UCLA and Virginia Tech seem barely in the same universe
The Sports Xchange
NCAAF Team Report - UCLA - INSIDE SLANT
Virginia Tech and UCLA have some studying to do to get familiar about each other.
The schools' campuses are 2,400 miles apart, and the football teams compete against a subset of teams that are practically foreign to the other.
"They're kind of out of our orbit, although right now we just entered the same orbit, so that is going to change real quick," Bruins coach Jim Mora Jr. said.
The Hokies (8-4) and Bruins (9-3) will face off for the first time as football teams in the Sun Bowl on New Year's Eve. The game kicks off at 2 p.m. and will be televised by CBS.
Virginia Tech is making its 21st straight bowl appearance while UCLA is playing in a postseason game for the third straight year, the last two under Mora.
The Hokies have gained a reputation over the years for having a fan base that travels well come bowl season, but this game might put a strain on that credibility.
Sun Bowl Stadium is 1,700 miles from Lane Stadium, where Virginia Tech plays its home games.
What the bowl game has going for it in regard to the Hokies' fanbase is the fact Virginia Tech hasn't played in the game since 1947.
"There is a distance issue, but I would hope the matchup with a team such as UCLA, that's attractive," coach Frank Beamer said. "The bowl itself is attractive. I can remember watching this bowl over the years and seeing the stadium, and I think Virginia Tech played in 1947. I was born in 1946, so I was like three months old when we played there the first time.
"I'm very excited about being able to go to the Sun Bowl and playing a team such as a ranked UCLA, and to see a different part of the country, and to hopefully again solidify our reputation as a team that's going to travel well." Virginia Tech faces off against a Pac 12 opponent for only the fourth time in Beamer's 27 seasons as head coach. The Hokies lost the previous three games to California (52-49 in 2003 Insight Bowl), USC (24-13 in 2004) and Stanford (40-12 in 2011 Orange Bowl).
Beamer doesn't have much knowledge of UCLA, particularly this year's team, but that will change in the coming weeks.
Mora said he knows a lot about the traditions and history of Virginia Tech football program from his time as an NFL head coach and assistant. He said he made several trips to Virginia Tech's campus to scout players, and he coached some of the Hokies' all-time greats when they went to the NFL, from Michael Vick and Jim Druckenmiller to DeAngelo Hall and Jimmy Williams.
The Hokies boast the second-longest current bowl streak. No. 1 Florida State will play in its 32nd straight bowl when it takes on No. 2 Auburn in the BCS championship game.
Virginia Tech started the season 6-1 before losing three of its next four games. The Hokies closed out their season on a high note, however, by beating in-state rival Virginia for the 10th straight year.
UCLA, meanwhile, opened the season with five straight wins before losing consecutive road games to No. 5 Stanford and No. 10 Oregon.
The Bruins, who are making their fourth Sun Bowl appearance, won four of their final five games, including a season-ending victory over cross-town rival USC in Los Angeles.