The Orange Bowl Preview will be split up into 5 separate parts, beginning with tonight's preview on the non-team-specific parts of the Orange Bowl. I am leaving for Miami early Wednesday morning, meaning that we will do a part a day from now thru Tuesday...
From the first ever Orange Bowl, played way back in 1935, they have had an Orange Bowl every single year, bar none. That means that next Thursday's contest between the two teams would be the 74th to be played. Tradition wise, it ranks second according to most, after the Rose Bowl. The first three years of its existence it was played at Miami Field, then moving to its namesake, the Miami Orange Bowl, where it was played from 1938 to 1995. Since then, it has been played in Dolphin Stadium, which has been the home of the Miami Dolphins forever and the home of the Florida Marlins since 1997. Now that the Orange Bowl, the stadium, has watched its final game, a shellacking of Miami (FL) courtesy of Virginia, the Miami Hurricanes will also begin to play their home games in the aforementioned Dolphins Stadium.
Kansas first sent a team down to Miami in 1948, when we lost to Georgia Tech 20-14. The Big 8 began sending their champions there in 1968, a year before Kansas' first and most recent trip to Miami. However, the Orange Bowl has been dominated by the presence of Boomer Sooner and Nebraska since their agreement with the Big 8, as Oklahoma and Nebraska sent a combined 24 teams to Miami between 1968 and 1998 (the adoption of the BCS). The Cornhuskers were a more frequent visitor, playing in the game 14 times opposed to the 10 of Oklahoma. That leaves only 6 available years for a team not named Oklahoma or Nebraska to trek down to Miami, and only the once (1969) did Kansas make the trip. The other Big 8 teams to be invited to the Orange Bowl in that 30 year period were Colorado (3 times) and Missouri (once) with a couple of Big 12-free games keeping the number from reaching 30 total teams.
The Va Tech Hokies had quite the season. They were billed as a potential National Championship contender before the season began, coming in at number 9 in the preseason AP poll, receiving 1,148 more votes than Kansas did. They began their season with a more-than-emotional game against East Carolina, as it was the first major athletic event on the Virginia Tech campus since the shooting tragedy occurred on campus on April 16th. They didn't perform all that well, struggling behind QB Sean Glennon.
Next week, they headed down to Baton Roughe, Louisiana for a much-anticipated non-conference matchup against the Bayou Bengals. They left having suffered a monumental 48-7 loss and having burned a redshirt on promising true freshman QB Tyrod Taylor, a run-pass option QB as opposed to the pass-only Glennon. They returned home and played a soft 3 game stretch against William and Mary, Ohio and North Carolina, winning the three games by a combined score of 89-20.
Then came a matchup against another ACC preseason favorite, Clemson, in Death Valley. This was the Hokies' chance to work their way back into the national picture, a picture they had been left out of for a month following their dismal showing against LSU. They dominated the Tigers, winning by a score of 41-23 and re-establishing themselves as ACC players. After another win on the road, this time against Duke, they were again thrust onto the national stage, this time as #2 Boston College paid a visit to Blacksburg. They led throughout nearly the entire game on a rainy night, giving the ball back to the Eagles with a little over 4 minutes left nursing a 10 point lead. We all know what happened next, Matt Ryan drove BC down twice for touchdowns, aided by a recovered onside kick, thrusting BC into the National Championship picture and again relegating Virginia Tech to also-ran status in both the national picture and the ACC.
They then dominated the Yellow Jackets in Atlanta and Florida State and Miami back home in Blacksburg. This set up a game for all the marbles in the ACC Coastal division, a spot in the ACC Championship game on the line. The game was between Virginia Tech and Virginia, two big rivals deciding on the field who goes to the conference championship and wins the division and who doesn't. Sound familiar? Va Tech shut down the Cavaliers, earning them a trip to Jacksonville and a re-match with the Boston College Eagles. There, despite being visibly outplayed in the first half, they went into halftime tied thanks to a blocked extra point returned for 2 points, changing momentum for good. A 40 yard Xavier Adibi INT return for a TD with less than a minute left clinched the game for the Hokies, clinching them a return trip to Florida in the Orange Bowl.
Part 2 will be tomorrow, focusing on the game in the trenches.