When Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer looks at Cincinnati, he might as well be seeing a years-old reflection in a mirror.
Not long ago, Beamer's Hokies were exactly what the Bearcats are now: surging, surprising, emerging from relative obscurity to stand on the cusp of greatness.
So Beamer knows what No. 12 Cincinnati (11-2) will feel tonight when facing No. 21 Virginia Tech (9-4) in the Orange Bowl - the biggest game the Big East champion Bearcats have ever played.
"You see this program, the state they're in, Ohio, great football. Now they're with a great conference," Beamer said. "You just see it taking off. I think it's a very, very good coaching staff, so yeah, I think this is just the start of things for Cincinnati."
His chore: Finding a way to slow that start, at least for one night.
There's plenty of ancillary reasons why Virginia Tech - which lost this game to Kansas last year - is aching to win the Orange Bowl.
They would join Southern California and Texas as the only major college teams to win 10 games in each of the past five seasons, plus ending the Atlantic Coast Conference's eight-game losing streak in Bowl Championship Series matchups.
But Beamer knows the only way to do that is to match Cincinnati's hunger - like that his team felt when making its big-time bowl debut in 1995, topping Texas in the Sugar Bowl.
That game vaulted the Hokies into the spotlight, and they haven't left since, and Cincinnati surely would love to emulate that run.
"They remind me now of how we were then," Beamer said.
Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly takes that as a compliment.
Kelly is steadfast that merely getting to this stage doesn't satisfy his team, which was picked fifth in the Big East's preseason poll and didn't receive even one of the 24 first-place votes in that balloting. The Bearcats used five quarterbacks this year, got blown out at Oklahoma and Connecticut, then put together six straight wins to cap a stirring run to Miami.
"Winning a Big East championship and getting here obviously gets you a lot of momentum," Kelly said. "But that's not enough for me, personally, professionally, and I believe that's not enough for our football team. We like to play and we like to win. So winning the game for us, it's in our DNA."