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Hokies look to escape grip of nemesis Seminoles

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RICHMOND, VA. (AP) - Virginia Tech has been the ACC's dominant team since joining the league in 2004, winning three championships and favored to capture a fourth.

The one team the Hokies haven't dominated is Florida State.

The 20th-ranked Seminoles _ who beat Virginia Tech to win the 2000 national championship and the 2005 Atlantic Coast Conference title _ are again poised to spoil another Hokies season when the teams meet in Charlotte, N.C., on Saturday.

The No. 12 Hokies (10-2, 8-0 ACC) lost 46-29 to the Seminoles (9-3, 6-2) in the Sugar Bowl national championship game. An unranked Seminoles squad knocked off the fifth-ranked Hokies 27-22 in the first ACC championship game.

But a lot has changed in recent years.

While the Hokies won the ACC title in 2004, and beat Boston College in the title games in 2007 and 2008, the Seminoles have fallen on hard times by their standards. After finishing in the top five for 14 consecutive seasons from 1987-2000, their best finish since then has been 11th in 2003. They also saw coaching icon Bobby Bowden eased out after a last season, replaced by his coach in waiting, Jimbo Fisher.

The Hokies, though, know what Florida State represents.

"You know, Florida State's just got that name," Hokies coach Frank Beamer said.

His players agree.

"Florida State speaks for themselves," said tight end Andre Smith, who has split in his two regular season games with the Seminoles. "They always have great athletes on that team and they're always a good team, always a solid team and they always bring their `A' game."

The Hokies `A' game has been pretty stout lately, too. They have won 10 straight since starting with losses to Boise State and James Madison of the FCS just five days apart.

Seminoles quarterback Christian Ponder isn't counting on the Seminoles' mystic to have any impact on the Hokies, who he says have become the standard for the rest of the ACC.

"They're always competing at the ACC championship level and they've been to pretty much every ACC championship game, and so I think they're ahead of us right now," Ponder said.

Florida State hasn't been to a BCS bowl game since 2005, and Ponder, a fifth-year senior, relishes the opportunity to lead his team to the Orange Bowl with a victory on Saturday.

"We're trying to get ourselves back on the map and become relevant again," he said, noting that the Seminoles ended a four-year skid against Florida and beat Miami this year.

"To beat Florida and win the state of Florida and make it to the ACC championship game, it would be big if we won it," he said. "Obviously we want to make it to a BCS bowl and very few teams get to make that, so if we did, maybe people would start taking us more seriously."

The Hokies are taking them seriously, quarterback Tyrod Taylor said.

The Virginia Tech signal-caller lasted only one play before injuring his ankle in the Seminoles' 30-20 victory two seasons ago, and said while the players are different, Tech players know they've lost two of three as ACC members.

"Of course we want to turn it around and get a win against them this year," he said.

Fisher, then the head coach in waiting, shakes his head recalling the 2008 game.

"That was an ugly game," he said. "How we scored 30 points I don't know."

And now, he's hoping his team can make another step forward in its resurgence.

"They're the team that everybody's measured against," he said of the Hokies, who have won 24 of 26 games in November _ when the ACC divisional races are typically decided. "Right now, they've had the most consistency over such a long period of time, since they came in.

"That's when Florida State started to slip a little bit. Before that, Florida State was dominating, even more so than ever. Tech's done a great job of taking that role."

It's one he'd like to start taking back.

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