Analyzing Tech’s Possible Bowl Destinations

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At this time of year, we are always discussing which bowl game Virginia Tech will be headed to in late December or early January. This year, the options aren’t as appealing as usual.

Dating back to their first year in the ACC, Virginia Tech has been the #1 or #2 pick in the ACC bowl pecking order every … single … year.

  • 2004: After winning the ACC, Tech was picked by the Sugar Bowl.
  • 2005: After losing the ACC Championship Game, Tech was taken by the Gator Bowl, which had the #2 pick at the time.
  • 2006: Tech went 10-2 and was the easy choice for the Chick-fil-A Bowl, which moved up to the #2 spot that year.
  • 2007: The Hokies won the ACC and went to the Orange Bowl.
  • 2008: The Hokies won the ACC and went back to the Orange Bowl.
  • 2009: Tech went 9-3 and they were chosen #2 by the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
  • 2010: Tech won the ACC and took another trip to Miami.
  • 2011: The Hokies lost the ACC Championship Game, but were taken as an at-large by the Sugar Bowl.

That’s a pretty remarkable run. Before we get too much further into this article, remember that it’s very rare for a bowl to bypass Virginia Tech. The Fiesta Bowl did so in 2000 to select Notre Dame instead, but that’s Notre Dame. In 2001, the Gator Bowl picked Virginia Tech over Syracuse, even though the Orange had a better record than the Hokies and had beaten them head-to-head. Throughout the years, it’s been very hard for bowls to bypass Tech in favor of another team. There just haven’t been any other good options in either the Big East or the ACC. Keep that fact in mind as we go through each of the bowls one by one.

This article will operate under the assumption that Florida State will beat Georgia Tech on Saturday in the ACC Championship Game. That would put the Noles in the Orange Bowl, Clemson in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, and give the Yellow Jackets a 6-7 record.

That scenario would mean the Hokies would likely be taken by one of four bowls: the Russell Athletic Bowl (Orlando), the Sun Bowl (El Paso), the Music City Bowl (Nashville) or the Belk Bowl (Charlotte). There are only six bowl eligible teams in the ACC this year (thanks to Miami and North Carolina), so this should be fairly easy to figure out. If Georgia Tech doesn’t get the waiver from the NCAA to go bowling with a losing record, then only five teams will be bowl eligible.

Russell Athletic Bowl

The Russell Athletic Bowl would have a decision to make. Clearly they aren’t going to take Duke, so we can go ahead and cross the Blue Devils off that list. That leaves us with Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and NC State. At 7-5, NC State would usually be a good choice here. However, head coach Tom O’Brien was fired earlier this week. Georgia Tech, with a 5-3 ACC record, has the best conference mark of all eligible schools. But would the #3 ACC bowl really want a 6-7 team with a fan base that doesn’t travel well?

I think there is a very strong chance that the Russell Athletic Bowl would select Virginia Tech over Georgia Tech and NC State. Despite VT’s mediocre 6-6 record, that 6-7 mark for Georgia Tech just isn’t attractive, and the fact that NC State doesn’t have a head coach is a turnoff. Unless of course, the Wolfpack decide to hire a head coach between now and then and let him coach the bowl game. My gut feel is that Virginia Tech is headed to Orlando, but I could be wrong.

What’s good about Orlando? Well, Tech has never bowled there, for one. The average high in late December/early January is a little over 70. There are plenty of things to do. “The Theme Park Capital of the World” has something for everybody. There’s plenty of golf. You can go take in an Orlando Magic game, if they happen to be in town.

I’ve always secretly wanted Virginia Tech to go to this bowl, though I always thought it would come after an 8-4 or 9-3 record, not 6-6. If Tech goes to Orlando, the likely opponent would be Louisville or Rutgers. That’s fine with me. When you are 6-6, you can’t be too picky about your bowl opponents. I want to be in a game that the Hokies can win.

The Hyundai Sun Bowl

I know everyone reading this would be excited about a possible trip to El Paso, Texas to celebrate the Holidays. When I think about the Sun Bowl, I think about watching Miami’s blowout loss to Notre Dame a couple of years back and seeing Hurricane players throwing snowballs at each other on the sideline. When I think of bowl games, I usually don’t think of snow.

Remember that the loser of the ACC Championship Game can’t fall below the Sun Bowl. If Georgia Tech loses to Florida State and they get that waiver to play in a bowl game with a losing record, then El Paso appears to be their destination. Assuming the Russell Athletic Bowl passes on Georgia Tech (which is likely, IMO), they are headed to the Sun Bowl.

I think the Russell Athletic Bowl will come down to Virginia Tech vs. NC State. If that bowl chooses the Wolfpack over the Hokies, then Tech will fall past the Sun Bowl to either the Belk Bowl or the Music City Bowl.

