Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly and his players attended an on-campus rally around 8 p.m. Sunday to celebrate the Bearcats' bid to the Orange Bowl to play Virginia Tech.

It was pretty impressive, considering that the team had finished its last regular-season game in Honolulu about 3:15 a.m. EST, wrapping up a 29-24 win and then heading back home. And the players had to worry about final exams beginning on Monday.

"Sleep's not been something we've needed around here," Kelly said Sunday night. "We've got a lot to look forward to today. We'll worry about sleeping later."

The matchup between No. 12 Cincinnati (11-2) and the No. 19 Hokies (9-4) may not pique casual fans' interest. But it's far and away the biggest bowl game in Bearcats history, and Kelly has said his team takes seriously the responsibility of carrying the Big East banner. They know their league has won three straight BCS games, and they don't want to be the ones to end that streak.

The Bearcats last played Virginia Tech in 2006, losing 29-13 in Blacksburg. Kelly said his players were excited about getting to play the Hokies in Miami.

"Playing Virginia Tech and Frank Beamer and just the tradition of that program is a matchup that we're excited about," he said. "When you have that name recognition of Virginia Tech, it certainly enhances not only the game but the credibility of the opponent."

Cincinnati will begin bowl preparations next Monday. It will need to get two key players healthy. Star cornerback Mike Mickens underwent arthroscopic knee surgery after the Pittsburgh game, and leading receiver Dominick Goodman suffered a Grade 2 separation of his right shoulder early in the Hawaii game. Kelly said he expects both of them to play on Jan. 1.

"Something about the Orange Bowl and sunny weather gets those guys healthy quicker," he said.