 Florida State

L, 29-46

2001

#15 VT vs #1 Miami

L, 24-26

Note that the last time Tech beat a higher ranked team was in 1996 -- has it been THAT long? Do the above comparisons bother any other Hokie fans? Unranked teams have success against the Hokies, but lately, we havenít been able to say the same thing when Tech plays higher ranked teams.

Ten years ago, the Top 20 was a dream for Tech fans. Now, with a great coaching staff, better players, and enthusiastic fans, itís a reality. Yes, Tech has come a long way baby. But, playing the top teams tough isnít good enough anymore. If Tech wants college football elite status, wins against elite teams have to occur. 2002 could be a break out year for Tech. LSU, Texas A&M, and Miami, could this be the year the Hokies once again beat a higher-ranked team?

Hokies, letís start a new streak with LSU! As Coach Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit say Ė "itís time for some SERIOUS football"!

Tom Stecher, Class of 1981

          

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