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Sunday, January 2, 2011
Discover Orange Bowl: Stanford 3 Keys

By Andrea Adelson

You saw the preview and prediction. Now here are three keys for Stanford headed into the Discover Orange Bowl against Virginia Tech.

1. Balance on offense. What has made Andrew Luck so successful this season has been the run game behind Stepfan Taylor. Despite losing Heisman runner-up Toby Gerhart to the NFL, Taylor ran for 1,023 yards this season. He was the first Stanford sophomore to rush for 1,000 yards in a season since 1978. Of Stanford’s 860 offensive plays this season, 58.6 percent have been rushing plays. That has allowed Stanford to control the clock in 11 of its 12 games this season. Establishing that run game allows the play-action pass to work so well for Luck. Stanford has scored a school-record 484 points this season. They have also had 32 rushing touchdowns and 28 passing touchdowns. That’s balance.

2. Mistake-free. Stanford has turned the ball over just four times in the past six games after having turnover problems earlier in the season. The Cardinal are also the least penalized team in the Pac-10 this season, drawing just 59 flags. You always hear coaches emphasize the need to limit the mistakes, and that obviously is no different in a game as big as this one, when nerves can make players jittery.

3. Harass Tyrod Taylor. Stanford has to shut down Virginia Tech's rushing attack in order to apply heavy pressure on Taylor. The Cardinal would love nothing more than to have Taylor beat them with his arm. What they have to be careful of is his always-dangerous running ability -- he ranks second on the team in rushing. Taylor is not one to make mistakes -- he has only thrown four interceptions this season. But constant pressure could make for a long night for the ACC Player of the Year. Chase Thomas has 7.5 sacks this season -- the most by a Stanford player since Jon Alston had 10 in 2004.