Like the proverbial "skinning a cat," there's more than one way to reach a college football bowl game.
The teams headed for Orlando, Fla., and the Champs Sports Bowl prove that. Their impetus to a Dec. 28 postseason date bookended the leaves falling.
North Carolina State (8-4) made its statement in September that this wasn't likely to be a fourth straight losing season for Coach Tom O'Brien.
West Virginia (9-3) needed a four-game winning streak to close the season - and right after Coach Bill Stewart had negotiated his way off the WVU sideline after 2011, it turns out - to get a tri-share of a Big East title and the conference's No. 2 bowl berth.
"Our backs were really against the wall," Mountaineer quarterback Geno Smith said. "No offense to those teams that beat us (back-to-back, Syracuse, Connecticut), but we should have won those games.
"Coach Stew did an incredible job after that. He got behind us and made everyone accountable. He didn't make excuses and it wasn't a pity party. He told us we'd have to fight it out, and that's what we did."
What N.C. State did - after being picked to finish fourth in the ACC's Atlantic Division - was open 4-0, with the last three in games that might have gone either way after starting the season by drubbing FCS member Western Carolina.
"It all hinged on games 2 through 4," said O'Brien, in his 14th season as a head coach. "We played UCF down there (Orlando) on a Saturday night when it was hot, muggy and won (28-21). We get home at 3 on Sunday morning and then have to turn around and play a Thursday night home game against Cincinnati.
"They're coming off back-to-back BCS bids and were picked to be good again, and we went out and pretty soundly took over the game (30-19). Then we go down to Georgia Tech, our conference's BCS team last year, and win (45-28).
"With a young team, our goal was to have a winning season and go to a bowl game.
"We kind of looked at one another and said maybe we ought to up this. We've got a shot to be pretty good in this conference."
Crucial in that start were the performances of State's stars on each side of the ball - middle linebacker Nate Irving and quarterback Russell Wilson.
Irving was trying to bounce back for a last season after missing 2009 following a car crash that June that left him with multiple leg fractures, a collapsed lung, separated shoulder, broken ribs and wearing a neck brace and needing a chest tube.