Sunday, December 5, 2010
Discover Orange Bowl
By Ted Miller and Heather Dinich
Stanford Cardinal (11-1) vs. Virginia Tech Hokies (11-2
Jan. 3, 8:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Stanford take by Pac-10 blogger Ted Miller: The big question for Stanford in the preseason was how would the Cardinal do without Heisman Trophy runner-up Toby Gerhart. The answer quickly came: Pretty darn well.
Stanford finished 11-1 because quarterback Andrew Luck looked every bit like the No. 1 overall pick in this spring's NFL draft, the running game was nearly as good as it was with Gerhart and the defense was significantly improved. That Stanford ranks eighth in the nation in scoring should be no surprise. But the defense ranking 11th in the nation in scoring is why the Cardinal are playing in the Discover Orange Bowl against Virginia Tech. That defense has pitched three shutouts and seemed to improve under first-year coordinator Vic Fangio as the year went on.
Stanford rolled through its early schedule until it got hammered at Oregon 52-31. That loss seemed to suggest that the Cardinal still lack the overall team speed to play with the elite programs. But that would be their final loss. They played a couple of tight games with USC and Arizona State, and they dominated Arizona before winning their final two games over California and Oregon State by a combined count of 86-14.
What is most notable about Stanford is how it’s taken on coach Jim Harbaugh's tough-guy image. It's an extremely physical team, particularly on an offensive line that ranks among the best in the nation.
Virginia Tech take by ACC blogger Heather Dinich: Despite their current 11-game winning streak, the ACC champions still feel like they have something to prove after an 0-2 start. The Hokies will have an ideal chance to silence any remaining doubters with their matchup against Stanford, one of the best one-loss teams in the country. The ACC, which is 2-10 in its BCS bowls, needs the Hokies to represent well.
Virginia Tech will once again rely on the ACC’s Player of the Year, quarterback Tyrod Taylor, and a defense that has 14 interceptions in the past six games. Even with two starting linebackers sidelined with stingers in the ACC championship game and starting corner Rashad Carmichael out for most of the game with an ankle injury, Virginia Tech found a way to pressure FSU backup quarterback E.J. Manuel into mistakes. The Hokies will look to do the same against Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, a Heisman contender. Luck leads an offense that averages over 40 points and 200 rushing yards per game -- a challenge for Bud Foster’s defense, which has been average against the run this year. Stanford’s rushing defense has been better, and the Hokies will need all three of their running backs -- Darren Evans, Ryan Williams and David Wilson -- to contribute.