I'm in the Fort Lauderdale/Miami area, where I'll be through Tuesday, reporting on one of the most fascinating college bowls of the season for The Charlotte Observer.
The Orange Bowl will feature Stanford vs. ACC champ Virginia Tech, which is a fine game in any case, but has the added bonus of featuring Stanford QB Andrew Luck.
Luck, for the uninitiated, is likely the No.1 draft pick of 2011 -- if he decides to come out early. The Panthers hold that No.1 pick.
As a redshirt sophomore, Luck will need to make that decision by Jan.15th. He's coached by another hot commodity in Jim Harbaugh, who has been rumored to be headed to Michigan or to one of several soon-to-be-open NFL coaching jobs, including the Panthers' post.
First of all, though, this game has to happen. Virginia Tech has won 11 straight games, whipped Florida State in the ACC title game in Charlotte and will be a formidable foe.
Stanford and Virginia Tech are both in south Florida now and practiced Wednesday. Luck and Harbaugh both talked briefly after practice and did a nice job of not saying much.
Harbaugh, when asked about trying to minimize the distractions surrounding speculation that he’ll accept an NFL position, said:
“The only time it gets asked is if I‟m doing a talk-back radio show or talking to the media or the press, but really it's not much of a distraction. When you‟re playing Virginia Tech, that gives you plenty to focus on.”
About advising Luck on his future, Harbaugh said: “I'm just going to tell him, 'Do what's best for your family. Do what's best for yourself.' Andrew's got a great, supportive family. They're very smart and they'll figure what‟s best for Andrew.”
Luck didn't address his upcoming decision after practice but did speak about several topics.
On how the team is progressing thus far:
"We've had two good days of practice so far. Beautiful weather, a beautiful setting, you know, waking up and getting to look out and seeing downtown Miami on your right and the beach on your left. It's very picturesque and we're very excited to be here and we‟re looking forward to a good game with Virginia Tech.”
On approaching this trip as a business trip:
“We'll have fun. We know we'll have fun if we win. If we don't win, this trip will be to no avail, so we‟re taking that approach.”
On dealing with the spotlight:
“I understand that if you're the quarterback of a major university that's 11-1 and going to a BCS bowl there's going to be attention and you're the face of the team in certain areas, but I don't relish it, I don't embrace it. I understand it's part of the job.”