Monday, January 3, 2011

Orange Bowl Preview

The Orange Bowl
8:30PM EST

Stanford (11-1) vs. Virginia Tech (11-2)
     Who would have thought back in September that the Hokies would be in this spot. The Hokies were 0-2, coming off of losses to Boise State and James Madison. There was talk of the end of days in Blacksburg. The Hokies did not lay down and die, they picked up the pieces and put the season back together again. The Hokies offense picked up the pace, and they scored 40 points or more 6 times. The defense pitched a shutout over Boston College and held their opponents to 21 points or less 8 times after the terrible start. Even James Madison only scored 21 points in their monumental upset of the Hokies. And now, Tech comes rolling into Fort Lauderdale/Miami with an 11 game streak.
     21 points seperated Stanford from playing in the Orange Bowl, to being a participant in the Championship Game. That's what Stanford lost to Oregon by in their only loss of the 2010 season. Jim Harbaugh may be the best coach that has ever coached at Stanford, and it will be challenging to retain him after tonight, as the 49ers, Denver Broncos, and Michigan all look to come calling tomorrow morning. Andrew Luck is probably the best QB to play at Stanford since John Elway, and his future is equally as murky after tonight's game. One would think that if one goes, the other will too, but don't expect a reunion in Carolina, as Jerry Richardson is already looking to go on the cheap and hire an existing NFL assistant. Luck would be the absolute top pick in the draft. Stanford has a 7 game winning streak since falling to Oregon.
     Luck has been nothing short of amazing at times this season, and he is the unquestioned leader of the Stanford team. The son of West Virginia AD and former Houston Oiler QB Oliver Luck, he is smart and savvy. He has been a center piece in the rebuilding of the Stanford program. He has passed for 254 yards per game with 28 TDs to just 7 picks on the season, but he can get outside of the pocket and do damage with his kegs as well. For the Hokies, Tyrod Taylor became a real live QB this season. He had been known as a scramble first pass second QB, but that all changed this season. Taylor passed for 193 yards per game and tossed 23 TD passes against just 4 picks, while rushing for 451 yards and 5 more scores. You have to pressure him and contain him, or else he will kill you every time.
     Stanford's Stepfan Taylor is a scoring machine, as he rushed for 15 TDs this season. He did not, however, break the 1000 yard mark. None of the Tech backs rushed for over 1000 yards this season either, and it seems that their corps is nicked ujp coming into the game tonight. Darren Evans rushed for 11 TDs on the season, and Ryan Williams punched it in another 9 times. Stanford does not have this kind of depth at the RB position.
     With the focue being spotted primarily on the run game, nobody caught 50 passes or more for Tech. Jarrett Boykin is the best target for Taylor, as he leads the team with 48 grabs and 6 TDs. Andre Smith has 5 TD catches. Doug Baldwin is the go to guy for Stanford, having caught 56 passes for 824 yards and 9 TDs. Ryan Whalen and Chris Owusu are big time playmakers as well, but Owusu has been banged up this year. He and Whalen are the better pass catchers on paper.
     The Stanford defense is a meat grinder. They have given up 17 points or less 8 times on the season. Stanford is giving up under 9 points per game in their last 5 games, 3 of which were on the road. The Hokies had gone 7 straight games only allowing 21 points or less before Florida State scored 33 in the ACC title game. The Hokies still won the FSU game, obviously, but Stanford will likely watch that game film closely to see how the Seminoles were able to exploit the Hokie D.
I Pick: Stanford...The Cardinal are on a mission here, and this may be the final game with Harbaugh/Luck running the farm. Should be a great game, as Bud Foster is legendary at finding ways to stop great players with the Tech D. Look for a close game tonight.

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