Stanford vs. Virginia Tech
Miami, Fla., Sun Life Stadium
Monday, January 3, 2011 8:30 PM ET ESPN
Laying the scene
A lot of people had all but buried Virginia Tech after losses to Boise State and James Madison to open the season, but the Hokies have pulled off 11 straight wins culminating in the ACC Championship Game win over Florida State. Stanford was 1-11 in 2006, the year before Jim Harbaugh took over as head coach. He improved in each season at the helm, going 4-8 in 2007, 5-7 in 2008, 8-5 in 2009 (lost Sun Bowl to Oklahoma) and this season finished 11-1 and ranked fourth in the BCS.
(Note: Virginia Tech running back David Wilson and safety Antone Exum will sit out the first quarter of the Orange Bowl for a violation of team curfew.)
What Stanford has to do to win
Everybody knows that Stanford has a phenomenal offense that includes arguably the best amateur prospect in the game in quarterback Andrew Luck, but they also field a fantastic defense. The Hokies are known as a running offense, averaging 208.9 yards on the ground per game, but quarterback Tyrod Taylor has developed as a passer. While Taylor is able to hurt teams with his arm, the Hokies remain a ground team first with running backs Darren Evans and David Wilson contributing 817 and 616 yards, respectively, to go along with Taylor's 637 yards on the ground. If Stanford hopes to come away with the win, they'll have to win the battle up front to limit the ground game and force the Hokies to win through the air. The Stanford rushing defense ranks 24th in the nation, while the pass defense ranks 34th (19th pass efficiency defense).
(Note: Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas had his best rushing performance of the season against the Cardinal, picking up 117 yards and a touchdown on the ground and 238 yards and three touchdowns through the air in the Ducks win. Such a performance from the opposing quarterback is a quick way to lose this game as well. A performance similar to the one they put on against Jake Locker and Washington would be more like it. Locker went 7/14 for 64 yards and had no touchdowns through the air; he rushed eight times for 1 yard in the Cardinal's shut out win over the Huskies.)
What Virginia Tech has to do to win
Win the turnover battle. The Hokies are tops in the nation in turnover margin, forcing 30 turnovers and giving away just 12. Tyrod Taylor has thrown four interceptions all season, marking the fourth consecutive season in which Taylor has thrown seven interceptions or fewer. The Hokies defense has intercepted 22 passes and has come away with eight fumble recoveries. Stanford is fourth in turnover margin, though, forcing 29 turnovers and losing 15 this season. Andrew Luck has thrown seven interceptions this season and the battle between the Stanford offense and Virginia Tech defense could ultimately decide who walks away with the victory in this one. Luck has completed at least 70% of his passes in nine games this season including the last seven, so finding a way to rattle the All-American will be key for the Hokies defensive front.
Stanford. Andrew Luck is a dynamic passer who has shown such poise and has been so efficient and productive that he's presumed to become the top pick in April's draft if he decides to come out early. He and the Stanford Cardinal, both offensively and defensively, are equipped to stay with just about any team in the country. They proved that against Oregon, jumping out to a 21-3 lead and heading into the half up by a touchdown, although they faltered in the second half as Oregon ran away with the win. Virginia Tech is on a roll, winning their last 11 games, but against a Stanford team capable of playing the run and the pass and able to meet just about any score on offense, they won't make it 12 in a row. - Danny Hobrock
Danny is a sports journalist primarily covering college football and professional baseball. His work for Xtra Point Football has garnered national attention and is critically acclaimed. Danny is the former editor of a political and current events website and the editor of our college football content.
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