Day 1: Virginia Tech's landmark season
Ten years later, the imprint of Virginia Tech's landmark football season remains — from the luxury suites at Lane Stadium, to the admissions office at Burruss Hall, to the headquarters of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

But let's start at a Blacksburg grocery store.

Seem like an odd place to reflect upon the 1999 Hokies' charge to the national-championship game? Associate head coach Billy Hite certainly thinks so.

Earlier this summer, Hite wandered into the Kroger on Main Street for what he imagined would be a quick trip through the express line. More than 30 minutes later, he emerged amused and amazed.

The cause of Hite's delay was fans intent on discussing Tech's prospects — the Hokies are No. 7 in the preseason Associated Press poll — for making this season's title contest, in Pasadena, Calif.

Hite traces the current chatter back to '99, when Frank Beamer's program barged its way into college football's elite.

"It's raised the expectations so high," Hite said. "I can remember my wife telling Coach Beamer, 'You screwed up by going undefeated because now they're going to expect it every year.'

"And damn if they don't. … All people are talking about is Pasadena. I'm thinking, 'Let me get a vacation in here first before you start talking about it.' "

Ten years ago, the buzz was New Orleans.

Led by the electric Michael Vick at quarterback and relentless Corey Moore at defensive end, the '99 Hokies authored Tech's first unblemished regular season since 1918. Dominant in all phases, they are the only team of the last 15 years to lead the nation in scoring offense and scoring defense.

But Florida State, then a full-fledged dynasty, defeated Virginia Tech 46-29 in the title game at the Louisiana Superdome.

The Hokies have not returned to the championship contest — they were close in 2000 and 2007 — but with exponentially more television revenue, an upgraded stadium and 16 consecutive bowl seasons, they are positioned to contend in 2009, and beyond.

"With the success Virginia Tech's had, plus the facilities they've built, now they're getting a really different level of talent," said former Miami coach Larry Coker, now heading Texas-San Antonio's start-up program. "I think sometimes earlier in Frank's career they were doing it somewhat with smoke and mirrors."

The Hokies advertise their ambitions in their Hall of Legends.

"This area is reserved for the national championship trophy," reads the large maroon sign inside an otherwise vacant glass case.

"I don't think there's any question that Virginia Tech can return to the game," athletic director Jim Weaver said. "I don't think there's any question that Virginia Tech can win a national championship. We've tried to do everything we can to continue to prepare us for that opportunity, to continue to stay abreast of our competition. …

"There is no doubt in my mind that at some point Virginia Tech will win a national championship. I don't know if I'll be here or not. I don't know if Frank Beamer will be the coach, but the tradition in my opinion has been established."

Weaver, Beamer, assistant coaches and many Hokies faithful recite the numbers from memory.

Only Florida and Florida State have longer bowl streaks. Only Ohio State and Florida have won more games since 1995. Only Virginia Tech, Texas and Southern California have won at least 10 games each of the last five seasons.