Trying to Shed a National Inferiority Complex

Virginia Tech is a proud football program, desperate to beat Tennessee because the Vols are in the SEC.

For Virginia Tech, the Peach Bowl game is a very big deal. If they win, they get a 10-win season.

Big deal.

The Hokies have had 10-win seasons 10 times before under Frank Beamer. So, it isn’t about that.

They’ve achieved way bigger things than that. For starters, they’ve had a perfect 11-0 regular season—remember the 1999 Miracle in Morgantown? They’ve played in the national championship game for goodness sake—the 2000 Sugar Bowl loss against Florida State.

It also isn’t about revenge against Tennessee over being manhandled by the Vols in the 1994 Gator Bowl when freshman Peyton Manning led Tennessee over the Hokies 45-23. And, it isn’t about revenge over their consecutive 27-0 losses at Knoxville in 1933 and 1937. Hardly.

The Peach Bowl game is about pride and recognition as a national entity. It’s about being a real player on the national stage. You know—about being one of the big boys. About belonging to the club.

Beating Tennessee would mean that much toward those aims?

Strange, when you consider the Hokies’ recent accomplishments compared with Tennessee’s relative mediocrity of recent years. After all, Tech has won their conference three times since joining the ACC six years ago. Tennessee has not won a conference title in more than a decade.

And, based on the criterion of BCS bowl appearances, the Hokies are one of the most successful programs in the Nation, having played in four BCS bowl games (2000, 2005 Sugar; 2008, 2009 Orange). That puts Tech behind only Ohio State (8), USC (7), Oklahoma (7), Florida (6), and Florida State (6). [Miami, Michigan, and Texas also have four]. That’s more than Alabama (3) and Georgia (3). Compare that to Tennessee’s lukewarm two BCS bowl appearances (1999 and 2000 Fiesta) which seem like a long time ago.

So what is it that makes this game against Tennessee so important to Virginia Tech? It’s that the Vols are an SEC team, and the SEC has instant national credibility.

It’s not about us, Vol fans, so much as it is about our conference. We just happen to be the opponent wearing an SEC patch.

The Hokies have lost their last four games against SEC teams: Alabama (this season’s opener), Georgia (2006 Peach Bowl), Auburn (2004 season’s Sugar Bowl), and LSU (2002 regular season). And in school history, Virginia Tech is 26-50-5 against SEC schools. The last Hokie victory over an SEC school was the 38-7 win over Alabama in the 1998 Music City Bowl.

The Hokies opened their 2009 campaign against the Alabama Crimson Tide in college football’s Kickoff Classic. All the eyeballs of college football were on the Georgia Dome to watch how Tech might match up against the SEC stereotypical powerhouse. They got manhandled.

But let’s say they had won. In today’s college football world, if there are three or more undefeated teams, including a 13-0 Virginia Tech, and two of them are from conferences such as the SEC, the Big XII, the Pac 10, or the Big 10, the Virginia Tech team will likely be viewed as the lesser team.

That’s the current credibility problem that the ACC seems to have in football. Virginia Tech is just the collateral damage.

Until Miami, Florida State, Clemson, and Georgia Tech—the core traditional football schools of the conference along with the Hokies—all come back and join Virginia Tech to make the ACC a strong league, nobody is going to take the Hokies seriously as a national contender, rightly or wrongly.

That’s why this Peach Bowl game is big for Virginia Tech, even if it is against a Tennessee that has been only slightly better than a middle-of-the-pack SEC program for most of the last decade.





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