Virginia Tech

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AP Top 25: La.-Lafayette leads 10 new teams in rankings

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Sun Belt rivals Louisiana-Lafayette and Appalachian State were among 10 new teams ranked Sunday in first regular-season Associated Press college football poll, which was stripped of the teams not yet scheduled to play a fall season.

There was no change at the very top: Preseason No. 1 Clemson received 60 of 61 first place-votes this week.

After all Division I teams were eligible to be voted on for the preseason Top 25, the panel of 61 voters was permitted to consider only the 60% of Football Bowl Subdivision teams scheduled to play in the fall now that the season has started.

That meant preseason No. 2 Ohio State, No. 7 Penn State and No. 9 Oregon, along with six other Big Ten and Pac-12 teams, dropped out of the rankings. The Big Ten, Pac-12, Mid-American Conference and Mountain West have delayed their seasons due to concerns about playing amid the coronavirus pandemic, but the Big Ten is taking some steps toward a possible mid-October start.

With those teams gone, Alabama moved up to No. 2. Oklahoma is No. 3, followed by No. 4 Georgia and No. 5 Florida. Defending champion LSU, with one first-place vote, is No. 6.

The Sun Belt Conference has two teams ranked for the first time since the conference began sponsoring football in 2001, with Louisiana-Lafayette at No. 19 and Appalachian State at No. 23, tied with Kentucky.

The Ragin’ Cajuns pulled off maybe the biggest upset of the weekend, winning at Iowa State 31-14 on Saturday. The Cyclones had been ranked No. 23 and are the one team currently scheduled to play to fall out of the rankings after being in the preseason Top 25.

Louisiana-Lafayette was last ranked in 1943.

POLL POINTS

The rest of the newcomers to the Top 25:

– No. 16 Memphis has the highest ranking of those teams entering the poll. Not surprising. The Tigers were first among the others receiving votes in the preseason poll and opened the season by beating Arkansas State last week. That same Arkansas State then turned around and upset Kansas State on the road Saturday. The Tigers might have to sit on that ranking for a little while. Players being sidelined by positive COVID-19 tests and related quarantines forced the postponement of Memphis’ game Friday against Houston.

– No. 17 Miami also garnered some support in the preseason. The Hurricanes join on the strength of a 31-14 victory Thursday against Conference USA contender UAB.

– No. 18 Louisville beat Western Kentucky 35-21 to open its season and is ranked for the first time since 2017.

– No. 20 Virginia Tech has already had two games postponed. The Hokies were supposed to open their season Saturday against North Carolina State, but the Wolfpack’s preparation for the season was delayed by a COVID-19 outbreak. Now Virginia Tech is dealing with coronavirus issues of its own and its game next week against Virginia has been postponed.

– No. 21 BYU opened the season on Labor Day, beating Navy 55-3. But the Cougars’ next game has been postponed because of positive COVID-19 cases among the players.

– No. 22 Army has opened the season with two victories by a combined score of 79-7.

– No. 23 Kentucky is scheduled to start the season Sept. 26, along with the rest of the SEC.

– No. 25 Pitt opened the season by beating Austin Peay 55-0 in a game that was shortened in the second half. With the Panthers up 42-0 halftime, the teams agreed to play 10-minute quarters.

CONFERENCE CALL

SEC – 8 (Nos. 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 15, 23t).

ACC – 7 (Nos. 1, 7, 12, 17, 18, 20, 25).

Big 12 – 3 (Nos. 3, 9, 11).

American – 3 (Nos. 13, 14, 16).

Sun Belt – 2 (Nos. 19, 23t).

Independents – 2. (Nos. 21, 22).

RANKED VS. RANKED

Just one as the SEC still sits idle. BYU at Army would have qualified but for the postponement.

No. 17 Miami at No. 18 Louisville. Two of teams that benefited from solid openers against C-USA teams. Louisville’s Micale Cunningham and Miami’s D'Eriq King make for an exciting quarterback matchup.

COVID-19 knocks out Virginia-Virginia Tech opener

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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The pandemic disrupted college sports again Saturday, with Virginia and Virginia Tech postponing their Sept. 19 football opener because of COVID-19 issues at Virginia Tech.

The schools said this was a mutual agreement. No makeup date was announced for the game that had been set for Virginia Tech’s Lane Stadium. Virginia Tech also will not hold football practice for four days.

The postponement is the second for the Hokies since the Atlantic Coast Conference released a revised schedule. Their original opening game, slated for Sept. 12 against North Carolina State, was pushed back two weeks after a COVID-19 outbreak at N.C. State.

Virginia, suddenly faced with not opening its season until Oct. 3 at No. 1 Clemson, moved its home game against Duke to Sept. 26. The game was originally scheduled for Nov. 14.

It was just one of a series of maneuvers in a season that likely will require many more.

Since the Hokies’ original opener was postponed Aug. 26 because of outbreaks upending the Wolfpack’s preparation, there have been more than a dozen FBS games postponed because of issues with COVID-19. Three Big 12 teams scheduled to open this weekend, including No. 15 Oklahoma State, had their games postponed.

