Orange Bowl Picks: Stanford Cardinal vs. Virginia Tech Hokies

January 2nd, 2011 by Adam Markowitz (Bankroll Sports Columnist)
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The BCS has already played two of its four games before the BCS Championship Game coming in another week’s time, but this one might be the most highly anticipated duel of the bunch. The Stanford Cardinal will take on the Virginia Tech Hokies, and making your Orange Bowl picks in this game couldn’t be any more difficult. In order to get through the brutal selection in this game between these two very evenly matched squads, take a look at the three keys to the game in the Orange Bowl.

Key #1: The Hokies just need to continue to ride the wave of momentum
You’ll be hard pressed to find a team in the country that is hotter than Virginia Tech is right now. The Hokies have just been dominating since the middle of September, and it is clear that if the season started in Week 3, they would be playing in the BCS National Championship Game right now and not in the Orange Bowl. Yes, V-Tech’s season was effectively over after a bad loss to the James Madison Dukes, but Head Coach Frank Beamer arguably did the best job of any coach in the country this year, motivating his team to win 11 straight games and to go 10-1 ATS in the interim. It’s not as though this has been a lousy schedule either. The only games against teams that aren’t in bowl games this year included those against the Central Michigan Chippewas and three games against conference foes that could not have been avoided. Aside from that though, they were all in bowl games, and all finished the season in fine form. We also know that this team is every bit as good as the best in the land, as was proven in the 33-30 loss to the Boise State Broncos right at the outset of the season.

Orange Bowl Odds at JustBet
Stanford Cardinal -3.5
Virginia Tech Hokies +3.5
Over/Under 58
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Key #2: Andrew Luck needs to prove that he is worthy of being the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft
You know that the Carolina Panthers are going to be watching this game intently on Monday night. Luck has only started for the Cardinal for two years, but he has already shown that he has what it takes to play at the next level. The question is still there though, whether he was a product of tearing apart the Pac-10, or whether he really is that good and is ready to lead a franchise the same way the QB Matt Ryan did in Atlanta or how QB Sam Bradford has with the Rams. This is a tremendous game that could be worth literally millions of dollars to Luck. The Stanford QB threw for 3,045 yards and 28 TDs on the season, and he had one of the highest completion percentages in the country at 70.4 percent. This time though, instead of going against a Pac-10 team, Luck has to go against a Virginia Tech defense that was lights out for the majority of the year. The Hokies only surrendered 199.3 yards per game through the air this year, one of the top marks in the ACC. When push came to shove, VT only allowed 19.1 points per game.

Key #3: The Stanford defense needs to shut down the Hokies’ rushing attack
We know that RB Darren Evans is going to be suspended for the first quarter of the Orange Bowl this week, but we also know that there are a number of different players that have the ability of stepping up and carrying the ball if need be. Evans rushed for 813 yards and 11 TDs this year, while RB David Wilson had 616 yards and five scores on the ground as well. There is always last year’s ACC Freshman of the Year to remember in RB Ryan Williams, who had 477 yards and nine trips to the end zone. When all else fails though, QB Tyrod Taylor can just take off on his own. Taylor might have thrown for 2,521 yards this year, but he had a huge contribution to the rushing game as well with 637 yards and five TDs. Stanford only allowed 123.1 yards per game this year on the ground, but what we have to remember is that this was a team that did allow 626 total yards, 388 of which came in the rushing game, against the Oregon Ducks. V-Tech’s offense isn’t what that of Oregon’s is by any stretch of the imagination, but it is the closest comparison that we have to work with.


Posted in College Football on Sunday, January 2nd, 2011 at 3:36 pm (EST)
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