OK, back to the bowl breakdowns now that this realignment business from yesterday is over. If you missed the first installment, the Russell Athletic Bowl, you can read it here. Next up: the Sun Bowl.
** When: Dec. 31, 2 p.m. (CBS)
** In ACC bowl pecking order: No. 4
** Hokies history at bowl: Lost 18-6 to Cincinnati in 1947
** Possible opponent: The Pac-12′s No. 4 selection. This could be an interesting opponent. The winner of the Pac-12 title game (presumably Stanford) and Oregon will likely get BCS bids. Assuming UCLA (9-3, 6-3 South Division champ) and Oregon State (8-3, 6-3) are the next two teams taken, that leaves Southern California (7-5, 5-4), Arizona State (7-5, 5-4), Washington (7-5, 5-4) and Arizona (7-5, 4-5) as the available teams. Other than Washington, those teams are ranked in the top 32 nationally in total offense (Arizona is 7th, USC 30th, ASU 32nd), which would make for a good contrast to the Hokies’ defense-first style. As far as name appeal, it’d be tough to beat Southern Cal. Virginia Tech hasn’t played the Trojans since the 2004 opener, which, despite the Hokies’ lack of a preseason ranking, turned out to be a game between two pretty good teams. Anything involving Lane Kiffin is sure to draw some interest nationally, mostly from people rooting against him.
** ACC competition: It’s the same contenders here as it was for the Russell Athletic Bowl — N.C. State, Georgia Tech, Duke — with one interesting nugget. The ACC has a rule that the conference title game loser can’t fall below the Sun Bowl in the selection process. It remains to be seen if the Yellow Jackets’ waiver will go through so they are eligible for a bowl if they fall to 6-7 with a title game loss, but if it is approved, it’s possible that the Sun Bowl would be required to take them. Or, it could be a case where if the waiver passes, that rule would not apply or could be negotiated. Georgia Tech played in the Sun Bowl last year, so the folks in El Paso probably don’t want it back for a second straight season. As usual, the Yellow Jackets can throw a wrench in everybody’s plans by winning the ACC title game, which would make N.C. State and Virginia Tech the most likely options for this bowl.
** Pros for Virginia Tech: The Hokies have not been to this bowl game in nearly 66 years, so it would be a new place for the fan base to visit. Like the Russell Athletic Bowl, this isn’t a game that often has a shot at getting Virginia Tech. Given the chance, it might leap at the opportunity, particularly if it’s not required to take Georgia Tech. This could be the best potential bowl matchup of the bunch for Virginia Tech, at least from name appeal. It gets the Hokies away from playing another Big East team and would put them in a Pac-12 pairing that rarely happens. USC-Virginia Tech is an intriguing matchup.
** Cons for Virginia Tech: It’s far away and not necessarily easy to get to, so it’s unlikely a large chunk of the fan base would follow. Then again, considering the Hokies’ struggles this year, how much of a disenchanted fan base would travel anyway? Perhaps the ACC would like Tech to go here because of that fact. Having covered a Sun Bowl before (the 2000 Wisconsin-UCLA matchup in which Freddie Mitchell had a huge game but the Badgers won), I can attest that even though El Paso is on the border, it is not a warm-weather locale this time of year. It’s in the mountains, so bring a jacket.
** Flight price (leaving Dec. 30, coming back Jan. 1, per Orbitz): From Roanoke — $687, from Norfolk — $676, from Newport News — $800, from Lynchburg — $738 from Richmond — $789, from D.C. — $601, from Greensboro — $546.
** Roadtrippin’ it? Are you crazy? Do you know how big Texas is? And El Paso is all the way on the Western side. Trust me, dude, you don’t want to do this. OK, you asked for it: 1,711 miles from Blacksburg to El Paso. 28 hours, according to Google maps.
** Tourist attraction of note: Juarez, Mexico? Noooooope. If you’re a fan of nature, Franklin Mountains State Park looks like a scenic place for hiking, biking, etc.
** Beat writer happiness level: Low. It’s not an easy place to get to. And it’ll probably be pricey to get there (making it tougher for wives/girlfriends). It’s not particularly warm in El Paso either. But, it’s a place I probably wouldn’t have in my travel plans otherwise. Like Boise and Albuquerque a few years back, those are always interesting and unique trips. It’s on New Year’s Eve day but with a 2 p.m. start, we’d have time to enjoy the night.
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