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On Jan. 3, 2005, the Hokies met Auburn in the Sugar Bowl. Virginia Tech lost that night 16-13, and Auburn finished the season 13-0, but with no shot at the title. The Tigers did get three first-place votes in the final Associated Press poll that season, but still finished No. 2 to USC for the national championship.

“They were good enough to play for the national championship,” Beamer said. “But I think we’ve got a good thing going. I think it’s unique. I think every game counts toward the national championship. We keep the bowls intact and they’re special, it’s special for the fans to go a week early and spend money and the whole bit. I’m a bowl guy, the whole way.”

Make no mistake, Harbaugh is a bowl fan. He raved about the way the Cardinal was treated during its week in South Florida, and says the Orange Bowl experience made a distinct impact on his team.

Like it or not, the system is the system.

“This has been a great week for preparation as far as a football team getting ready for a game,” Harbaugh said. “Couldn’t be more excited about this particular game. … The fact that it’s going to be the only game in the world being played on January 3rd is really something that has our guys excited and motivated for the ballgame.”

Even without a crystal football at stake, that’s enough, he said.

“It works at the 1-AA level, and that’s kind of what I base that off of,” Harbaugh said. “But probably now’s not the time to be talking about it. We’ve got other things to focus on, and that’s the excitement we have for this ballgame.”