Tuesday, January 03, 2012
Virginia Tech's reputation on the line in Sugar Bowl
Coach Frank Beamer says his team has worked hard this week and is ready for the spotlight.
Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer (right) and Michigan coach Brady Hoke both have teams that are in need of a milestone BCS bowl game victory tonight.
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- Join the Hokie football conversation on Andy's blog
Twitter: Andy Bitter
- 8:30 p.m. today
- Superdome, New Orleans
NEW ORLEANS -- Virginia Tech's preparation this week for the Sugar Bowl has pleased coach Frank Beamer.
The team paid attention to detail. The practices were sharp. In general, the Hokies' longtime coach is confident in how his group will play against Michigan tonight in the Superdome.
"You never know," Beamer said. "Last year, you know, I thought we practiced well getting ready for Stanford. â€ I think it's always hard to tell."
No. 17 Virginia Tech (11-2) will get another crack at winning a Bowl Championship Series game when it takes on No. 13 Michigan (10-2) in the Sugar Bowl, the Hokies' fourth trip to a BCS bowl in the past five years.
Virginia Tech's struggles in such games are well-chronicled. The Hokies are 1-4 in BCS games, losing to Stanford 40-12 in last year's Orange Bowl, a lopsided game that still resonates nationally.
This is Virginia Tech's fourth appearance in the Sugar Bowl and probably the most scrutinized it has been since the 1995 win against Texas that helped put the program on the national map.
The Hokies have been in the cross hairs since being a controversial at-large selection for the game nearly a month ago, getting chosen instead of top 10 teams Boise State and Kansas State.
Quite frankly, they're tired of hearing about it.
"The media says that one team shouldn't be here," Virginia Tech running back David Wilson said. "So making a statement and coming out and winning this game, that'd be powerful."
Beamer, who is 8-10 in bowl games, knows there's an increased pressure to do well, since the Hokies are the ACC's first at-large selection to a BCS game in the system's 14-year history. The league is 2-11 in BCS bowls.
"I think anytime you play, you want to do well for the ACC, because we haven't won enough games against outside competition," Beamer said. "It's just a fact."
But Virginia Tech is also playing for its own reputation.
The Hokies were run off the field their last time out, losing 38-10 to Clemson in the ACC championship game in Charlotte, N.C., on Dec. 3.
"We got our butt beat," defensive line coach Charley Wiles said bluntly.
The Tigers, who are the only team currently ranked in the top 25 from Virginia Tech's regular season schedule, won two games against the Hokies by a combined score of 61-13.
But they were the only two blemishes in an otherwise strong season, one that could end with Virginia Tech winning 12 games for the first time in its history.
"You win 12 and it goes down as one of those great, great years," Wiles said.
The disappointment of the ACC championship game fueled Virginia Tech in its preparation for Michigan.
"We're a little more edgy," defensive backs coach Torrian Gray said. "As players, hopefully they're a little more edgy, but as coaches, our job is to make them a little more edgy and coach them with a little more zeal, not that you weren't before.
"But we've got a bad taste in our mouth from our last performance, and we're going to make sure we come out and play well."
Michigan, which won 10 games and is back in a BCS bowl for the first time since 2006, has its own postseason shortcomings. The Wolverines are 1-3 in BCS games and 2-6 in bowl games since 2002.
Asked if a victory would put Michigan back on the national scene, first-year head coach Brady Hoke, who took over the program after three rocky years under Rich Rodriguez, shifted the conversation.
"I don't think Michigan ever left," he said. "There was maybe a lean year or two. But Michigan was always Michigan."
A Virginia Tech victory would go a long way in reframing the Hokies' reputation, especially in the postseason.
Michigan, after all, is the winningest program in college football history. Virginia Tech holds that distinction since the start of the 1995 season but is not quite held in the same regard.
"We've had some great wins and we've done a great job getting here," Beamer said. "But now we need to take that next step and get our share of the BCS wins. ... Not only get here, but get a win. That's what we're going to try like heck to do."