Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer has said all season that he did not agree with running up the score on opponents, despite the fact that the second-ranked Hokies are in a mathematical battle with No. 3 Nebraska for a spot in the Jan. 4 Sugar Bowl opposite top-ranked Florida State. He felt that way despite the fact that some of the computers that will help determine the final Bowl Championship Series standings--and thus the competitors for the national championship--consider margin of victory.

But tonight when the scoreboard at Lane Stadium flashed an early 21-point lead by Nebraska over Colorado in a game that was played simultaneously, even Beamer knew the Hokies not only had to beat Boston College but also had to win big to sustain their dreams of playing for their first national championship.

"It's not right," Beamer said. "You're working with college kids on issues like not taunting opponents, like showing respect. . . . then we come back and say, 'Keep scoring points even though you're up.' It's sending the wrong signal, I don't care what anybody says."

So despite his reluctance all season to keep his starters in the game when a lead was secured, Beamer not only kept standout redshirt freshman quarterback Michael Vick in the game, he kept him throwing. Vick, who threw just 13 passes the entire game (but completed 11 of them), attempted to pass on four straight downs midway through the fourth quarter with the Hokies holding a 31-7 lead.

"I think that's the worst part about the BCS . . . this margin of victory thing," Boston College Coach Tom O'Brien said. "It's not good for college football. I think the coaches understand what's going on, but the kids don't understand."

They'll have to. Because in lieu of a playoff system, the BCS--the computers--will continue to decide the contenders for the national championship.

After watching the Hokies manhandle his team, 62-7, Temple Coach Bobby Wallace said last week that he knew what was at stake for Virginia Tech and did not take offense to the final score. The difference in that game, however, was that three of Virginia Tech's touchdowns came with Vick and the rest of the starters on the sideline.

Against Boston College, the starters did not come out until the game's final possession because they couldn't: Too much is at stake for Virginia Tech, which is .63 points ahead of Nebraska in the BCS ratings and has a much weaker schedule. Beating the Eagles--one of four ranked teams the Hokies faced this season--by a substantial margin makes a much bigger statement to the computers than pummeling 2-8 Temple.

Tonight, that statement appears to have translated into a berth in the Sugar Bowl. Though it won't be finalized until the final BCS ratings are released Dec. 5, it seems likely the Hokies, who also benefited from a Colorado comeback that took Nebraska to overtime before the Huskers won, 33-30, will play No. 1 Florida State in their first shot at a national championship.

"That is the fourth ranked team we've played this year and we've taken all of them to the woodshed," said Virginia Tech all-American defensive end Corey Moore, whose team has beaten those four ranked opponents--Virginia, Syracuse, Miami and Boston College--by a combined score of 174-31. "What more could people want us to do?

"Yeah, we're going to New Orleans. No one is going to tell me any different."

A Race to the Finish

Nebraska (10-1)

DateOpponent (Rank)Outcome

9/4at IowaW, 42-7

9/11CaliforniaW, 45-0

9/18South. Miss.W, 20-13

9/25at MissouriW, 40-10

10/2Okla. St.W, 38-14

10/9Iowa StateW, 49-14

10/23at Texas (18)L, 20-24

10/30at KansasW, 24-17

11/6Texas A&M (18)W, 37-0

11/13Kansas State (5)W, 41-15

11/26at ColoradoW, 33-30*

* Overtime

Virginia Tech (11-0)

DateOpponent (Rank)Outcome

9/4James MadisonW, 47-0

9/11Ala.-BirminghamW, 31-10

9/23ClemsonW, 31-11

10/2at Virginia (24)W, 31-7

10/9at RutgersW, 58-20

10/16Syracuse (16)W, 62-0

10/30at PittsburghW, 30-17

11/6at West VirginiaW, 22-20

11/13Miami (19)W, 43-10

11/20at TempleW, 62-7

11/26Boston Coll. (22)W, 38-14

Dec. 4: Nebraska vs. Texas in Big 12 Conference championship game in San Antonio, 3:30 p.m., WJLA-7, WMAR-2.

Dec. 5: Bowl Championship Series pairings announced, 3:30 p.m., WJLA-7, WMAR-2.