When Mark Mangino went to Kansas, he knew changing a woebegone program into a winner would be a major challenge.
He also knew similar turnarounds had been accomplished before.
The one Frank Beamer started a decade earlier at Virginia Tech, for example.
So Mangino modeled large chunks of his Jayhawks' regimen after things Beamer did with the Hokies, like trying to be complete in all three aspects of the game, not just offense or defense or special teams.
Those parallels will be on display tonight, when No. 8 Kansas (11-1) - perhaps the biggest surprise in college football this season - makes its first Orange Bowl appearance in 39 years vs. the fifth-ranked Hokies (11-2), champions of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
"When I first arrived at Kansas, it was disappointing," said Mangino, who was 25-35 in his first five seasons before this year's big turnaround earned him the AP Coach of the Year honors. "There were days that I was frustrated and said this ought to be better. The University of Kansas deserves better than this in their football program."
An Orange Bowl trip certainly qualifies as something better, especially for a Kansas team that didn't even play in a postseason game last year.
"You know, they're for real," Beamer said.
When the Hokies and Jayhawks talk about the stakes in this game, they say the same thing - that even without a national championship on the line, this is the biggest game either program has played in a long, long time.
They might be right.
For Virginia Tech, this is about history, getting to the 12-win mark for the first time and giving fans one more reason to cheer a year that will be remembered as the one following the April 16 on-campus massacre in Blacksburg in which 32 students and professors lost their lives.
"It's just what needs to happen," said Beamer, who has the Hokies in their 15th straight bowl game. "It's what needs to get done. Virginia Tech needed to rally around a football team . . . So we'll rally together and be stronger and tighter than ever. And I think that's what has happened."
For Kansas, this is about silencing all doubters, the ones who said the Jayhawks only got here because their schedule was soft and a school-record 11-win season still wasn't good enough to merit a spot in a BCS game.
"I don't think at this point in the season we have to prove ourselves any more," quarterback Todd Reesing said. "We won 11 games this year. How many other teams in the nation can say that?"
Add in the intrigue of a great Kansas offense facing a great Virginia Tech defense, and this might have the makings of a classic.
"They're a solid football team and very well-coached and talented," Beamer said. "They've got all the ingredients."
Virginia Tech allows 15.5 points per game, second-best in the nation behind Ohio State, and believes it has enough athleticism in the secondary to keep pace with the Jayhawks.
Still, the Hokies may miss a vital part of their defense.
Linebacker Vince Hall injured his left knee during a jet-skiing outing organized by the game's host committee, Beamer said, and may not be ready tonight.
"People might think that we come to a bowl game every year, so we might not pay attention to this one," Hokies defensive end Orion Martin said. "But we haven't won a BCS game in a while. Coach said this is probably one of our most important games since the '99 national championship game. So we know what's at stake."
Charles leaving TexasTexas junior running back Jamaal Charles, who rushed for 1,619 yards this season, announced he will leave the Longhorns to enter the NFL draft.
Charles joined Ricky Williams, Earl Campbell, and Cedric Benson as the only Longhorns to rush for more than 1,500 yards in a season. He had 161 yards and two touchdowns in Texas's Holiday Bowl win over Arizona State. The Longhorns finished 10-3.
He indicated after the bowl game he would return, but had filed paperwork with the NFL to test where he might get drafted. The response, which he did not disclose, prompted his decision, he said in a statement released by the school.
Virginia offensive guard Branden Albert will also forgo his final season of eligibility and enter the NFL draft. "We're supportive of whatever is in his best interest," Virginia coach Al Groh said. The 23-year-old Albert, a 6-foot-7-inch, 310-pound third-team All-American, started all 37 games he played with the Cavaliers.