TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- For the first time in four years Florida State will not be playing for the national championship, but the Seminoles will play Virginia Tech in the Gator Bowl in a New Year's Day rematch of the 1999 title finalists.
Florida State (6-4, 5-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) will be playing in its 20th straight bowl and its first Gator Bowl since 1985. The unranked Seminoles, the only ACC team to defeat league champion Maryland, have a Saturday home game remaining against Georgia Tech.
No. 14 Virginia Tech (8-2) finishes its regular season at home Saturday against top-ranked Miami.
It's the first time since 1986 that Florida State has lost more than two games in a season and not finished in The Associated Press poll's top five. The Seminoles won national titles in 1993 and again in 1999, when they defeated Virginia Tech 46-29 at the Sugar Bowl.
The Seminoles' tough season "makes you appreciate how the other 98 percent lives," Florida State athletic director Dave Hart Jr. said Monday.
"I don't believe anyone in college football ever again will have a run like that," Hart said. "It was an unbelievable run. Only UCLA's basketball run under John Wooden is comparable."
The Bruins won 10 national championships, including seven straight, between 1964 and 1975.
Florida State coach Bobby Bowden enjoys a .729 winning percentage with a 17-6-1 bowl record, the best in college football history. Only Penn State's Joe Paterno, with 20 bowl wins, has more postseason coaching victories.
Florida State has played on New Year's Day or for the national title every season since 1986, except for a Dec. 30, 1990, game against Penn State in the inaugural Blockbuster Bowl.
The last time the Seminoles were in the Gator Bowl, tailback Tony Smith ran for 201 yards and Chip Ferguson passed for 338 yards as Florida State defeated Oklahoma State 34-23.