If somehow Virginia Tech does end up in El Paso, the likely opponent appears to be Lane Kiffin and USC.

Sun Bowl trivia: Tech’s first-ever bowl invitation was to the Sun Bowl, back in 1947. Cincinnati beat Tech 18-6, and yes, the temperatures were below freezing, and there was snow on the field.

Charlotte or Nashville?

While Charlotte would be an easier trip for most of us, I think we can all agree that Nashville is the more desirable city from a destination and entertainment standpoint. If Virginia Tech drops this far, the Belk Bowl and the Music City Bowl will be choosing between the Hokies and the Duke Blue Devils.

I think they would make a deal, keeping Duke in the state of North Carolina to play in the Belk Bowl. That would help attendance in that city. The Music City Bowl would be happy to take Virginia Tech because they remember the Hokies bringing a ton of fans to that game in 1998, when Tech beat Alabama 38-7.

There’s a possibility that Cincinnati could be heading to the Belk Bowl, so those officials would want to avoid the VT-Bearcat rematch. That makes it seem even more likely that the Hokies would get sent to Nashville, should they fall past the Russell Athletic Bowl.

If Tech does head to the Music City Bowl, the likely opponent would be Vanderbilt. The Commodores went 8-4 this season, with a 5-3 mark in the SEC. That would be unfortunate for the Hokies, as Vanderbilt is located in Nashville. That would give them a big home field advantage. The Commodores started the season 0-2, but finished with a six game winning streak.

The Projections

I looked around the internet at five different sites to get a feel for where the national analysts believe the Hokies will go bowling. Here’s what I found:

  • Phil Steele: Russell Athletic Bowl vs. Louisville
  • College Football News: Music City Bowl vs. Vanderbilt
  • CBS: Russell Athletic Bowl vs. Rutgers
  • Mark Schlabach (ESPN): Music City Bowl vs. Vanderbilt
  • Brad Edwards (ESPN): Russell Athletic Bowl vs. Louisville
  • Stewart Mandel (SI): Russell Athletic Bowl vs. Louisville

Four of those six guys have the Hokies in the Russell Athletic Bowl. Two of them have Tech headed to Nashville. None of them believe the Hokies will end up in Charlotte or El Paso.

Right now, the safe bet is to get ready to head to warm, sunny Orlando. Besides beating Virginia, that would be the best thing about this 6-6 season. We’ll find out for sure after Saturday’s round of games.

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29 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. I have said this several times this week. For purly selfish reason, I want to go to Belk. Close to home etc. With wife and kids getting airline tickets are a nightmare. Orlando from VA 600-700 miles depending on where you are in the Commonwealth. Nashville is 500 for me. Charlotte is a nice three hour tour. But Chris’ reasoning makes sense I would think we are going to FLA. Is the stadium in nice part of town? Never been.

    1. Haha no, the stadium is not in a nice part of town and it is not a nice stadium. you can watch the disney world fireworks from the upper deck though. I went to the UM vs Wisky game about three years ago. That stadium is rough!

  2. I wish that they still had the Liberty Bowl in Memphis, We are 0-2 in that one. We lost to Miami 14-7 in 1966, and Ole Miss 34-17 in 1968, after blowing a 17-0 lead. Coach Beamer was one of our DB’s, Vet Hokie can tell you all about a Sophomore named Archie Manning. Miami had a better team , the Ole Miss choke ranks up there with the Georgia choke with Sean Glennon and the boys. I didn’t realize that the Sun Bowl was still around. Those were the days when We always did well in the Tobacco Bowl and the Oyster Bowl, both during the Season, and then as my Dad (Class of 1952) used to say, We always ended up in the Toilet Bowl. Vet Hokie can tell you about them days too. Any Bowl this year would be fine, just as long as Wahoo Fans don’t repeat their Annual joke about “What do Va. Tech and Marijuana have in common, they usually end up in a Bowl, and they both get smoked.” As far as possible scenarios, I would prefer not to play Southern Cal, or any team that likes to bust it on Offense, We cannot match score for score.

  3. If memory serves correctly, that was the inaugural Music City Bowl. I remember their coach, Dubose (?) said he wanted to get their program to where VT was. Yep, Alabama was looking up at Virginia Tech.

    1. That was the inaugural Music City Bowl and it was one of the coldest bowl games I have ever been at. During the game the wind was blowing and than it started to rain which turned to sleet. And the wind continued to blow but the game was so good you could not leave.

      1. Before that game there was a dinner for both teams and the had the teams sit with each other. One of the O-lineman for Bama sitting across from Corey Moore got mouthy and said to Moore that the Hokies didn’t stand a chnace of blocking a punt. Moore just laughed and said ok. Tech blocked two that bowl game.

  4. Is Russell Athletic basically the old Citrus Bowl? And is it actually played at the Citrus Bowl? I can’t keep up with all the corporate name changes to these bowl games.

