NCF Nation: Nathan Brink

NEW ORLEANS -- Greetings from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, where tonight No. 13 Michigan faces No. 11 Virginia Tech in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

Michigan makes its first BCS bowl appearance since the 2007 Rose Bowl, and aims for its first BCS bowl victory since the 2000 Orange Bowl, when Tom Brady led the Wolverines past Alabama. Virginia Tech, meanwhile, is used to the big stage, having played in three of the past four Orange Bowls.

A bit of pregame news, of the unsurprising variety. Michigan senior defensive lineman Will Heininger is out with a sprained right foot. Junior Will Campbell will start in his spot at defensive tackle, and Quinton Washington will back up Ryan Van Bergen at defensive tackle. Coach Brady Hoke has told Van Bergen and Mike Martin to be prepared to play every snap, and both seniors have done extra conditioning after practice to prepare. The Wolverines' defensive line depth will be tested tonight as Heininger and Nathan Brink both are out.

The fan breakdown should be interesting. For all the talk about Virginia Tech's bowl allotment, Hokies fans appear to be out in force here in the Big Easy. Plenty of Michigan fans are here as well, excited to see their team back on the big bowl stage.

Michigan seemed like the popular pick when the pairing was announced, but it seems like more folks are leaning toward Virginia Tech now, including ESPN colleagues David Pollack and Todd McShay. The teams are evenly matched, but I'm sticking with my pick: Michigan 27, Virginia Tech 21. Could be bad news for the Wolverines as I'm only 6-3 in bowl picks so far.

Much more to come from the dome throughout the night, so don't even think about going anywhere.

Michigan D-line looks for next man in

December, 31, 2011
NEW ORLEANS -- Michigan's defensive line has been the engine for a 10-win season, but the group's depth will be tested Tuesday night in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

Reserve defensive end Nathan Brink is out with an injury, and starting defensive tackle Will Heininger remains hobbled with a sprained right foot. Heininger, who sustained the injury Dec. 22, has yet to practice with the team here.

Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said Heininger is day-to-day. Heininger, a walk-on, has started all 12 games this season on the line and has 23 tackles, including four for loss and a sack.

"I've had guys that have missed an entire bowl practice and all of a sudden they were cleared [to play]," Mattison said. "And now you have another guy that can play. You can't worry about that as a coach."

Junior Will Campbell and sophomore Quinton Washington would see increased field time if Heininger can't play. Campbell, a great talent who has battled weight issues throughout his career, has two sacks and a fumble recovery this season.

"He's in tremendous shape for a guy for being 315-plus pounds," defensive end Ryan Van Bergen said. "He could be the guy who's first to the ball every time. That's what I'm saying about his raw ability that hasn't shown up. I think he'll be a tremendous, tremendous influence on guys. When your biggest guy is running to the ball the most ... everybody else will get motivated by that."

Mattison has the "utmost confidence" in Campbell.

"It truly is, at our place, with Brady [Hoke] and our staff, next guy," Mattison said. "Next guy. These are our players. This is Michigan defense. This is how you play. You're expected to know what to do."