A surprising 2012 forecast from the Congrove Computer Rankings reveals a National Championship bout between Virginia Tech and Oklahoma. The Hokies haven't played in the championship game since losing to Florida State at the end of the 1999 season and this marks the first time that the computer has them as one of the two teams left standing. Oklahoma is 1-3 in BCS title games overall, including losses in its last three appearances. The computer picked Oklahoma to beat Alabama in last year's championship game, but the Sooners finished 10-3. Alabama went on to defeat LSU in an all-SEC final.
Virginia Tech is the only team in the country that is predicted to run the table and getting there won't be easy. Most notably, the Hokies have to beat Clemson in Clemson after losing twice last year. And they weren't simply beaten by Clemson. They were embarrassed 23-3 in Blacksburg and 38-10 in Charlotte in the ACC Championship game. Virginia Tech is favored to escape this season's road meeting by a scant one-tenth of a point.
The Hokies are double-digit favorites in 9 regular season games. The only other exceptions are a 7.74-point win over Cincinnati at FedEx Field in the nation's capital and a 4.74-point win over Florida State on a Thursday night at Lane Stadium. The FSU meeting would also serve as the 'Noles first and only defeat, meaning this game could easily be a top-five matchup when it occurs on November 8.
Virginia Tech is a 1.74-point favorite in the rematch with the Seminoles in Charlotte.
The Hokies are 3-2 in previous ACC Championship game appearances with wins in '07, '08 and '10. Both FSU title game appearances have come against the Hokies - the 'Noles won in 2005 and lost in 2010.
Clemson isn't out of the running for a return to Charlotte. In fact, the projected records of 8-4 overall and 6-2 in the ACC include a narrow 4.36-point loss in Tallahassee in a game that will likely determine the championship possibility for both teams. The other forecasted losses are all by less than a point. A 0.97-point loss to Auburn in the Chick-fil-A game opener in Atlanta and a 0.05-point home loss to rival South Carolina in the season finale go with the 0.10-point predicted home defeat at the hands of the Hokies.
A Clemson home win over N.C. State is the tie-breaker for second-place in the Atlantic. The Wolfpack is expected to go 9-3 overall and 6-2 in-conference with its only other ACC loss coming at home versus Florida State.
Boston College is given a solid 4th-place pick and bowl eligibility at 6-6. Maryland and Wake Forest are at the rear, each with just 1-7 conference records.
Georgia Tech is the anticipated runner-up in the Coastal, but the computer places the Jackets 2 games and more than 10 power points behind VT. The two Techs square-off in Blacksburg on Labor Day Monday with Virginia Tech getting a 13.06-point edge. Georgia Tech also visits Clemson as a 9.96-point underdog.
Virginia, Duke, North Carolina and Miami are interchangeable for 3rd-place through 6th in the Coastal. Those four schools are no more than 5.38 points apart in power ratings, meaning it really comes down to which schools get the more favorable home schedule. Duke gets all three at home while Virginia gets North Carolina and Miami in Charlottesville. The 'Canes only get UNC at home and the Tar Heels must visit all three.
North Carolina is the only ACC team that made a head coaching change from last season. The Tar Heels played the entire 2011 campaign under interim head coach Everett Withers after Butch Davis was fired a month before the season began following months of NCAA investigations. The Tar Heels still managed a 7-5 regular season before losing to Missouri in the Independence Bowl, but announced on December 8th that they had hired Larry Fedora away from Southern Miss to replace Withers. In the previous four seasons under Davis, North Carolina was 28-23, posting 8-5 records in each of his last three campaigns after a 4-8 inaugural year. North Carolina is not eligible for an ACC title or bowl game this season due to NCAA sanctions.
The remaining 11 teams return their head coaches from a year ago after the league saw changes last year at UNC, Maryland (Randy Edsall) and Miami (Al Golden).
It was reported in July that Pitt and Syracuse will make an earlier-than-expected jump to the ACC with both schools entering the conference in time for the 2013 football season.