Tuesday, January 3, 2012
Michigan returns to BCS behind Robinson
In tonight’s Allstate Sugar Bowl (8:30 ET on ESPN), one of college football’s bluebloods from the Big Ten returns to the BCS Bowl party for the first time in five years to face an ACC team that has become a regular participant in the postseason.
Denard Robinson (left) and David Wilson (right) look for a win in tonight's Allstate Sugar Bowl.
The Michigan Wolverines are playing in a BCS Bowl for the first time since a loss in the 2007 Rose Bowl vs USC; their only win on college football’s biggest stage came in the 2000 Orange Bowl against Alabama.
Virginia Tech has extended its bowl appearance streak to 19 games, the third-longest active streak in the FBS. It’s the sixth BCS Bowl appearance for the Hokies, who also have just one win in the five previous matchups.
Virginia Tech Offense vs Michigan Defense
The Hokies offense is fueled by the ACC player of the year, running back David Wilson, who averages a conference-best 125 rush yards per game. Wilson has rushed for 1,627 yards this season and needs just 29 yards to set a new school record for single-season rushing yards.
Wilson gets his yards in bunches. His 34 rushes of at least 15 yards led the FBS entering the bowl season, and Wilson has had at least one such run in every game this season except the ACC Championship game.
Hokies QB Logan Thomas came on strong after Virginia Tech’s first loss to Clemson. Thomas struggled early in the season throwing downfield, but during the last eight games, Thomas is completing half of his attempts of 15-plus yards in the air and has thrown eight touchdowns on such throws.
Michigan’s seventh-ranked defense, which is allowing just 17 points per game, has made a dramatic turnaround from last season when they ranked 108th in points allowed and gave up more than 450 yards per game.
Despite a rushing defense that gives up the third-fewest yards per game among Big Ten teams, the Wolverines have had trouble stopping the long run. Michigan has allowed 25 rushes of 15 yards or longer this season, fifth-most in the conference.
Michigan Offense vs Virginia Tech Defense
Denard Robinson is the unquestioned leader of the Wolverines’ attack, accounting for over 60 percent of Michigan’s total offense with his arm and his feet. His 18 passing touchdowns are fourth-most in the Big Ten this season and his 14 rushing scores are second only to Montee Ball.
Robinson has attempted nearly 80 percent of his passes out of the shotgun this season but he’s actually had more success on snaps from under center. In conference games this fall, five of his 12 touchdown passes came in non-shotgun sets despite 97 fewer attempts.
Virginia Tech should have no problem stopping Robinson in the air. The Hokies have the ACC’s best pass defense, allowing a pass efficiency rating of 111.8. The Hokies also have a favorable matchup on the ground, giving up just 3.3 yards per carry, second-best in the ACC.
However, Virginia Tech’s rush defense has been vulnerable. The team has allowed over 200 yards on the ground in three separate games, including 217 rush yards in its loss to Clemson in the ACC Championship game.