Surprising Kansas to face ACC champ Va. Tech in Orange Bowl
A week later than it wanted, Kansas beat Missouri. An Orange Bowl bid is the surprising Jayhawks' reward.
The eighth-ranked Jayhawks (11-1) got their first Bowl Championship Series berth Sunday and will meet Virginia Tech (No. 3 BCS, No. 5 AP) (11-2) in Miami on Jan. 3.
The Hokies got their Orange Bowl spot by beating Boston College for the Atlantic Coast Conference title. Kansas, which set a school record for wins, was an at-large pick and benefited greatly from Missouri's 38-17 loss to Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship.
"A two-loss team compared to a one-loss team was probably the most pressing thing that we looked at," Orange Bowl CEO Eric Poms said.
Never mind that both of Missouri's losses were to Oklahoma, that the Tigers were two slots ahead of Kansas in the final BCS standings and beat the Jayhawks head-to-head on Nov. 24 to doom Kansas' national-title hopes.
The Orange Bowl simply didn't like what it saw Saturday night, and Kansas reaped the benefits.
Let another round of BCS debate begin.
"Well, I was optimistic," Kansas coach Mark Mangino said. "We were an 11-1 team that played consistently well most of the year ... except for our last game."
Missouri led the BCS standings entering the weekend, then got knocked from the title game by losing to Oklahoma Saturday.
No conference can have three BCS representatives, so the Tigers ended up losing again Sunday when the Orange Bowl opted to give Kansas its first invitation to a January bowl game since 1969.
"It's disappointing," Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel said.
At first glance, the Orange Bowl is a classic offense vs. defense matchup.
Virginia Tech has traditionally been a stellar defensive team under coach Frank Beamer, and this year was no exception. The Hokies finished the regular season ranked second nationally in points allowed per game (15.5) and fourth nationally in yardage allowed (293).
Kansas is second in scoring (44.3) and sixth in yards (491).
"Very scary," Beamer said. "You guys talk about them offensively, but it looks to me like they're very good defensively also. Certainly, they've had a great year and we'll try to uphold our end of the deal to have a great game for the Orange Bowl. It has the makings of that."
Virginia Tech was almost a national-title-picture afterthought following its 48-7 loss to LSU on Sept. 8, but the Hokies rebounded nicely and won 10 of their final 11 games. The only loss in that stretch came in a late-game collapse at home to Boston College, and that 14-10 defeat -- avenged Saturday in the ACC championship -- probably wound up keeping the Hokies out of the title game.
Now, Kansas gets its chance to bounce back from a tough loss.
The knock on Kansas all season was that its nonconference schedule -- Central Michigan, Southeastern Louisiana, Toledo and Florida International -- combined with a Big 12 slate that lacked games with Texas and Oklahoma gave the Jayhawks a chance to fatten their record.
Mangino said his team isn't looking for a way to silence naysayers. Like it or not, though, a prime-time matchup amid the BCS glitz against a team like Virginia Tech gives Kansas that opportunity.
"We've played consistently well," Mangino said. "We hear that Oklahoma and Texas are not on our schedule. We understand that, but they will be next year. Both of them will be. But I think you're judged on your merits of how you play week in and week out and I think our kids have played very good football all year long."
Neither Virginia Tech nor Kansas has ever won South Florida's showcase college game.
Kansas lost to Georgia Tech in 1948 and to Penn State 21 years later. The latter was the so-called "12th man game" when the Nittany Lions got the winning 2-point conversion with 15 seconds remaining after Kansas was flagged for having 12 men on the field for the first try.
Virginia Tech's only Orange Bowl appearance was Dec. 31, 1996, a 41-21 loss to Nebraska.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press