Virginia Tech and Florida State are set to meet in the ACC Championship Saturday night with an Orange Bowl bid on the line.
Both teams were favored to make it to this game in the preseason, but they got here a little bit differently than expected. That being said, the past 13 weeks of college football doesn't matter anymore.
Who cares if Virginia Tech lost the first two and won 10 in a row? It doesn't matter that Florida Sate had to rely on Maryland to beat N.C. State in order to make an appearance in the game.
It's over and done. At the end of the day, we're left with the two best teams in the conference.
What everyone can focus on is what these two teams have overcome this year, and the past history between the two. Fact of the matter is, these two teams have not played each other a lot since the Hokies joined the ACC.
Believe it or not, these two teams have only played five times in the last 10 years. Saturday will be the sixth meeting in that time span, and the first where Bobby Bowden won't be a part of it.
Back in 2000, during the 1999 season, these two teams played each other for the national championship. It was, and remains, Virginia Tech's only national championship appearance.
Florida State got the better of the Hokies, beating them 46-29.
They met in Jacksonville two years later to play in the Toyota Gator Bowl, and the Seminoles also won that matchup 30-17. The two teams didn't meet again until 2005, which was the Hokies' second year in the ACC and the first-ever ACC Championship Game.
The Hokies, who were ranked fifth in the nation and led by quarterback Marcus Vick, were beat by unranked Florida State again, this time 27-22.
Finally in 2007, the Seminoles came to Blacksburg for the first ACC regular season matchup between the two. The Hokies dominated the Noles, winning 40-21.
Both Tyrod Taylor and Christian Ponder saw significant action as freshmen in the game. Bowden said afterwards that he didn't expect to see the second coming of Michael Vick when speaking about Taylor.
A year later, the Hokies traveled to Tallahassee and problems hit early for the Hokies. Taylor was injured on the first play of the game and did not return, leaving the game up to Cory Holt and Sean Glennon.
Florida State won again by a score of 30-20.
So, in the Hokies' last five matchups against Florida State, they're 1-4. Beamer, in his career at Virginia Tech, is 1-8 against the Seminoles.
Now, the first four matchups were between some very good Florida State teams and a Virginia Tech program that was in the process of being built.
However, there's room for concern that the Hokies and Beamer have struggled so mightily against the Seminoles.
Why have they? There's really no answer you can give.
The Seminoles had a great football program at the turn of the century. However, the Hokies have had a much better football tradition since joining the ACC, but are 1-2 against the Noles in that time span.
This is the first matchup between Jimbo Fisher and Beamer, and it should be a good one. Two of the ACC's best quarterbacks, who happen to be seniors, are facing off in really the last meaningful game of their careers.
Yes, it would be nice if both could win their bowl games, but it has little meaning. Winning the ACC Championship as a senior would be a greater accomplishment, even though the ACC is down this year.
That being said, the Hokies are the first team to win all of their regular season conference games since—guess who—Florida State did it in 1999. That was the year Florida State beat the Hokies in the national championship.
Many thought the Hokies would have a shot at a national title appearance this year, but we all know how the season started.
What we can expect to see in this one is a good game. These two teams are rated very evenly across the board, and both have tough senior leaders under center.
Both teams also have a stable of good running backs, but it's going to come down to which defense plays the best.
One thing is for sure: Virginia Tech has dominated the conference since arriving in 2004. They won the ACC in their first year and have played in four out of six of the ACC's conference championship games, winning two of three thus far.
But Florida State's program is on the rise. They have one of the top-rated recruiting classes in the nation for 2011, and Fisher already has them in the ACC title game in his first season as top dog.
Virginia Tech is still the class of the ACC, but how much longer it will last remains to be seen. Miami and North Carolina are on the rise in the Coastal Division, and Virginia head coach Mike London is winning the battle of some top in-state recruits.
The Hokies' time may be running out, but they're by far the best team in the conference.
However, what separates the Hokies from the elite programs in the country like USC, Texas and Alabama is their inability to win the big game. They've already failed at it once this season, but they have a chance to prove to people that they can win a big game on Saturday night.
If they don't, it will just be another chapter in the books for Virginia Tech football that seems to have the same ending.
However, if they do win Saturday night—which would make it 11 straight victories—everyone will have to be thinking what could have been after a nightmare of a start to the year. The Hokies head to the Orange Bowl for the third time in four years without the chance to compete for a national title, again.
Hokie fans want people to give the program more respect, but it's not warranted. Yes, the Hokies have dominated the ACC since joining in 2004, but it's been one of the worst BCS Conferences in college football.
They've simply been the best of the worst, and that's not taking anything away from Virginia Tech. But when the Hokies have a chance to prove on the national stage that they belong against teams like LSU, Alabama and Boise State, they lose.
Yes, the Hokies have seven straight seasons of 10 wins or more. But no national titles in that span.
That's a reflection of their inability to win big games and the conference in which they play. Respect comes with national titles, and that's about all the Hokies have left to prove as a football program.
But they haven't been able to get it done. Until they do, the respect fans want for their team simply won't be there.