Thanks to several upsets last week that reshuffled the rankings, all of a sudden there is a glimmer of hope for the Texas Longhorns and Oregon Ducks to back their way into the national championship hunt. But a little uncomfortable weather might be the only chance, if any, that the Longhorns and Ducks might have of sneaking into the Rose Bowl.
All hopes are pinned on the Hokies doing something that hasn't been accomplished by anybody in almost two years- beat the No. 1 ranked University of Miami Hurricanes (10-0, 6-0).
The Hurricanes, owners of the nation's longest winning steak at 20, would put an end to the talk of any possible scenarios with a victory over Virginia Tech and find themselves as one of two teams traveling to Pasadena to play for the national championship. UM has blasted through their schedule with relative ease, outscoring opponents 449-79. A last-second scare in Boston College in early November seems like centuries ago after the Hurricanes dismantling of Syracuse and Washington the last several weeks.
Good reason why Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer isn't keeping a close eye on the weather forecast for Saturday's game. Beamer is only concerned with finding a way to stop the "best team we've ever faced".
"Right now, it's in the 50's so I don't think its going to be very cold, but we're not playing the weather," said Beamer. "On Saturday, our main focus won't be how many sweaters we have to wear, it will be on how do we stop the best team in the nation."
"You take the last two football games and they've destroyed two pretty good football teams. They have it all and are very well coached. It's quite a challenge we have in front of us. I thought when they lost those two players (Santana Moss and Reggie Wayne) on offense it was going to hurt them. But it hasn't affected them one bit."
The Hokies, idle last week, are ranked 14th in the Associated Press media poll and 13th in the USA Today/ESPN coaches poll. Last time out, Virginia Tech defeated in-state rival Virginia 31-17.
After being part of the national title picture and ranked in the top-5 most of the season, the Hokies suffered a devastating loss at home to Syracuse and fell at Pittsburgh the following week.
With no title or BCS bowl in the Hokies' immediate future, finding motivation for the regular-season finale could be a problem. Beamer doesn't buy into the theory because playing the top-ranked Hurricanes should provide enough incentive.
"When you play a great football team like this there is a pride factor involved about wanting to meet the challenge," Beamer said. "I don't think we need to talk to our football team and make them understand what they're going up against. There guys know who is coming in here on Saturday."
For whatever it's worth, the Hokies could use recent history in their favor against the Hurricanes. Although Miami won the first 12 meetings of a series that goes back 48 years, the Hurricanes haven't won in Blacksburg since 1992.
The Hurricanes defeated VT 41-21 last year in the Orange Bowl, but had dropped five of the last six to the Hokes, including a 43-10 decision in 1999. The Hokies defeated UM 27-25 in 1997 and 13-7 in 1995.
Beamer remembers the '99 contest in which UM quarterback Ken Dorsey, a freshman back then, was injured and replaced by Kenny Kelley. He pointed out that the Hurricanes offensive-line wasn't as overly talented and that Dorsey was still learning the offense.
Beamer is also aware that the times have changed and that this group of Hurricanes is nothing like the one that faltered in Blacksburg several years ago. Scoring an upset over the Hurricanes on Saturday will take perfection, says Beamer.
"That was a long time ago if you want to compare both teams," Beamer said. "Miami's offensive-line was pretty darn good, but nothing like those guys they have now and Dorsey was getting his feet wet. I would see those boys have grown up a whole lot."
The Hokies aren't fielding the same faces these days, either. Gone is Michael Vick (No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft) and junior tailback Lee Suggs, who is out for the year after an ACL injury suffered the first week of the season.
The loss of Vick and Suggs has reverted the Hokies to a more balanced offensive attack that features a short-passing game and ball control.
VT starting quarterback Grant Noel has part together an impressive junior season with 1,745 passing yards and 16 touchdowns, the most ever for a Tech for a first-year starter.. Noel is 147-of-238 and has thrown just seven interceptions on the season.
"Grant has done well and the what has been really impressive is that he hasn't turned the ball over. He has made good decisions all season and has played as good as he could for the most part," said Beamer.
Senior flanker Andre Davis has been on the receiving end of most of Noel's passes. Davis, who caught three passes for 126 yards and two touchdown passes in the victory over Virginia, has 39 receptions and 1,261 all-purpose yards on the season, Davis is second on the Hokies career TD receptions list with 18.
Freshman running back Kevin Jones has filled in adequately for Suggs with 797 yards and five touchdowns on the season. Jones' quick burst out of the backfield and ability to see the field in front of him have pleased his head coach.
"Kevin is still learning, but he has the tools to be a great running back. Going up against Miami's defense will be another baptism in his development. He will have his work cut out for him."
Jones is coming off a 181 yards rushing and one touchdown performance against Virginia. His 37 attempts and rushing totals were the second most overall by a Virginia Tech player under Beamer.
After throwing for three touchdowns and 189 yards against Washington, Dorsey has resurfaced as a Heisman Trophy candidate. Something he would rather not talk about until Saturday night.
"Winning the Heisman is not a concern of mine right now. All , I'm concern with right now is winning one more game and getting the Miami Hurricanes to the Rose Bowl so we can play for the national championship."
The potential of unlike-South Florida weather doesn't faze Dorsey, either.
"The weather is just one of the things we have to deal with, but it shouldn't be a big concern. We know in the back of our minds there are no excuses. We need one more victory to get where we want to go," Dorsey.
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