Same Lights, New Show

National championship runs through Blacksburg

College Football Preview: Week 9

> The Red Zone  |  Tape It Up  |  Strike The Pose  |  Breaking The Code
> B.J.: Exterior Designs  |  Amsinger: Weekly Picks  |  Sorenson: 10 Questions  |   Braff: Coaches With Guts
Trev: No Time To Dog It  |  Ohio State Offense Getting Better   |  Hart: Another Loony Weekend
> Blackburn: Same Lights, New Show In Blacksburg  |  Palm: Road To The BCS
> Caparell: Penn State Knows It's Got To Be Close  |  Crystal Ball: Predictions

Oct. 25, 2007

By Carter Blackburn

Special to



Carter Blackburn covers various sports for CSTV and writes frequently for
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Think about what it usually takes for a marquee matchup in college football. A top five team? A host of interesting sublots ready for TV? National championship hopes on the line? 


Most of those games are played out on Saturday afternoons between teams with national followings and national championships to their name. And yet, Thursday night's Boston College-Virginia Tech matchup gives us two Top 10 teams and BC's national championship chances on the line and on the road in Blacksburg, Va., widely renowned as a tough nighttime venue.




"They have lights there, right?" Boston College coach Jeff Jagodzinski asked, voicing a common query for New Englanders unfamiliar with southwestern Virginia. "People keep talking about playing at night at their stadium. It's the same dimensions as every other field we play on, right? If they've got lights, then we can play the game just like any other."


Grantland Rice didn't write about Boston College playing Virginia Tech and not many kids at Michigan or Texas hang Eagle or Hokie pennants on their walls. But the reality of 2007 is that Boston College could play for the national championship, and the Wolverines and Longhorns are looking up at the Hokies in the BCS Standings.


Forget The Big House and The Swamp, this year's college football championship runs through Lane Stadium.


The thoroughly modern football fan, though, has a certain familiarity with Thursday night at Lane Stadium, with its dancing bird, maroon helmet smacking and punt blocks. In the Thursday night matchups, the Hokies are 13-2, with the only two losses coming to Boston College.


"This year, this Virginia Tech team, this BC team, I don't think any of the history will affect what's about to happen this Thursday night," Hokie coach Frank Beamer said.


Brief as it is, the history of the Eagles and Hokies has been intertwined in the last two decades as the two rising Big East programs made the jump with Miami to the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Hokies stole some extra national spotlight when they broke through to a national championship game with a quarterback named Michael Vick.


In Beamer's 20 years at his alma mater, the Hokies have turned into a team perennially ranked and feared. This year's Hokie huddlers were preseason Top 10 material with the memories of last spring's school shootings a weighty motivational subplot. But two weeks into the season, a blowout loss to LSU appeared to derail Tech's championship aspirations.


Around that time, Jeff Jagodzinski's Boston College team was turning from a dark horse into a contender, and Matt Ryan was playing his way into every Heisman hardware conversation. Within two months, Jagodzinski's team went from unranked in the preseason to unbeaten and unquestioned No. 2. 


Yet it was Tom O'Brien who led the Eagles to their most successful years since Doug Flutie, highlighted by nine wins in each of the last three seasons. In part because he didn't think Boston College could compete regularly at the national level, O'Brien flew south in December, staying within the ACC to join North Carolina State. With a 2-5 Wolfpack team, O'Brien is reduced to knowledgeable observer of the top-ten matchup Thursday night.


"I think it's going to be a heckuva football game," O'Brien said, not counting himself among those surprised by the Eagles' 2007 success. "Not at all. I knew they had tremendous leadership and veterans who have won a lot of games over the past few years. Plus last year they won ten games with a quarterback [Matt Ryan] with only one leg. He's got two now, and he's a Heisman Trophy candidate."


It's an odd mix any time a coach leaves a school for another in the same conference. But Ole Miss did not contend for a championship when Tommy Tuberville left for Auburn, and Todd Graham's former Rice Owls are safely out of BCS contention, as is Graham's Tulsa Golden Hurricane. O'Brien ejected himself from the BC shuttle just as it was reaching the moon.


In a year when college football precedents are being broken weekly, perhaps it's fitting that one of the nation's most important games will match a brand new championship contender in BC with a perennial power in Virginia Tech. It is not in South Bend or Tuscaloosa; but it is one of the power locales in college football: Blacksburg, Va. 


And yes, they have lights.