Mike London believes the key is to avoid "shock and awe." The shock of Auburn's speed and size. The awe of the Tigers' national-championship pedigree and Saturday's postseason setting.
Indeed, the Chick-fil-A Bowl against Auburn at the sold-out Georgia Dome represents unfamiliar territory for London's Virginia Cavaliers.
BCS, and Chris Fowler won't be anchoring on-site. But it is an exclusive, prime-time television window in a New Year's Eve game that officials said Friday has produced four of ESPN's top-10 rated bowls.
For an Auburn program less than a year removed from winning the national title with Heisman Trophy quarterback Cam Newton, it's another punch-the-clock day. Not so for Virginia, which last reached a bowl in 2007 and hasn't won a bowl since 2005.
"It's definitely an all-eyes-on-you type of thing," Cavaliers receiver Kris Burd said. "It's an opportunity to go out there and promote your personal brand. Definitely a great stage."
But while the moment is unique to Virginia's players — the Cavaliers haven't competed against the omnipotent Southeastern Conference since a 2003 home loss to South Carolina — and while the "wow" factor may strike for an early snap or two, they should not panic.
They didn't at Miami, and they certainly didn't at Florida State, becoming the first team ever to win at those venues in the same season. Granted, the Hurricanes and Seminoles paled to their vintage bests, but the victories were telling nonetheless.
Night game on the road. Killing time at a hotel all day. National television spotlight. None of the trappings seemed to faze Virginia.
"We have that business mentality," All-ACC defensive tackle Matt Conrath said. "We understood what needed to be done and went out and did it."
At Friday's pregame gabfest with Auburn coach Gene Chizik, he of the Cowher-esque jaw, London credited those wins to converting clutch third downs and avoiding turnovers. Virginia had no giveaways in either contest, a sure sign of composure.
"It's like we've been here before," London said.
The Cavaliers (8-4) and Tigers (7-5) got starched in their regular-season finales by state rivals, Virginia 38-0 by Virginia Tech, Auburn 42-14 by Alabama. Worse, those defeats were at home, providing the Cavaliers and Tigers ample incentive for Saturday.
"We just had some mental mistakes and mental breakdowns we hadn't had all year," Virginia linebacker Steve Greer said. "We spent some time fixing them in these bowl practices, and I don't think they'll happen again."
Bowls are customary for Auburn — 11 in the last 12 seasons — and once were at Virginia. The Cavaliers reached postseason nine times in George Welsh's final 11 years as coach, five times in Al Groh's first seven years.
So this season should not be an anomaly for Virginia. Not with its resources and recruiting base. Not with an indoor practice facility on the horizon and London agreeing to a modest two-year contract extension, announced Friday, that carries through 2016.
After just two seasons guiding the Cavaliers, London was not and is not job-hunting. Moreover, other schools are not clamoring to hire him.
Still, Virginia was wise to reward him, absent the excessive salary, length and buyout that marked contracts-gone-bad with Groh and former basketball coach Pete Gillen. The new deal helps recruiting, and London's 23.5-percent raise, from $1.7 million to $2.1 million, is more than reasonable in today's market.
Born in New York, London has spent most of his 51 years in the state. He considers himself a Virginian and, I sense, views this as a destination job.
"I'm just excited about the opportunity to stay at Virginia for a long time," London said.
He also understands the core mandate: win.
"As I told (the players), these are memories that are made that you'll remember for a lifetime, all the events that took place during the course of the week," London said. "The seniors that are going out, their legacy will be that this is what (they) started and this is what is expected in this program year in, year out.
"You hope that some of these younger guys … pick up on that."
David Teel can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at email@example.com. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/sports/teeltime and follow him at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP
Bowl bids should become norm for Virginia under London