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Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Flipping Out: Trading conferences

By Brandon Chatmon and Heather Dinich

This week at ESPN.com, our college football reporters are going to spend some time in a different part of the country. Welcome to Flip Week.

Brandon Chatmon: The Big 12 region is the place I call home, but this weekend I’m headed to Blacksburg, Va., to check out Virginia Tech hosting Maryland. I couldn’t be more excited. My first memory of Lane Stadium was watching the Hokies dismantle No. 2 Miami 31-7 in 2003 to end the Hurricanes’ 39-game regular-season winning streak. Even watching that game from afar, I could feel the energy and excitement in the stadium, so ever since then I’ve wanted to check out a Hokies’ home game. If I had a sports bucket list, this probably would be on it.

I’ve always thought of Lane Stadium as one of college football’s toughest places to play, so I’ll have high expectations for my first trip to Blacksburg. I want to learn how it got that reputation and get a feel for how important Virginia Tech football is in the area. I’m not exactly sure what I’ll find, and that’s how I like it. An open mind will be the most important thing as I pack my suitcase. The only thing I’m certain of: I won’t head back home disappointed.

Virginia Tech Hokie
The HokieBird helps make any trip to Lane Stadium worthwhile.
Which brings me to the question I have for Hokies and ACC fans: What advice do you have for a newcomer to ACC country making his first trip to Lane Stadium? What should I eat? Where must I go? What should I see? For help, I turned to ACC reporter Heather Dinich.

Heather Dinich: Welcome to ACC country, Brandon!

Hokie hospitality will not disappoint. If there is one thing -- just one thing -- that you absolutely MUST do while you’re in Lane Stadium, it’s work your way into the student section for the “Enter Sandman” intro. If you don’t get chills, ask the nearest fan to take your pulse. Speaking of chills, bundle up. It’s not exactly South Florida weather.

There are plenty of traditions in and around Lane Stadium to embrace. You’re absolutely right -- Virginia Tech is one of the toughest places to play, and the reason is because of the rabid fan base. I’ve watched them stand in the pouring rain and wind to support their team. They are passionate, and you’ll know it before you even get into town because you’ll see a steady stream of traffic covered in Virginia Tech logos all the way to the stadium. Two hours before game time, go to the street in front of the stadium to watch the Highty-Tighties lead the way for the players, coaches, dance team and cheerleaders. Also, be sure to check out the tailgate scene all around Lane. Virginia Tech fans do it right. When you’re inside the gate, follow the smell of smoke to the giant-turkey-leg vendor. Gnaw on one of those for a while.

Forget the press box. Be a man of the people, because you’re going to want to participate in the “Let’s Go Hokies!” chant. The west section and east section take over the stadium, and it’s moments like these that capture the Hokies spirit at its best.

As for places to eat, I’ve only strolled down Main Street and can vouch for Cabo Fish Taco and the Cellar Restaurant. I’d ask around for some suggestions for the hot spots downtown.

Blacksburg is a small town with big tradition, Brandon. Enjoy every minute of it.

Chatmon: Sounds awesome, Heather, I can’t wait to get to Blacksburg. If you have any advice or suggestions for my first-ever trip to ACC country, send me a tweet at @BChatmon or email me at bchatmonespn@gmail.com. And if you see me in Blacksburg this weekend, don’t hesitate to say hello and/or offer to share some of your expertise. This weekend can’t come soon enough.