When North Carolina meets Virginia Tech this weekend, fans of three teams are going to be really interested. UNC and Tech fans will be watching, of course, but the third team won't be Miami – the Hurricanes can't even show up to their own games. No, the third team is Boise State, who desperately need Virginia Tech to be as successful as possible to bolster their own title chances. And they'll be rooting against Carolina, hard.
I know, I'm disappointed too. And after all I did for them. But it does raise an interesting question. How much can Virginia Tech winning out help the Broncos? It's a pretty difficult question, if for no other reason than the six computer polls all have their individual secret sauces we're not privy to. But there's also the problem that the computers really don't like the Hokies.
For the first three weeks of the BCS rankings, only one computer poll listed Virginia Tech at all, Richard Bilingsley's. Billingsley had the Hokies at 25 for the first two weeks, before bumping them up to 21 after the Duke win. Since the highest and lowest rankings are tossed out of the BCS math, Tech was essentially unranked by the computers, and only in the BCS rankings at all by virtue of the poll votes. And these are the same poll voters who have decided that Boise State is the fourth of four undefeated teams; their opinion of the Hokies isn't going to have an effect on their ranking of Boise State.
Virginia Tech did get a boost with last week's win over Georgia Tech, however. They're now ranked by three of the six computers, with their two strongest opponents remaining. So let's assume that beating Carolina and Miami would have an equal effect in the polls as the Georgia Tech win. That would get the Hokies up to approximately 21st or 20th in the average computer rankings. This is roughly where Nevada, the Broncos opponent in two weeks, is ranked. (Nevada is behind Virginia Tech in both voting polls. Discuss among yourselves.) No one's really expecting Boise State to get a boost in the polls from beating the Wolf Pack, so I don't think Tech winning out is going to boost them very much either. Losses from the teams currently above them in the computer polls – currently LSU, although two-loss Stanford, Nebraska, and Oklahoma State lead the Broncos in three polls apiece – will probably have a bigger effect. But all this math is still only fighting over 33% of the BCS formula. The voters have a bigger sway, and they're not going to budge.
Virginia Tech is an illustrative example of another flaw in the computer polls, however. They aren't built to handle losses to FCS schools. The Hokies resume is a loss to the fourth-ranked team in the country, seven wins, of which only N.C. State looks remotely impressive to silicon, and the loss to James Madison. The closest comparison is probably somewhere between Nevada (only one loss, but even less impressive wins) and Arizona (also two losses, but a win over Iowa). Tech is four spots below Nevada, which is another four behind the Wildcats. Boise State's fate was sealed in the second week of the season, when they failed to focuses against JMU; Tech beating UNC isn;t going to help Boise State one whit.