The Hokies' inclusion in the BCS this year has drawn a lot of criticism from the national media. The Sugar Bowl berth has also drawn anger from fanbases who feel that their schools were snubbed (Kansas State and Boise State). This backlash has given Virginia Tech two options: put up or shut up.
The entire Hokie nation feels slighted and disrespected. The Hokies are the winningest program in football since 1995 and have the active leader in wins as a head coach. That doesn’t seem to matter at this moment. Virginia Tech lost two games this year—both came at the hands of the Clemson Tigers.
The ACC championship loss was an embarrassment for Frank Beamer’s team, but the Sugar Bowl berth gives the Hokies a second chance at redemption. This brings up the question, is the 2012 Sugar Bowl the most important game in Virginia Tech football history?
There are certain bowl games that can be argued for as the most important for the Hokies' program. The most important game up until this point would be the ’95 Sugar Bowl, when the Hokies beat Texas by a score of 28-10. It is the most important because it was a win.
The two games that had the most potential importance were the 2000 Sugar Bowl and the 2011 Orange Bowl. The ’00 Sugar Bowl was the second BCS national championship game. The Hokies lost to the Florida State Seminoles by a score of 46-29 with Michael Vick at the helm. This is the closest that Virginia Tech has been to a national title. The Hokies were 15 minutes away from history, but they lost in the fourth quarter.
The 2011 Orange Bowl would have been the biggest win in Virginia Tech’s history. The only problem was that they didn’t win. Instead, they were blown out of Miami. Andrew Luck and the Stanford Cardinal dominated Virginia Tech and won by a score of 40-12. Stanford was a legitimate top five team in 2011 and a win would have made a huge difference in the program.
The Hokies won the Orange Bowl two years earlier against Cincinnati, but the Bearcats were just an upstart program under then-coach Brian Kelly. The win did little for the Hokies in terms of respect. A win over Stanford would have done a lot more.
That brings us to this year’s Sugar Bowl, a matchup between Virginia Tech and the Michigan Wolverines. This is a matchup that seemed impossible on championship Saturday but somehow became reality on selection Sunday.
The negative press during the lead up to the 2012 Sugar Bowl has made this game a must-win for Virginia Tech. ESPN has been the ringleader of this backlash with some analysts being downright nasty about the Hokies' inclusion. Kirk Herbstreit may be the loudest of the group, but Gene Wojciechoswski may be the most disrespectful. Gene called the Sugar Bowl Berth a “total joke” in a video that was supposed to be a preview for the game.
The one thing that is for sure is that a loss (particularly an embarrassing one) would be very harmful for Beamer’s program. A win in New Orleans would silence the critics. Beamer has earned a lot of respect during his coaching career, and he has suffered through a lot of undue criticism in recent weeks.
The Hokies could perform the ultimate act of defiance by winning the Sugar Bowl and walking off the field without giving ESPN a single interview, but Frank Beamer is far too classy for that. A win in New Orleans is necessary if Virginia Tech wants to receive another BCS at-large bid anytime in the near future.
There is the one goal for the Hokies right now: win the Sugar Bowl. That will silence the critics.