After Virginia Tech's 40-12 loss last season to Stanford in the Orange Bowl, Hokies coach Frank Beamer received a clear picture of just how much the loss meant to his fan base when he hit the road for offseason alumni functions.
It was obvious to Beamer that winning 10-plus games for seven consecutive seasons — a streak Tech has since extended to a nation-leading eight straight seasons — was no longer a novelty among Hokie faithful.
"Going to those alumni meetings in the springtime, it's a lot better when you win it," said Beamer on Monday at the final press conference before Tuesday's Sugar Bowl against No. 13 Michigan (10-2).
Of course, the long term benefits of winning in the Bowl Championship Series as opposed to merely making an appearance are something Beamer already realized. He's seen them firsthand.
In 1995, after No. 13 Tech defeated No. 9 Texas in the Sugar Bowl for its first-ever BCS caliber win, Tech began the '96 season ranked No. 15 in the nation — its best season-opening ranking to that point. After No. 21 Tech beat No. 12 Cincinnati in the Orange Bowl to conclude the 2008 season, the Hokies started '09 ranked No. 7, which is their best-ever ranking to open a season.
Could a win in this year's Sugar Bowl propel No. 17 Tech (11-2) to another top 10 preseason ranking?
"The way you're thought of in the end, the final poll, it's a lot better if you win it for when you start out the next year," said Beamer, whose program is 2-5 all-time in the BCS. "It's going to be higher if you win it. I think there's just a lot of implications that a BCS bowl win — or any bowl win, really — has on your program. So, I think it's important for a lot of reasons."
Tech, which is still aiming for its first-ever 12-win season after losing 38-10 to Clemson in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game, could have as many as 14 offensive and defensive starters returning, including 10 on defense.
Of course, that's in the unlikely event running back David Wilson and cornerback Jayron Hosley both return for their senior seasons, bypassing early entry into the NFL draft. The possible departure of those all-ACC players could certainly affect how Tech is perceived by voters.
While there's motivation to make amends for last season's miserable performance in the Orange Bowl, Tech also will be looking to avoid its first losing streak of at least two games to conclude a season since '03, when it went 8-5 after finishing with losses to Boston College, Virginia and an Insight Bowl loss to California.
"I think a win here could launch us for momentum going into next year and going into the offseason," Tech strong safety Antone Exum said. "We've got a young defense. We've got a young team in general, I feel like. I think a win here would just jumpstart everything."
Michigan also has not had the most memorable recent run of results in the BCS postseason. It has lost five of its past six bowls dating back to the end of the '03 season, including three Rose Bowls.
"I don't think Michigan ever left," said Michigan coach Brady Hoke regarding his thoughts on whether a Sugar Bowl might signify his program is "back" as a national power. "There was maybe a lean year or two, but Michigan was always Michigan, and will be."
Beamer wants a victory to make his winter and spring mingling more pleasant, but a win would immediately serve to silence critics that have questioned Tech's right to be included at all in the BCS as the ACC's first-ever at-large bid after losing so convincingly in the conference title game.
"We have to go out there and win the game to make it something positive," Tech quarterback Logan Thomas said.
"Ever since the end of the Clemson game, people were doubting us. It's kind of a redemption game to go out there and play as well as we can."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun