What many people didn't take into account was the resiliency of Coach Frank Beamer and the Hokie squad. Fighting through some tough times on the way to the ACC Championship, Virginia Tech has grown as a team after losses to USC and North Carolina State and Beamer said this is a chance to make some noise for his team.
"I think it's an understatement to say that I'm delighted to be here," Beamer said. "We are really delighted to be here and I think part of the greatness is that not many people picked us to be here at the start of the year. That even makes it more special. It's a perfect ending to a really good year for us at Virginia Tech. We'll see if we can go out there and play well in this football game."
A fan of Auburn's Tommy Tuberville, Beamer had nothing but glowing remarks for the Tigers when asked his opinion of how they've played this season. He particularly had praise for Auburn's improvement on special teams, something Auburn has worked very hard on this season to improve.
"I said the last time we were here we were playing the best team in the country, the team that was rated the best team in the country in Florida State," Beamer said. "We couldn't quite get it done. We're back here again and I think we're playing the best team in the country now. It's another opportunity to play the best and hopefully have better results this time. It's going to take tremendous preparation and tremendous effort.
"This is really a good football team," he said of Auburn. "When you study them they're just solid everywhere. They give great effort everywhere. In special teams they work at it. Those running backs are special. The quarterback has been a great leader for them. The defense flies around and is just tougher than heck. I think they're the best football team in the country and we've got our hands full. Hopefully we make this a great football game."
Year in and year out Virginia Tech is one of the nation's best on special teams. Although they haven't been as dominant in that department this season, the Hokies are capable of blocking a kick or returning a punt for a touchdown at any time and changing the complexion of a game. Beamer said that his team works at being good on special teams and he has seen the same thing out of Auburn in 2004.
"They work at it," Beamer said. "They've got good people on there just like we do and they work at it. Usually when you see starters on there you've made it important and they've got several starters on there. I think that's the big deal really is making it important to your football team and guys want to be on there. For example we would never, and a lot of people do this, we would never ask our players to come before or after practice for special teams. A lot of people do that because you have offensive and defensive guys and it interrupts practice. For me you're saying that special teams isn't as important as offense or defense. We stop right in the middle of practice and have our special teams period. To me it just makes a statement that this is important."
A veteran of bowl games, Beamer is taking the Hokies to their 12th straight bowl game under his guidance. He said that while New Orleans is a fun town with plenty of things to do for a college kid, the reason for being here is to win a football game and he believes his team will be ready to do that when the time comes.
"We talk a lot about enjoying yourself, but about the purpose of being here," Beamer said. "You can go down there and have a great week of partying, but if you don't win that football game you're going to remember that a long time. If you do win it you're going to remember it for a long time. I believe our football team has got a good sense of why we're here and wants to prepare very well and play a great football game. I think playing a team like Auburn, when you realize how good they are, gets your attention. You're just not going to walk out there or do a so-so job of preparing and beat this team. You better be ready to go on all cylinders and play football."