The college football Coaches Poll isn’t exactly as it seems. It’s an open secret that many (most?) of the “coaches” voting on the sport’s top 25 teams really aren’t coaches at all, but rather sports information directors who might briefly consult with their bosses.
The last Coaches Poll before bowl season, from early December, included the Virginia Tech Hokies at 19th after losing the ACC title game. But Arkansas coach Bret Bielema, in what must have been taken by someone as a grievous assault on Tech’s character, did not rank the Hokies. (See Bielema’s ballot here.)
It doesn’t really matter. The Coaches Poll is no longer part of the BCS (which no longer exists) and thus meaningless, especially when it’s released the same day as the official College Football Playoff rankings. Bielema is one of many voters.
But it so happened that when bowl pairings came out later on Sunday, the Hogs were playing the Hokies in the Belk Bowl. Thus, we had the head coach of Arkansas impugning the ability of his team’s nine-win bowl opponent, the Hokies (Dec. 29, 5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN). All while he ranked Kentucky 24th! What a boondoggle.
But Arkansas let some tension out of the room with a statement later in the day.
Statement from Arkansas on Virginia Tech being left off Bret Bielema's coaches poll ballot. pic.twitter.com/dOXUMafTb7— Barrett Sallee (@BarrettSallee) December 5, 2016
Arkansas said Bielema’s omission of Virginia Tech was an “oversight” not noticed by the SID or the coach. You know what? That’s likely exactly the case.
There’s no reason to think the Razorbacks are lying. It directly benefits Bielema’s team to have Virginia Tech ranked higher, because ranked opponents look better to play against, help get fans excited for games, and are clearly preferable to non-ranked opponents.
Bielema later praised his opponent, as he typically does:
“To play a quality opponent that was swinging swing for swing with the No .2-ranked team in the College Football Playoffs, I think speaks volumes,” Bielema said on Sunday, after it was announced Arkansas would face Virginia Tech in the Belk Bowl on Dec. 29.
Bielema, in his fourth season with the Razorbacks, had just returned from Atlanta where he served as a guest analyst for coverage of the SEC championship game between Alabama and Florida.
“I sat down on the couch, had an opportunity to watch a little football,” said Bielema. “Watched the game. Coach (Justin) Fuente’s obviously been very impressive.”
The Hogs felt compelled to “sincerely apologize” to the Hokies for Bielema leaving them out. My guess is Justin Fuente wasn’t actually that broken up about this, and if anyone was, the afflicted parties should’ve logged off from the internet and taken a nice walk.