Virginia Tech is favored to beat the 'Noles, which the computer says will be undefeated at the time, in Blacksburg on a Thursday night on November 8. Three weeks and two days later, the teams will meet again in Charlotte with the Hokies prevailing to capture the the ACC Championship. Virginia Tech is favored by 4.74 points in the first matchup and 1.74 points in the subsequent game.
Prior to taking on Florida State the first time, Virginia Tech has to survive a trip to Clemson to face the team that defeated them twice last season with relative ease - 23-3 in Blacksburg and 38-10 in Charlotte.
It isn't hard to fathom the Hokies running the rest of a schedule that is ranked the 41st toughest largely because Clemson and Florida State are on it. The nonconference portion features FCS member Austin Peay at home, Big East contender Cincinnati at FedEx Field in D.C., MAC middleweight Bowling Green at home and a road trip to Big East member (and future ACC member) Pittsburgh.
Meanwhile, the computer shows the Big 12 to be the toughest in the nation in 2012 and, perhaps, the most competitive. Seven teams will begin the season with power ratings between 81.04 and 87.86 - Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, West Virginia, Kansas State, Texas, Baylor and TCU.
Ultimately, the computer takes Oklahoma to capture the conference crown and advance to the BCS Championship game with an 11-1 record, losing only at West Virginia. When the teams face off in Miami, Oklahoma gets the computer's edge by 4.40 points.
The computer has Oklahoma beginning the season at No. 1, but falling back with a loss at West Virginia. Virginia Tech starts 10th and works it way up through the ranks as others fall by the wayside.
If you're not familiar with "the computer", let me provide a brief background. "The Computer" is the Congrove Computer Rankings which I developed in 1993, five years before the BCS was established. My purpose was to create a "true" ranking of teams through a mathematical formula that contained no personal opinion or preconceived bias.
The computer correctly predicted the national championship matchup and game-winner the very first year of its existence. That same season, it correctly determined the exact matchup for 7 of the 19 bowls that were around at the time, and it put 27 of 38 teams in the correct bowls before a single snap of the season was taken. It then went 14-5 in picking bowl winners.
My rankings began as a personal experiment but the first-year results were so astounding, even to me, that I continued my annual rankings as a hobby.
In 1999, collegefootballpoll.com was born and the website is now beginning its 14th season. It seems like such a short time ago that I literally put pen to paper to work on the formula, but this will be the 20th season of the Congrove Computer Rankings.
So what else does the computer say about 2012?
In short, it says that 2012 will be the most wide-open race since I began the rankings. Fourteen programs are forecasted to end the regular season with just one loss. Feed it the anticipated championship game matchups and 11 teams still exist with no more than a single defeat.
I already listed the teams that will closely compete for the Big 12 title. All seven of those schools are ranked in the computer's opening day top 21 and four - Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, West Virginia and Kansas State - are ranked among the top 7.
The SEC will be just as close with Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, LSU and South Carolina beginning the year with power ratings between 80.52 and 85.03. All seven of those schools are among the computer's top 22 teams in the country on opening day.
The rest of the top 25 slots on opening day are taken by three teams each from the ACC, PAC-12 and Big Ten and a pair of independents. All are fairly predictable. The ACC schools are Virginia Tech, Florida State and Clemson. The PAC-12 members are USC, Oregon and Stanford. The Big Ten teams are Michigan, Michigan State and Nebraska. The independents are BYU and Notre Dame.
The Big 12 and SEC need playoffs of more than 4 teams just to determine their own conference champions. How in the world can anyone believe that a 4-team playoff is sufficient to determine a national champion!?
By the way, the computer offers up a surprising SEC title match, too. It picks Arkansas, not Alabama or LSU, to win the western half. And it takes Florida - not South Carolina or Georgia - to take the eastern division. It then takes Arkansas to capture the conference championship game by 3.56 points over the Gators in Atlanta.