Also, BYU and Army agreed to postpone the Cougars’ visit to West Point, New York, on Sept. 19 after what BYU called “a small number” of positive test results and the resultant contact tracing restrictions. The schools said they hope to be able to reschedule.

On Saturday, Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said he had unidentified five starters out of practice this week because of COVID-19-related issues. A total of 10 players are sidelined from practice. No. 11 Auburn opens Sept. 26 against Kentucky.

A day earlier, Memphis announced it had multiple positive tests within the football program and a “significant number of individuals” who had to be quarantined because of contact tracing. The Tigers’ game against Houston on Friday was eventually postponed, and the Cougars worked quickly to fill the void, scheduling a visit to Baylor on Sept. 19.

On its web page, Virginia Tech reported Friday it has had 219 positive tests for the coronavirus in the previous seven days, putting its total infections at 633 since testing began Aug. 3. The numbers have risen steadily since students returned Aug. 24.

The school has not been releasing athlete-specific results.

Virginia released its latest numbers for athletes and athletic staff on Saturday, saying it has had five positive tests since the last update on Sept. 4. The school said four of the five positives were from students who recently returned to campus and that the football program has not had any positive results since the first report on July 24.

“The safety as well as the physical and mental well-being of these young men and women entrusted to our care by their families remains our top priority,” Hokies athletic director Whit Babcock said in a statement.

“I know the virus has always been here, but the virus in full force finally got to southwest Virginia, and the timing is pretty poor for football,” Babcock said later on a Zoom call, noting that schools have closed locally for a few weeks.

He added: “We could have played last week and N.C. State could not and then this week it’s reversed roles.”

He declined to say how many football players were included in the positive tests, citing the school’s interpretation of privacy laws, but added it was a “significant number where your chief medical officer says it was not safe to play.”

On Twitter, some of Virginia’s coaches praised their players.

“It is really this simple… you either are committed to your team or you are not,” offensive line coach Garett Tujague tweeted. “There are those that can sacrifice for each other and then there are those that CAN NOT. The greatest thing is… You get to make that choice.”

Running backs coach Mark Atuaia noted the “grave sacrifices” by his players.

“My heart goes out to them because no one is giving merit to the disciple my young brothers have displayed since the pandemic hit,” he wrote. “My UVA young brothers are AMAZING!!!”

Conferences proceeding with a fall football season are requiring their schools to test athletes three times per week, and the ACC altered its schedule, pushing back its start date a week and its championship game, in anticipation of teams being unable to play because of the pandemic.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says any person who spends at least 15 minutes within 6 feet of a person who is infected with COVID-19 is deemed a high-risk contact and requires a 14-day quarantine. High-risk contacts can also involve touching or being sneezed on or coughed upon by an infected person.

The NCAA adopted those standards in its return-to-play guidelines.

Baylor becomes 3rd Big 12 team to postpone opener after La Tech outbreak

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
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WACO, Texas — Baylor became the third Big 12 team forced to postpone its scheduled season opener this weekend after Louisiana Tech reported multiple positive COVID-19 tests Tuesday, less than two weeks after a hurricane affected its campus.

Louisiana Tech athletic director Tommy McClelland said Tuesday night that it wasn’t possible for the Bulldogs to play Saturday at Baylor because of the positive tests and contact tracing that would keep other players out the game.

The school didn’t provide any specific numbers, but said there was a spike in cases in the aftermath of Hurricane Laura on Aug. 27 that impacted the campus in Ruston, Louisiana, which is more than 200 miles inland. McClelland the school had only one positive case in the three weeks before the current outbreak, an indication that protocols in place were working.

“With 95% of our city losing power for days – even up to a week in many areas – our student-athletes were forced to find places to stay and some even had family from south Louisiana that came northward to stay with them,” McClelland said. “So many things that we were able to control for the month of August became out of our control, and I think the numbers prove that it took its toll.”

No makeup date was announced.

The Louisiana Tech-Baylor game is the 10th Division I game that has been postponed because of the novel coronavirus, including Big 12 games SMU at TCU and Tulsa at Oklahoma State. The other postponed games are: North Carolina State at Virginia Tech, Temple at Navy, ULM at Troy, Marshall at East Carolina, and three Rice games – against Houston, Marshall and UAB.

TCU had to put off its scheduled opener Friday night after a virus outbreak last week among a cluster of Horned Frogs players and support staff. Oklahoma State has pushed back its opener against Tulsa a week to Sept. 19 after the Golden Hurricane were limited during preseason camp because of multiple positive tests.

Seven Big 12 teams are still scheduled to play Saturday.

“We are incredibly disappointed to announce the postponement of our upcoming football game against Louisiana Tech,” Baylor athletic director Mack Rhoades said. “However, in the interest of the health and wellness of our student-athletes, coaches, and staff, we are confident in this unfortunate but necessary course of action. To the Baylor and Louisiana Tech student-athletes and communities, we share in your disappointment and look ahead to resuming play.”

The game was supposed to be the debut of new Baylor head coach Dave Aranda, the defensive coordinator last season for 15-0 national champion LSU. He replaced Matt Rhule, who was hired by the NFL’s Carolina Panthers after three seasons with the Bears.