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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Maybe Sun for Virginia Tech

CHARLOTTESVILLE—Shortly after the final whistle blew in Virginia Tech’s 16–6 win over Virginia on Saturday at Scott Stadium, Hokies quarterback Logan Thomas was asked if he had a preference for bowl destinations.

“Somewhere warm,” he replied.

Then he was asked if he had ever been to El Paso, Texas.

“Not that kind of warm,” he said.

El Paso is the site of the Sun Bowl, and it’s not always as warm this time of year as people might think. Unfortunately for Thomas, it’s also the likeliest destination for the Hokies this bowl season.

Jerry Palm, CBS Sports’ bowl expert, predicts a Virginia Tech–UCLA matchup in the Dec. 31 Sun Bowl. Several other prognosticators are predicting the same pairing.

Of course, it’s all speculation at this point. Bowl matchups won’t be announced until Sunday when the BCS matchups are revealed.

The ACC’s top two teams—Florida State and Clemson—both appear headed to BCS bowls. The Seminoles will play in the BCS championship game, barring an epic upset in Saturday’s ACC championship game against Duke, and it’s looking like a very realistic possibility that the Tigers could receive an at-large selection to the Orange Bowl.

The next three bowls in the ACC’s selection order—Chick–fil–A, Russell Athletic and Sun Bowl—will then choose from a second tier of teams that includes Coastal Division champion Duke, Miami, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech.

The loser of the ACC championship game, likely Duke, can’t fall any lower than the Sun Bowl, but the Blue Devils, who are in the midst of their best season ever, have earned the right to be selected ahead of the Hokies, Hurricanes and Yellow Jackets.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that will be the case, however. Because those four teams all finished within a game of each other in the conference standings, any of them can be picked ahead of the other.

Which means the Hokies could find themselves playing in Atlanta (Chick–fil–A), Orlando (Russell Athletic), El Paso (Sun) or even Charlotte for the Belk Bowl, depending on the interests of the particular bowls.

The Chick–fil–A Bowl, which is played New Year’s Eve at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, has proven in the past that it has a fondness for Virginia Tech. The Hokies have played in the bowl twice in the last seven years, and both games—against Georgia in 2006 and against Tennessee in ’09—were played in front of packed crowds.

Moreover, the Hokies were selected twice by the Chick–fil–A Bowl to play in its Kickoff Classic games against Alabama in 2009 and ’13. Both of those games were also played in front of sold-out crowds that included a healthy portion of Virginia Tech fans.

If the Chick–fil–A Bowl decides to take Duke, however, Virginia Tech could be in line for a return trip to Orlando for the Russell Athletic Bowl (Dec. 28). The Hokies beat Rutgers last season in that game, and the players and coaches seemed to enjoy the overall experience.

“I would definitely be cool going back to Orlando. That was great. I loved that bowl,” Tech senior linebacker Jack Tyler said.

But Miami might be a more attractive option to the bowl game because of its close proximity.

If Duke and Miami are picked ahead of the Hokies, that leaves Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech for the Sun and Belk bowls. The Yellow Jackets have played in the last two Sun Bowls, so the selection committee for that game may be looking for a change this season.

What all this means at this point is not much at all. It’s all speculation. Anything can happen Sunday when the bowl matchups are officially announced.

Tyler said he’d be happy to go anywhere.

“If we go to Maine or if we go to Florida, I could care less,” Tyler said. “There’s no bad bowl games.”

Nathan Warters: 540/374-5442