5:39 PM EST, November 22, 2011
Dyrell Roberts is sidelined for the season with a broken left arm, but the Virginia Tech senior receiver hasn't given up on returning to uniform.
"He said if we make it to the national championship he will want to dress out and just step on the field," Hokies tailback David Wilson said Tuesday. "He said he'd eat some of the grass. That's how big a deal it is to college football players to play in a game like that."
The national title will be decided on the artificial surface of the Louisiana Superdome, but you get the point.
As recently as a week ago, few contemplated the Hokies returning to that grand stage. They were eighth in the Bowl Championship Series standings, as forgotten a team as Rick Santorum is a candidate.
Then transpired an unimaginable college football weekend. Down went Oklahoma State. Down went Oregon. Down went Oklahoma.
Suddenly, Tech was No. 5 in the BCS, a ranking that irked ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit while adding Cayenne pepper to an already spicy gumbo at Virginia on Saturday.
Don't misunderstand. The Hokies' chances of reaching New Orleans remain remote. But they're less remote than last week, and the change has energized a 10-1 team that's already riding a five-game winning streak.
"I think that's definitely a goal," Wilson said of the championship game, which Tech lost 12 years ago to Florida State. "We just have to keep winning our games."
Starting with Saturday. Win and the Hokies advance to their fifth conference title contest in seven years and extend their domination of the Cavaliers (8-3) to eight years. Lose and they watch Virginia reach its first ACC championship game.
"It's pressure on us," safety Eddie Whitley said. "At the same time, we know what we have to do."
Tech would have clinched the Coastal Division had Virginia lost at Florida State on Saturday. But the Seminoles missed a last-second field-goal attempt, allowing the Cavaliers to escape 14-13, escalating Saturday's stakes exponentially.
Watching at home, Tech coach Frank Beamer was hoping Dustin Hopkins' kick was true.
"I gotta be honest," Beamer said. "When you start talking about championships, I want to win it as quick as I possibly can, so I wanted to win the Coastal championship last week."
His quarterback, Logan Thomas, disagreed.
"The reason … I wanted them to win was because we want to play the best teams possible," Thomas said. "I think it looks better for us and makes us look better as a team. And to be where we want to be, we have to play the best teams."
Comparing Tech to the best this season is difficult for two reasons: The ACC is among the weaker power conferences, and the Hokies played their least ambitious non-league schedule since joining the ACC in 2004.
Tech certainly baffles the seven computer rankings used by the BCS. The microchips rate the Hokies from No. 7 to No. 18, the widest range of the any top-10 team.
Same holds for humans. Tech is No. 6 in the Associated Press media poll, the range running from No. 3 to No. 19. Among the top 10, only Boise State produced more varied views.
My AP ballot had the Hokies seventh. ESPN's Chris Fowler voted them 13th, nine spots lower than did the network's Craig James. But the AP poll is not a part of the BCS calculation. The coaches' poll is, and the coaches rank Tech No. 4.
"I love Frank Beamer and his staff and his team, but who have they beaten to deserve to be up at No. 4 in the coaches' poll?" Herbstreit said on the air Sunday. "It's amazing to me how many people just look at the scores and if you lose, you drop, and if you win, no matter who you play, no matter what the score is, you move up."
Did Herbsteit's remarks surprise Beamer?
"Not really," he said. "I think those people have to state their opinion. That's how they stay on TV, and that's an opinion, and you ask somebody else, they'd have another opinion. I do think that when the coaches vote in those polls, I think there's a respect for our program that we do things the right way and do it year in and year out."
Year in and year out shouldn't matter. But Beamer's larger point is spot-on. Opinions vary, sometimes wildly.
Beamer and Virginia's Mike London vote in the coaches' poll, and I asked them to reveal where they ranked the Hokies and Cavaliers this week. Alas, and not surprisingly, they politely declined.
"I don't think there's any question how good this Virginia team is," Beamer said. "I think they're for real."
Indeed for the Hokies, enhancing their national merit starts Saturday in their own backyard.
David Teel can be reached at 757-247-4636 or by email at email@example.com. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/sports/teeltime and follow him at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP