The Hokies have an enticing bowl destination set, with an opponent they haven't played in decades, but the main question on the minds of Tech fans everywhere is: will Justin Fuente be around to coach the game?
It would seem the head Hokie is answering that with a definitive, 'Yes,' making his feelings about rumors linking him to other jobs crystal clear during a call with reporters following his team's selection to the Camping World Bowl.
"I've declined to talk to everybody that's come along," Fuente said. "I haven't been interested in going down that road. In general terms, I don't feel like I should ever make longstanding, definitive comments, but I'm incredibly happy at Virginia Tech...I have been approached, but I've declined to talk to everybody, so it's been nipped in the bud right at the start."
Consider that a very large bucket of cold water thrown on any suggestion that Fuente could bolt Blacksburg for Tallahassee, or any other spot on the increasingly turbulent coaching carousel.
So with those rumors dispatched, Fuente can turn his full attention to the impending matchup with the Oklahoma State Cowboys, a team that the Hokies haven't faced off against since 1972, but a program that Fuente himself is quite familiar with after growing up in the Sooner State.
"They are incredibly explosive offensively, they can score and really, really push the pace," Fuente said. "It's a great challenge for us as a team, it's an intriguing and interesting matchup."
Fuente is particularly familiar with Pokes coach Mike Gundy, a man he calls "a legend in Oklahoma," due to his long history playing and coaching in Stillwater. Gundy even remembers recruiting Fuente out of high school back in the mid-1990s, before the former QB spurned him for the Sooners.
"He was a good player and when he came out, there weren't too many throwing QBs," Gundy said. "After my brother (Cale), he was kind of the next guy who showed up in the state who was really a thrower. But we really wanted him."
Fuente confesses that his affinity for throwing the ball was what drew him to Norman over Stillwater — Howard Schnellenberger had just taken over at Oklahoma with a pledge to run the first modern passing offense in school history, a scheme that Fuente admits "didn't work out" in the coach's lone season at the school. But he remembers vividly how starstruck he was by Gundy during his recruitment process, making the bowl matchup all the more surreal.
"When I got to high school and got a chance to meet him and talk to him a little bit, I was in awe because I'd seen him and his brother play on television so many times," Fuente said.
Though the pair hasn't kept in touch much since, the Hokies do have a few assistants who likely remember Gundy well — OC Brad Cornelsen was a graduate assistant and quality control coach with the Pokes for a few years in the early 2000s, while offensive line coach Vance Vice played defensive tackle and tight end at Oklahoma State as Gundy was quarterbacking the Cowboys.
"We were pretty big buddies in college, we lived across the hall from each other," Gundy said. "He was a real tough guy back in the day."
In that regard, Vice hasn't changed much, given the persona he's crafted at Virginia Tech. Nor has he changed his hairstyle much since his days back in Stillwater, Gundy said, putting to bed any suggestion that somehow his affinity for the mullet rubbed off on Vice in their days sharing a dorm.
"Vance has had that same haircut for 30 years," Gundy said. "I'm not sure he'd model it after me, but he's had that same cut for a long, long time."
So while Gundy will be glad to see some "friendly faces" on the opposite sideline in Orlando in Cornelsen and Vice, he's a bit less thrilled to see Bud Foster and his 12th-ranked defense, quite possibly the toughest group his Pokes have faced all season.
"I have a ton of respect for him," Gundy said. "We will obviously have our hands full on offense."
By the same token, the Cowboys and their second-ranked offense will certainly be the most prolific bunch that the Hokies have seen all year, particularly in the passing game, so Fuente will have his hands full as well.
"We're excited to get down there and play," Fuente said.