ACC: Mardy Gilyard
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
This should be another good, close game, and one that's tough to predict. Here are three reasons why Virginia Tech will beat Cincinnati in the FedEx Orange Bowl, and three reasons why they won't:
WHY VIRGINIA TECH WILL WIN
1. Coaching. Cincinnati's Brian Kelly has done a remarkable job in just his second season with the Bearcats, as he is 22-5 and Cincy is this year's Big East champion. But this is also the program's first appearance in a BCS bowl, while the Hokies were here last season. Kelly won two Division II national titles at Grand Valley State, but Beamer is a veteran determined not to lose this game a third time.
2. Turnovers. The Hokies have a knack for taking it away, while Cincinnati tends to give it away. The Bearcats have gained 21 and lost 26. Cincinnati is 83rd in the nation in turnover margin, and Virginia Tech is 18th. The Hokies have scored five non-offensive touchdowns this season.
3. Defense. The Hokies' passing defense is holding opponents to 170 yards per game, and that will be critical against quarterback Tony Pike. Victor "Macho" Harris is tied for fifth in the nation with six interceptions this year, and he's scored twice off of them. Defense has won games for this team all season, and will have to do it again.
WHY VIRGINIA TECH WILL LOSE
1. Cincinnati quarterback Tony Pike. He ranks 29th in the nation in passing efficiency with a 141.07 rating. He took over the spread offense when Dustin Grutza was injured, and has gotten comfortable throwing to Mardy Gilyard and Dominick Goodman. The Bearcats don't run a lot, but they don't have to with Pike's short, effective throws.
2. Special teams. Cincinnati leads the nation in net punting, and punter Kevin Huber averages 44.89 yards per punt to rank seventh in the nation. He has had 21 punts inside the 20-yard line. Cincinnati also leads the Big East in kickoff returns. It's a slight edge for the Bearcats, as Virginia Tech has one of the ACC's best placekickers in Dustin Keys, and Harris has the ability to score on a return.
3. Virginia Tech's inconsistent offensive line. Cincinnati has the No. 2 rushing defense in the Big East and No. 13 in the country. The Bearcats are first in the Big East and ninth in the nation with 2.85 sacks per game, and the Hokies rank 111th in sacks allowed. They're going to force the Hokies to throw it, and while Virginia Tech's passing game has shown some improvement, it's not their strength.
One of the first things Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said after winning the ACC title game was the team wanted to represent the ACC well this season at the Orange Bowl -- something they didn't do in last year's 24-21 loss to Kansas. The Hokies are peaking at just the right time, as the freshmen receivers have proven capable of making the offense less one-dimensional, and they're giving quarterback Tyrod Taylor more options. Tailback Darren Evans has also started to catch the ball out of the backfield a bit more, and Beamer has continued to praise freshman Dyrell Roberts, who played well on Saturday against Boston College.
Still, the Hokies don't exactly have a prolific offense and will need their stingy defense against the No. 3 scoring offense in the Big East. Cincinnati has won a school-record 11 games, including six straight, but is making its first BCS appearance in school history. The Bearcats have used five quarterbacks this season, but have had consistent receivers in Dominick Goodman and Mardy Gilyard. The Hokies offensive line will have a tough job protecting Taylor against a defense that led the Big East in sacks this season.