Stanford needs Luck to beat Taylor, Hokies

A statistical preview of the Discover Orange Bowl between the No. 4 Stanford Cardinal and the No. 13 Virginia Tech Hokies.

Andrew Luck’s downfield ball has been on the money in the first half of games this season, but he has struggled to complete passes down the field after halftime. Against Oregon -- the only team to beat Stanford this season -- Luck completed just two of his eight passes thrown 15 or more yards downfield in the second half.

Andrew Luck This Season
Throws of 20 or More Yards

Overall, in the first half of games, Luck averaged more than 17 yards per attempt 15 yards or more downfield with 10 touchdowns and just two interceptions.

When throwing 15 yards or more in the second half, he averaged just more than nine yards per attempt with twice as many interceptions as touchdowns.

To counter that, Luck can go to the play-action passing game. Stanford averages more than five yards per rush attempt, but the Virginia Tech defense will have to be careful not to get beat on play action. Luck has been outstanding off the play fake this season, completing more than 70 percent of his play-action passes without an interception -- numbers that get even better when he throws deep.

Third Down Passing
FBS Ranks This Season

As usual, third down will be a key in this game, especially since Virginia Tech’s pass defense is much better on first and second downs. Stanford leads the country in third-down conversion percentage and Luck is one of the best passers in the country with the down marker showing “3”. Luck ranks in the top five in most major passing categories among quarterbacks with 50 third-down attempts.

When it comes to Stanford stopping Virginia Tech, they need to focus on the Hokies’ talented quarterback Tyrod Taylor. But if they pressure Taylor Stanford would be wise to keep him in the pocket.

Taylor has been far more effective throwing the deep ball this season when’s he is on the move. When he’s able to get outside the pocket and throw, Taylor hasn’t thrown an interception.

And when he’s throwing 15 yards or more downfield, his yards per attempt and his completion percentage are more than double when he throws from out of the pocket as opposed to in the pocket.