Orange Bowl's buzz sour

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One week hence, Dolphin Stadium will host one of college football's most anticipated postseason collisions in modern times: Oklahoma versus Florida in the Bowl Championship Series national title game.

Two point-a-minute offenses quarterbacked by Heisman Trophy winners; two recent national champs, an expected capacity crowd and rapt television audience.

It's the sports equivalent of Jennifer Aniston's GQ cover.

Tonight, by comparison, is Lee Corso in Jen's necktie-only pose.

Tonight, we have Virginia Tech and Cincinnati in the 75th annual Orange Bowl. Same stadium, though perhaps half-empty. Minimal Nielsens and no top-10 teams.

No offense to the Hokies and Bearcats, 19th and 12th, respectively, in the BCS standings. They have every reason to celebrate their conference championships.

Just don't expect Orange Bowl suits and the national college football community to revel in this pairing.

Consider: Of the 58 postseason matchups arranged by the Bowl Alliance and BCS during the past 14 years, this is the first without a top-10 team. In fact, this is the first Orange Bowl in 32 years without a top-10 squad.

Not to say that Virginia Tech and Cincinnati lack intrigue.

The Hokies (9-4) continue to excel defensively and are attempting to win at least 10 games for a fifth consecutive season, a streak matched currently by only Southern California and Texas. The Bearcats (11-2) have juggled quarterbacks like Tony Romo does starlets and are an emerging Big East power, much like Virginia Tech 13 years ago, when the Hokies upset Texas in the Sugar Bowl.

"I think it's important to understand how big the Orange Bowl is," Hokies coach Frank Beamer said Wednesday at the final pregame gabfest in Fort Lauderdale. "Representing the ACC, us trying to get to 10 wins … how big that really is."

But as much as we in Virginia and the good folks in Cincinnati appreciate those angles, they don't play in Peoria.

Joe the Fan is struck by Florida-Oklahoma and the competition between the last two Heisman winners, the Gators' Tim Tebow and Sooners' Sam Bradford. Joe may also be curious about the pedigreed Rose Bowl featuring Southern California and Penn State.

Virginia Tech-Cincinnati? Not so much.

Each school was allotted 17,500 tickets, and while the nouveau-riche Bearcats sold approximately 14,000, the been-there, done-that Hokies managed only about 5,000.

At last check Wednesday afternoon, you could get two upper-deck seats on eBay for $5. Face value for said seats is $220.

And you thought the Price Club was a bargain.

So anxious (desperate?) were officials to sell tickets that they required those purchasing title-game seats also to buy for the Orange Bowl.

So how, then, did the Hokies and Bearcats land in the BCS overall, and the Orange Bowl specifically?

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