FedEx Orange Bowl: Cincinnati (11-2) vs. Virginia Tech (9-4)
Jan. 1, 2009, 8:30 p.m. (FOX)
Cincinnati take by Big East blogger Brian Bennett: Some people might make this matchup out to be Cincinnati's offense against Virginia Tech's defense, but they would be missing the point.
Yes, the Hokies are as fearsome as ever defensively, ranking seventh in the country in total defense. But the Bearcats have a swift, ball-hawking defense with 10 starting seniors themselves. The two teams feature outstanding secondaries, led by Macho Harris for Virginia Tech and Mike Mickens for Cincinnati, assuming the latter is healthy after late-year knee surgery. And both sides are terrific on special teams.
It's been endlessly documented how Cincinnati overcame all its quarterback issues this season. Virginia Tech had its own issues until Tyrod Taylor stepped up and solidified the position.
The Bearcats have a much better passing attack with quarterback Tony Pike and big-play receivers Dominick Goodman and Mardy Gilyard. But the Hokies are far more effective at running the ball and can use that to control the clock.
The Big East has won three straight BCS games and would like nothing better to defeat one of the three teams (along with Miami and Boston College) that bolted the league for the ACC before the 2005 season. The ACC has lost its last eight BCS games.
Virginia Tech take by ACC blogger Heather Dinich: 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.