Sunday, January 2, 2011
Discover Orange Bowl preview
By Heather Dinich
This is the big one for the ACC, a chance for Virginia Tech and the conference to make a statement on the national stage against the No. 4 team in the country. Virginia Tech enters this game with an all-time record of 1-26 against teams ranked in the top 5 of the AP poll, and the Hokies are 0-22 in such games away from Blacksburg, Va.
This is Stanford’s first Orange Bowl appearance and second BCS bowl appearance. At 11-1, Stanford is trying to finish a season with as few as one loss for the first time since 1940 (10-0). The Cardinal have already set a school record for most wins in a season. There’s plenty to play for in the Discover Orange Bowl. Here’s a quick preview:
WHO TO WATCH: The quarterbacks. Stanford’s Andrew Luck is a projected first-round NFL draft pick, and Virginia Tech’s Tyrod Taylor was the ACC’s Player of the Year after leading the Hokies on an 11-game winning streak. They’re major reasons why their teams are ranked among the top 20 in the country in scoring offense. Both have been invaluable to their respective teams, both have given defenses fits, and both are too good to miss.
WHAT TO WATCH: Virginia Tech’s secondary against Stanford’s receivers. Cornerbacks Jayron Hosley and Rashad Carmichael will have to win their matchups, especially when safeties Davon Morgan and Eddie Whitley line up closer to the box. Stanford receiver Doug Baldwin is one of Luck’s top targets, and Carmichael will be tasked with disrupting that connection. The Hokies’ pass efficiency defense is No. 8 in the country, while Stanford is No. 7 in passing efficiency.
WHY WATCH: These programs have gone on remarkable runs this season and come a long way. Stanford made a turnaround from 1-11 in 2006 to a school-record 11-1 this year. Virginia Tech made a turnaround from its 0-2 start to win 11 straight and become the first team to go undefeated in ACC play since Florida State in 2000. Both have an opportunity to finish the season with unprecedented success.
PREDICTION: Stanford 35, Virginia Tech 31. The difference in this game will be Stanford’s ability to run the ball. If there has been one weakness in the Hokies’ defense this year, it’s been at linebacker, where injuries and youth have provided some bumps. Virginia Tech’s run defense has been average, but when the Hokies dare to load the box, Luck can beat them with his arm.