Justin Fuente's now had a ranked team at the end of each of his first two seasons at Virginia Tech.
The Hokies came in at No. 24 in the final Associated Press poll, released in the early hours of Tuesday morning, dropping only two spots after losing to Oklahoma State 30-21 in the Camping World Bowl last month. (UPDATE: Tech finished 25th in the coaches poll.)
Virginia Tech went 9-4 this season, a year after finishing 10-4, with a No. 16 in the poll in Fuente's debut season.
It's the 20th time in their history that the Hokies have finished in the top 25, something that happened 16 times under recent Hall of Fame selection Frank Beamer from 1993-2011. Tech didn't finish in the rankings in any of Beamer's final four seasons in Blacksburg, however.
Fuente has now had a team ranked in three of his last four seasons as coach. Memphis was No. 25 in a breakout 2014.
Virginia Tech is one of four ACC teams in the final poll, joining No. 4 Clemson, No. 13 Miami and No. 23 N.C. State.
The Hokies started the year ranked 21st and got as high as 12th during the season.
Here's the full final poll:
- 1. Alabama
- 2. Georgia
- 3. Oklahoma
- 4. Clemson
- 5. Ohio State
- 6. UCF
- 7. Wisconsin
- 8. Penn State
- 9. TCU
- 10. Auburn
- 11. Notre Dame
- 12. USC
- 13. Miami
- 14. Oklahoma State
- 15. Michigan State
- 16. Washington
- 17. Northwestern
- 18. LSU
- 19. Mississippi State
- 20. Stanford
- 21. South Florida
- 22. Boise State
- 23. N.C. State
- 24. Virginia Tech
- 25. Memphis
Quickly, here's a rundown of my final ballot, which did not include Virginia Tech:
1. Alabama: I criticized the Tide before the playoff, but man, they made me eat crow. Can't argue with the playoff results.
2. Georgia: I didn't think we'd end up with the SEC going 1-2, but here we are.
3. Oklahoma: Gave Georgia everything it had in the Rose Bowl.
4. Clemson: I was most surprised in the bowl season by how the Tigers didn't show up for that national semifinal.
5. Ohio State: Maybe should have been in the playoff. Maybe not. Still a solid bowl win against USC.
6. Wisconsin: Handled Miami in the Orange Bowl and its only loss was a close one to Ohio State.
7. UCF: The Disney Champions had a great year, but I don't find it a huge injustice that they weren't in the playoff. They just didn't play the schedule to do it. Nice capper to the season by beating Auburn, though.
8. Penn State: Finally notched a pretty good win by taking down Washington.
9. Auburn: When it's all said and done, this team beat the Nos. 1 and 2 teams in the poll.
10. USC: Pac-12 champs beat Stanford twice but didn't look so hot out of conference.
11. TCU: Maybe should have had the Horned Frogs higher.
12. Miami: Team kind of fell apart late when injuries mounted.
13. Stanford: Yeah, a five-loss team this high. Good wins against Notre Dame and Washington. Lots of competitive losses against good teams.
14. Notre Dame: The Irish won 10 games and blew USC out of the water. Can you put them ahead of Miami and Stanford teams that pounded them?
15. Northwestern: Was there a quieter 10-win season out there?
16. Michigan State: I get the feeling this will be a team to deal with in 2018.
17. Oklahoma State: Nice bowl win against Virginia Tech but ultimately didn't beat any of the big boys.
18. Washington: Went a whole season and its best win was against Washington State.
19. Mississippi State: Didn't think the Bulldogs had it in them to beat Louisville, but they did.
20. LSU: Disappointing offensive season ended properly in low-scoring loss to Notre Dame. MSU pounded these guys, which is why I have the Tigers behind the Bulldogs.
21. N.C. State: Still a lot of what-ifs on this team, but the Sun Bowl romp was a nice finish to the year.
22. Washington State: This team confuses me. It has wins against teams I have ranked 10th, 13th and 23 on this list. It's also lost four games by 19 points or more. I'll keep the Cougars here by virtue of the good wins, which will be a theme coming up.
23. Boise State: Resume's a little light, but this was a conference champ that looked good in the bowl against Oregon and beat some borderline top 25 teams throughout the year.
24. Iowa: Here's where I'll hear it, I'm sure. The Hawkeyes went 8-5 and 4-5 in the Big Ten. But the Big Ten, it turns out, was pretty good. They clobbered Ohio State, which I have No. 5, beat Iowa State early in the year and had a nice bowl win against a decent Boston College team. Iowa won eight games playing the fifth-toughest schedule in the country, according to the Sagarin Rankings. I'll reward teams that won some big games with a tough slate, even if they lost some too.
25. Iowa State: Case in point: the Cyclones, a team I just can't seem to quit. Something about beating teams I had ranked third (Oklahoma) and 11th (TCU) in my final poll. And if there was any debate about ISU and a 10-win team from a non-Power 5 conference like Memphis, well, the Cyclones beat Memphis in what was essentially a road game in the bowl game. Iowa State had the 10th toughest schedule in the country.
Next on the list in no particular order ...
-- Virginia Tech: Beat who it was supposed to and lost who it was supposed to, outside of Georgia Tech. 9-4 against a fairly easy schedule isn't as impressive as 8-5 against a really tough schedule, in my opinion.
-- South Carolina: Finished 9-4 with a win against Michigan, which I thought was pretty average. Beat N.C. State many moons ago, but racked up a lot of wins against a really bad SEC East.
-- Memphis: Went 10-3, which is admirable. But the best part of the Tigers' resume is one close loss to UCF. They just didn't have a tough schedule.
-- South Florida: Same reasoning here. USF went 10-2 and its best win was a four-point victory against Texas Tech in the bowl game. Iowa State beat the Red Raiders 31-13 and no one really batted an eye. I'm not trying to slam the American Athletic Conference, even if it comes across that way, but there is a difference between playing a Power 5 schedule and a Group of 5 one. The Bulls had the 99th-ranked schedule, according to the Sagarin Rankings. A lot of teams could have won 10 games with that slate.
I should note that starting with about No. 22, a lot of these resumes are very close. I had all four of these teams in the top 25 at various points of putting together my ballot.