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College Football Analysis: Sugar Bowl Preview

Controversy has been surrounding the fact that two SEC schools will play for the BCS championship in a rematch of a contest on November 5th which LSU topped Alabama 9-6; there’s also controversy involving another game in New Orleans.

The BCS’ automatic bowl bid is the Sugar Bowl which also plays in the Superdome, but due to two SEC teams playing six days later – and one of them being the SEC champion – the Sugar Bowl committee had to replace the bid. They chose Michigan (13th in BCS standings) to replace LSU, then Virginia Tech (11th in BCS) as the at-large bid overlooking Boise State (7th) and Kansas State (8th). The selection committee cited that both teams are football powerhouses with an extension fan base that travels well. Unfortunately that argument backfired as the Hokies have sold 10,000 of their 17,500 ticket allotment as of Monday; Michigan sold 14,000 the first day tickets went on sale.

Michigan is the winningest program in college history posting 894 wins and had made a bowl game 33 straight years before going 3-9 in 2008 under former head coach Rich Rodriguez. Last year, Michigan made it back to a bowl, but was embarrassed in the Gator Bowl 52-14 by Mississippi State, prompting the university to fire Rodriguez after three sub-par seasons with a combined record of 15-22. The Wolverines hired former assistant, Brady Hoke who turned the program, winning five games less in one season than Rodriguez did in three. 

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Led by dual-threat quarterback Denard Robinson, Michigan’s offense averages 423.1 of total offense per game, with 235 yards on the ground and 187 yards in the air. Robinson averages nearly 100 yards rushing a game, for a total of 1,163 yards and 16 TDs through the regular season. However, Robinson isn’t the most accurate passer in the FBS, completing 56.1% of his passes for 2,056 yards with 18 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. Sophomore Fitzgerald Toussaint emerged as the lead RB in the second half of the campaign rushing for 678 yards in the last five games, and 1011 and nine scores overall. Junior Hemmingway leads the offense with 32 receptions for 636 yards and TE Kevin Koger is the leader in touchdown receptions with four.

The defense is one of the biggest reasons for the turnaround, giving up nearly 450 yards and 34 points per game last year, ranking them in the bottom 20 of the nation in both categories to 17th in the country in total defense, holding opponents to 317.6 yards this year.  The 17.2 points per game they allow is tied for seventh best in the country.

Virginia Tech has its own dual-threat quarterback in Logan Thomas, but also relies on David Wilson, the ACC Offensive Player and Player of the Year, as its primary weapon in the ground game. Wilson is fifth in the country with 1,627 rushing yards and nine touchdowns while Thomas has ran for 410 yards and 10 TDs. Thomas has completed 59.2% of his passes for 2799 yards, 19 touchdowns and nine interceptions, spreading the ball out as six different Hokies have caught at least 14 passes.  Jarrett Boykin is the top target with 57 catches (731 yards), while Danny Coale has the most receiving yards with 787 (52 receptions) and Marcus Davis and Boykin both have five touchdowns each. Combined with D.J. Coles, the four receivers have combined for 172 catches, 2,466 yards and 16 touchdowns. 

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Defensively, Virginia Tech is a solid unit, allowing an FBS 15th-best 107.77 yards on the ground and 206.2 yards in the air, good for 39th in the nation. The Hokies are tied with Michigan with the seventh best scoring defense, with 17.2 points allowed per game. DB Kyle Fuller leads the team with 14.5 TFL, is third with 64 total tackles, and fourth on the squad with 4.5 sacks.

Dory LeBlanc, covers Gator sports for Gators First and Not just a college sports enthusiast, Dory is also a fan of NFL, NHL, NBA, and MLB. Born outside Philly, she moved to Tampa, and now resides in Illinois, giving her a broad perspective on the sporting world. You can follow Dory on twitter @DoryLeBlanc


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