Coaches preach "one game at a time," while players dutifully nod and resume their iPod shuffle.
Fans and media are bound to no such convention. We project, ponder what-ifs and debate the possibilities over a root beer or online.
Virginia Tech back among college football's top 10 this week, the question is irresistible, especially to my OCD editor.
On the off chance the sixth-ranked Hokies (3-1) win their final eight regular-season games, plus the ACC title, what are the odds of them qualifying for the national championship shindig at the Rose Bowl stadium in Pasadena, Calif.?
After checking schedules, perusing computer rankings and consulting psychics, I'd say about 50-50.
Before explaining, let's be clear: Virginia Tech has been pass-the-Pepto erratic, and absent consistency has no chance of running the table. But if the Hokies settle down, stay healthy and catch a break or two, they'll rate as favorites in each of their remaining games.
So let's start with the teams ahead of Tech in the coaches' and Harris polls, which are among the eight components used to calculate the Bowl Championship Series standings.
Florida, Texas, Alabama, LSU and Boise State are undefeated, but at least two of them will lose. Alabama and LSU play annually as Southeastern Conference division rivals, and the winner of their Nov. 7 collision in Tuscaloosa figures to earn a date with Florida in the SEC title game.
And that's not all for the SEC trio.
Alabama has remaining roadies at Ole Miss, Mississippi State and blood rival Auburn; LSU goes between the hedges at Georgia on Saturday and hosts Florida a week later; the defending national champion Gators also must negotiate their annual cocktail party with Georgia and a trip to South Carolina (a Steve Spurrier team renowned for defense: Go figure).
Texas, meanwhile, closes this month with consecutive games against Oklahoma (in Dallas), Missouri and Oklahoma State, the latter two on the road. The OU-Texas survivor becomes the de-facto Big 12 South favorite, with a conference championship test awaiting versus the likes of Nebraska, Kansas or Mizzou.
Difficult roads all, but if Texas and an SEC team emerge unscathed, the BCS title game will be set, no questions asked.
The wild card is Boise State, far and away the best bet to stay unbeaten. The Broncos' Western Athletic Conference schedule is tamer than a kitten, though an Oct. 14 contest at Tulsa could prove thorny.
But even at 13-0, Boise State is unlikely to ascend to No. 1 or 2 in the BCS. Season-opening conquest of Oregon notwithstanding, the Broncos' schedule is so weak that even some one-loss teams from major conferences, Virginia Tech included, probably would finish ahead of them.
Among the BCS' computer elements, those generated by Anderson & Hester and Peter Wolfe have yet to release any rankings. But four computer polls are up and running.
Jeff Sagarin's top five are Florida, Boise State, Virginia Tech, Alabama and Iowa. Strange that the Hokies are ahead of the Crimson Tide after dropping the teams' opener 34-24 in Atlanta.
Richard Billingsley's top five: Texas, Florida, Alabama, Boise State and Oregon. Tech is 15th, but remember, a team's high and low computer rankings are tossed out when calculating the BCS standings.
The Colley Matrix's top five: Iowa, LSU, Michigan, Florida and Virginia Tech. A whole lot of misguided love for the Big Ten there.
Ken Massey's top five: Florida, Texas, Alabama, Iowa and Oklahoma. The Hokies are 11th, evidence that Tech grad Massey isn't a Frank Beamer plant.
If Hokies go 12-1, big one's in reach
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