NCF Nation: Chick-fil-A Bowl first take

Chick-fil-A Bowl

December, 6, 2009
Virginia Tech (9-3) vs. Tennessee (7-5)
Dec. 31, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Virginia Tech take by ACC blogger Heather Dinich: Virginia Tech is no stranger to the city of Atlanta, as this is the third time this season the Hokies will play there, and the second time they’ll face an SEC team in the Georgia Dome. Hokies fans are probably hoping the third time is the charm, as Virginia Tech lost to both Alabama and Georgia Tech in the city during the regular season. Tennessee, though, hasn’t seen that kind of success under Lane Kiffin yet, and No. 12 Virginia Tech should be favored heading into this game.

That’s due in large part to the Hokies’ defense, which is holding opponents to just 15.75 points per game, and the offensive star power of redshirt freshman Ryan Williams, who is fifth in the country in rushing yards per game, third in total rushing yards and tied for third in rushing touchdowns. He has had nine 100-yard rushing games this year.

Tennessee is one of four 7-5 teams in a muddled group in the SEC East, and statistically, the Vols have been average in just about every category but one this year -- pass efficiency defense. Tennessee is No. 8 in the country, allowing just 99.98 yards per game. Vols running backs coach Eddie Gran better get used to seeing this defense, as he’ll be joining Florida State offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher’s staff eventually.

Tennessee take by SEC blogger Chris Low: There has been talk for several years now about possibly matching Tennessee and Virginia Tech for a football game at Bristol Motor Speedway. There won’t be any fumes or tire tread to speak of, but the Vols and Hokies will meet for the first time since Peyton Manning's freshman season at Tennessee in 1994.

Lane Kiffin proved in the buildup to his first season at Tennessee that he could talk a good game, but his Vols won some respect around the league with how tough, how hard-nosed and how disciplined they were on the field. Monte Kiffin’s defense was the backbone of this club, although the Vols didn’t play as well on that side of the ball at the end of the season when they lost a few players to injury and/or suspension.

Senior quarterback Jonathan Crompton was one of the most improved players in the league. After a dismal stretch in September, he rebounded to pass for 2,565 yards and 26 touchdowns. Senior running back Montario Hardesty rushed for 1,306 yards and 12 touchdowns after being under-utilized by the previous staff.

The Vols had some quality losses this year to Alabama and Florida and had the Crimson Tide beat if they could kick a field goal. What they need to make this a successful first season under Kiffin is a quality win, and taking down Frank Beamer and the Hokies would certainly qualify.

Dec. 31, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN)

LSU take by SEC blogger Chris Low: LSU was one of a handful of SEC teams that closed the regular season with a whimper. The defending national champion Tigers lost three of their last four games and gave up more than 30 points in each of their final three games.

It was a far cry from the defensive standard the 2007 national championship team set, and coach Les Miles is apparently going to shake up his staff a bit.

The Tigers (7-5) just never found any rhythm. They struggled at quarterback, where redshirt freshman Jarrett Lee threw seven interceptions that were returned for touchdowns. They struggled to make any game-changing plays on defense. They were the first consensus national champion since Ohio State in 1943 to follow their national title with a losing conference record.

It's still a team that's capable and a team with several players on its roster that will go on to play in the NFL.

They will need to play that way in the Dec. 31 Chick-fil-A Bowl matchup against a Georgia Tech team that's red-hot. The Yellow Jackets (9-3) run a version of the triple-option that gives defenses fits, especially when you're not used to seeing it. Running back Jonathan Dwyer is the main cog with 1,328 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Georgia Tech take by ACC blogger Heather Dinich: The bowl officials in Atlanta rewarded Georgia Tech for an outstanding season in Paul Johnson's first year as head coach. While they didn't play for the ACC title this season, the Yellow Jackets were arguably the hottest team in the league a week ago after their win over rival Georgia. LSU finished its season with back-to-back losses for the first time since 2002, and doesn't much resemble the 2007 national champs.

It takes a disciplined defense to stop Johnson's triple option offense, and LSU was No. 11 in the SEC in scoring defense. Georgia Tech was one of the more complete teams in the ACC this season, as it was productive on both sides of the ball. The Jackets, led by Jonathan Dwyer, led the ACC with 282.3 rushing yards per game, but also proved capable of throwing the ball if they need to. Safety Morgan Burnett led the nation in interceptions, and the veteran defensive line is comprised of players who are all likely to go onto successful careers in the NFL. The Tigers are 4-0 in this bowl game, but Georgia Tech leads the series 12-6.