    1. The old Citrus Bowl is now the Capital One Bowl.

      The Russell Athletic Bowl has had numerous names (most recently, the Champs Sports Bowl) and was originally played in Miami (where it was mostly known as the Blockbuster Bowl).

      Both the Capital One and Russell Athletic bowls are played in the same stadium in downtown Orlando.

  5. what will happen if Georgia tech wins? Should we be rooting for Fla St on Saturday? I personally would like to see an upset.

    1. GT goes to the Orange Bowl while FSU likely goes to Chick-Fla Bowl..guess that would send Clemson to Orlando and the Hokies to El Paso, right?

    2. I think that would make the ACC look even worse than it already does by outside conferences. My hatred of FSU has died and I hope they destroy GT because I always like seeing them lose and hope FSU plays great in the Orange Bowl.

  6. Orlando/Russell Bowl is a great outcome for us. We should count our blessings. What a wacky season. We’re literally two plays away from 8-4 with another appearance in the ACCCG and a missed FG away from 4-8. Throw in the fact that the UVA game might have turned on that stupid fake FG and/or London’s clock management, and it could have realistically been 3-9. I’m glad it’s not.

    This bowl game is important. 7-6 with a 3 game winning streak to end the season (even if 2 of them were nail biters over poor teams) is a whole heckuva lot better than 6-7 with yet another bowl loss when you think about off season mojo.

    Although the (apparently) pending coaching changes on offense will probably affect 2013 more than anything else.

      1. Allegiant does not fly every day. Just put my wife on plane to Roanoke today from St. Pete airport. Direct flight. Her earliest possible return is Sunday. Tampa Bay airport (on the Tampa side of the Bay) is probably only about 90 miles from Orlando. You also could stay in the Tampa Bay area and enjoy the beach, fishin’, golf, Busch Gardens, etc. and get to the game fairly easy Come on down early and see Bucs-Rams on Dec 23 though Cody Grimm was placed on IR this week. (plus we need tourist dollars!) The Tampa Bay chaper would LOVE Hokies to be bowling in Orlando!

  7. Chris–You are young, and have no memory of when the Sun Bowl was a premier second tier bowl. It matched up interesting teams from around the country, and nearly always featured a sunny sky. Good entertainment for a football fan of high school age, looking for something to do over the Christmas holidays. Was telecast even then by CBS, as I recall.

    1. I believe it still is broadcast by CBS, one of two (2!) bowls not broadcast by ABC/ESPN. The other? The Gator is covered by the Notre Dame crew.

      I agree, there is tradition with the Sun Bowl. There is history there with us. It’s a unique location, with a mountain right outside of the stadium. I seem to watch it every year and I hope we play in it…and I hope its snowing…and I hope we’re playing USC.

      but, it looks like Orlando against a Big East team. Slightly better than Charlotte or JaX, but not much.

    2. In 1947 “VPI” was 3-3-3. Not exactly a stellar record to get into a bowl. But There was a Tech alum on the selection or bowl committee, and without him we would wait another 19 years to go to our first bowl.

      BTW, it is STILL incredible that we went to the Sun Bowl that year with that record. Consider that there were only 8 bowls in the 1960s, and not many less than that in 1947. Let’s see: Orange, Rose, Sugar, Cotton, Gator, Liberty, Tangerine, one other I can’t think of. So it was REALLY meaningful to go to a bowl in those days. Nowadays?…..not so much. There are 35 bowls, and it really isn’t that hard to get a bid. All you need is .500 record. 70 of 120 FBS teams are going bowling. Yikes! you gotta stink not to go bowling these days.

    3. In the nearly 30 years that I’ve lived in El Paso, I can only think of 3 games that were played in snow. Typical weather in December would be highs in the upper 50’s with sunny skies, but I’ve seen games played in the 70’s and games in freezing temperatures, so you have to be ready for anything. If we should happen to end up in the Sun Bowl, I will be happy to provide information on things to do. If you have a rental car and don’t mind driving a couple of hours, there are actually some great things to see and do in the West Texas/Southern New Mexico region, including Carlsbad Caverns, White Sands National Monument and skiing in Ruidoso, New Mexico. El Paso also has some nice golf courses that should be very playable in December.

    4. Tyson, you must be as old as I am.

      There were four bowls on New Years Day: Orange, Cotton, Sugar, Rose.

      The only other bowls I remember were the Sun and Gator and second tier and the Camelia and Tangerine as third tier.

      The expansion started with the Liberty Bowl and the Bluebonnet Bowl and then, within ten years, it was getting out of hand.

    1. I so hope they fall to the Music City Bowl! Living here in Nashville, I’ve gone every year since Tech beat Alabama. I really thought the Hokies would be back before now, though I won’t complain that they’ve done so well the past decade.

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