MIAMI (AP) -Cincinnati's first bowl opponent was Virginia Tech, more than six decades ago. So maybe it's fitting that the Bearcats' first trip to the Bowl Championship Series will pit them against the Hokies once again.
The Orange Bowl slotted Big East champion and No. 12 Cincinnati (11-2) against Atlantic Coast Conference champ and 21st-ranked Virginia Tech (9-4) on Sunday night, meaning those clubs will play in the 75th edition of South Florida's showcase game on Jan. 1.
The teams last met in 2006, when Virginia Tech prevailed 29-13.
om the flight back from the Bearcats' season-ending win in Hawaii - which ended after 3 a.m. in the Eastern time zone Sunday morning.
Virginia Tech has been to the Orange Bowl twice before, losing to Nebraska in 1996 and Kansas at the end of last season. Cincinnati beat Virginia Tech in the 1947 Sun Bowl, 18-6.
Since losing to the Hokies a little over two years ago, Cincinnati has been on a tear, winning 28 of its past 35 games. Over that span, only seven teams - Boise State, Oklahoma, BYU, Florida, Southern California, Hawaii and Ohio State - have won more games than the Bearcats, who were expected to become a basketball power when they joined the Big East.
Now, there's a budding football power in Cincinnati, and there's never been a bigger stage than the Orange Bowl for the Bearcats to show how far the program - which didn't make a single bowl appearance between 1951 and 1997 - has come.
For the Hokies, BCS trips are becoming a regular occurrence.
Virginia Tech went to the Sugar Bowl in 1995 and beat Texas, but has dropped each of its last four BCS games. The Hokies lost to Nebraska in the 1996 Orange Bowl, Florida State in the 2000 Sugar Bowl for the national championship, Auburn in the 2005 Sugar Bowl and then to Kansas last year at Dolphin Stadium.
``To us, this one is real special,'' Hokies coach Frank Beamer said. ``This team has overcome a lot to get where we are this season.''
It's already a special matchup for Sid Gillman, too.
Gillman was the quarterback on Cincinnati's team that beat Virginia Tech in that Sun Bowl 61 years ago, and said Sunday night he was proud of the Bearcats for getting into a BCS game.
``When we played, the Sun Bowl was a major bowl game,'' Gillman said. ``There was only six of them at the time. I don't want to take anything away from this team. There aren't many guys left who played with me. I'm sure that I can speak for the rest of them. We are as proud as a peacock for this team.''
At first glance, it seems the matchup of Cincinnati's offense and Virginia Tech's defense could be the one to watch.
The Hokies finished the regular season ranked seventh nationally in total defense, allowing just 277 yards per game, while the Bearcats averaged 375 yards of offense during the regular season.
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