The computer has LSU and 'Bama each losing three games during the regular season. LSU is projected to stumble by 2.10 at Auburn, 2.24 in "The Swamp" and 5.80 at the Hogs. Alabama is expected to fall at Arkansas (6.75) and LSU (3.95), as well as on opening day by 4.47 points to Michigan in Cowboys Stadium.
Consensus PAC-12 favorite USC gets the computer's endorsement as the victor over Oregon for the PAC-12 title. But that conference as a whole is rated the weakest of the "big 6" conferences behind the Big 12, SEC, Big Ten, ACC and Big East. Not much at all is expected out of half the conference - Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, Washington State, UCLA or Oregon State. It's viewed as top-heavy league entirely driven by USC and Utah in the south and Oregon and Stanford in the north while Washington and Cal could factor into the discussion.
The Big 12 loses Missouri and Texas A&M to the SEC. It gains TCU from the Mountain West and West Virginia from the Big East.
The Big East loses West Virginia to the Big 12. It welcomes back Temple from the MAC. (The Owls were evicted from the Big East after the 2004 season for their failure to be competitive. The computer picks them to finish 4th in the conference this season.
The MAC loses Temple and gains UMass as it moves up from the FCS ranks.
The Mountain West bids adieu to TCU to the Big 12, but the MWC welcomes three of Boise State's former WAC foes in Fresno State, Hawaii and Nevada.
The SEC adds Missouri to the eastern division and Texas A&M to the western half of the league, increasing its overall membership to 14 schools.
The Sun Belt adds South Alabama from the FCS.
The WAC loses Fresno State, Nevada and Hawaii to the Mountain West. It welcomes Texas State and UTSA from the FCS as band-aids to survive the 2012 season. The conference revealed on August 20 that it will abandon football after the 2012 season.
ALL EYES ON ISAAC
THIS WEEK'S TOP GAMES
The 5-game slate on Friday is highlighted by Boise State at Michigan State and N.C. State-Tennessee The latter is the first of two Chick-fil-A kickoff games.
53 games on Saturday include Alabama-Michigan and the best of the two Chick-fil-A matchups as Auburn and Clemson face-off at night. You can classify as "interesting" Toledo-Arizona, Miami-Boston College, Nevada-California, Colorado-Colorado State in Denver, FIU-Duke, Western Michigan-Illinois, Northern Illinois-Iowa at Soldier Field in Chicago, Tulsa-Iowa State, Marshall-West Virginia, Miami (O.)-Ohio State, Notre Dame-Navy from Ireland, Southern Miss-Nebraska, Northwestern-Syracuse, Ohio-Penn State, Oklahoma-UTEP, San Diego State-Washington and Wyoming-Texas.
Saturday also features (moved from Thursday) a battle between two of the four newcomers to the FBS level as South Alabama entertains Texas-San Antonio at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Alabama.
Sunday delivers SMU-Baylor and Kentucky-Louisville.
The weekend concludes with an important ACC matchup as Virginia Tech hosts Georgia Tech on Labor Day Monday night. The last time these two schools tried to kickoff a season was in the year 2000 when Michael Vick was still the Hokies' QB. Lightning struck Lee Corso's car in the parking lot as a storm hit Blacksburg seconds before the game was scheduled to begin. That contest was eventually cancelled and never played.
FBS vs. FCS:
This year, 101 FBS teams play a total of 108 games against FCS foes. UTSA is in its first year of transitioning from the FCS and plays 4 such schools. Cincinnati, Florida State, Pittsburgh and Texas A&M each play two such games.
The 6 teams that fell victim to FCS teams a year ago were Minnesota, New Mexico, UNLV, Western Kentucky, Duke and Oregon State
TCU - 8 straight wins overall. 24 straight conference wins.
LSU - 17-game home winning streak.
Arkansas State - 8-game conference win streak.
Virginia Tech - 13 straight wins in true road games (at opponents' venue).
Kansas - 10 straight losses overall.
Tulane - 10 straight losses overall.
New Mexico - 21 straight road losses.
Mississippi - 14 straight conference losses.
Here are the opening games for each new head coach: