(11-1) Nebraska Beats Out (11-0) Virginia Tech
for the #2 Spot in the Final Regular Season Anderson & Hester/Seattle
It is a classic debate: the undefeated team versus the 1-loss
team with a much tougher schedule. In this year's incarnation of
this recurrent dispute, the 1-loss Nebraska Cornhuskers deserve the nod
over the undefeated Virginia Tech Hokies for the nation's #2 ranking.
Why? In short, because Nebraska's 4-1 record versus the top-25
is more impressive than Virginia Tech's 0-0 mark.
To elaborate further, both Virginia Tech and Nebraska went undefeated
versus teams ranked outside the top-15 (the Hokies went 11-0, the Cornhuskers
8-0), but Nebraska's 3-1 record versus the top-15 is more impressive than
Virginia Tech's 0-0. For anyone who doubts the impressiveness of
Nebraska's winning 75 percent of its games versus the top-15, consider
the following: Among the top 50 teams in the nation, every team that
played at least one top-15 team lost to at least one top-15 teamówith the
exception of #1-ranked Florida State (which went 1-0 in such games).
In other words, no top-50 team aside from the Seminoles stepped foot on
the field against the top-15 and escaped unscathed. In all, of the
mere six teams that posted winning records versus the top-15, only two
went 2-games-over-.500 in those games: Nebraska and #4 Alabama (both
of which went 3-1).
You might ask, Whom exactly did Virginia Tech play? The Hokies'
five highest-ranked opponents were #26 (7-4) Virginia, #31 (8-4) Miami,
#34 (6-5) Clemson, #40 Boston College (which went 8-3 but played the 91st-toughest
schedule out of 114) and #57 (5-6) UAB. Much was made of Tech's nationally
televised 62-0 spanking of Syracuse, but Syracuse turned out to be the
#59 team in the country, sandwiched between #58 Hawaii and #60 Memphis.
Let there be no mistake about it: the Hokies are an outstanding
football team (#3 in the nation); they are somewhat of a sentimental favorite
given their underdog, outsider status; and they may well beat Florida State
in the Sugar Bowl. But it is awfully tough to stake a claim that
one belongs in the national championship game solely on the basis of wins
versus non-top-25 teams. Yes, Virginia Tech went 11-0, but the rest
of the top-10 went 66-3 (a 96 percent winning percentage) when not playing
the top-25. It is simply not that hard for top-5 teams to beat non-top-25
teams; but it is very hard for any team to beat top-15 teams, which Virginia
Tech didn't do and Nebraska did.
The teams that deserve selection to college football's national championship
game are those that not only beat the teams that they clearly should beat,
but beat top-flight teams as well. Of the 114 teams across the country,
only two posted winning records versus the top-15 and perfect records otherwise,
and they are the two teams most deserving of invitations to New Orleans:
the #1 Florida State Seminoles and the #2 Nebraska Cornhuskers.