Stanford’s luck of the draw playing in this year’s Orange Bowl against Virginia Tech could be viewed as both favorable or unfavorable depending on its fanbase’s particular point of view. Favorable, regarding the matchup which has been set. Unfavorable based on wanting to smell the roses in Pasadena. Virginia Tech may be seen as one of the lesser BCS entrants (along with UConn), but they have rode a wave of success after its early season foibles. And all of this will be completely overlooked as the overriding stories of Jim Harbaugh’s future as coach and the decision of Andrew Luck to declare early or not will completely dominate the telecast.
3 Keys from the scouts
1. Run the football. It seems simple, but it is the key for both teams. Stanford relies heavily on playaction, and Virginia Tech uses the run to make the game easier for its quarterbacks. Some may be surprised to find just how closely each team ranks running the football. They finished 17th and 18th in the nation respectively. The Cardinal outrushed the Hokies by 2.08 yards per game. After Toby Gerhart left Palo Alto, it was questioned who would fill the running back’s void. Stepfan Taylor had done so admirably rushing for over 1000 yards and totaled 15 rushing touchdowns. Virginia Tech counters with a dynamic duo in sophomore Ryan Williams and Darren Evans. Evans has received the bulk of the workload, but Williams is healthier than he has been all season. The key may be the defenses each team faces. The Hokies surrender 20 more yards per game on average against the run.
2. Quarterback duel. Any preview including these two particular teams would be remiss if it did not mention either Stanford’s Andrew Luck or Virginia Tech’s Tyrod Taylor. Luck is the 2011 NFL draft golden boy. The likely top overall selection come April. His anticipation with his throws is the best seen in a long time in the collegiate ranks. Meanwhile, Taylor seemed completely written off as a quarterback prospects in recent years. The dual-threat has become a pass first signal caller who has not made the crucial mistakes. His 23/4 touchdown to interception ratio is staggering considering the Hokie has thrown 70 more passes this season, than either of his previoust two years. In those two years, Taylor had 10 combined interceptions. If the running game fails for either team, one of these two signal callers will have have to shoulder the load.
3. Specialties. The cliche still readily presents itself, special teams are a third of the game. None have been better in this area over an extended period than Virginia Tech under the watch of head coach Frank Beamer. It simply is not based off reputation. The only major special team’s statistic which Stanford is higher rated is kickoff coverage. The rest of the special teams battles decidedly favor the Hokies.
Virginia Tech is much better than given credit, but Stanford’s only loss this year came at the hands of the juggernaut which is Oregon. A game which the Cardinal were quite competitive. They are one of the best teams in the nation with one of the best quarterbacks in the country. They deserved a better bowl match-up. But the Hokies should at least make this competitive. And it is possible the off-the-field issues initially mentioned for Stanford may linger as they take the field.
Stanford 31, Virginia Tech 24.
|1st||Andrew Luck||QB||12||3So||The most complete NFL quarterback prospect since Peyton Manning. Has all the physical skills, leadership qualities and intangibles needed to be branded as a franchise quarterback.|
|2nd||Chris Owusu||WR||81||3Jr||Nice sized receiver with a complete game. Not a burner but a dependable second receiver on the NFL level.|
|3rd||Owen Marecic||FB||48||4Sr||Outstanding lead blocker who does the little things very well. Truly a triple threat fullback that has also made his mark as a middle linebacker this year.|
|3-4||Sione Fua||DT||92||5Sr||Strong, zero-technique lineman with potential at defensive tackle or on the nose.|
|6th||Richard Sherman||CB||9||5Sr||Terrific cover corner that also impacts the game as a return specialist. Still learning the position after moving over from receiver at the start of this season and offers a large degree of upside.|
|6-7||Ryan Whalen||WR||8||4Sr||Nice sized possession receiver with a reliable game.|
|FA||Derek Hall||T||53||5Sr||Came out of nowhere and is building a buzz for himself in the scouting community. Career back-up who saw limited action until this season.|
|FA||Tom Keiser||DE||94||4Jr||Solid pass rusher with potential as a 3-4 linebacker or traditional defensive end.|
|3rd||Ryan Williams||RB||34||3So||Slippery, creative ball carrier coming off a disappointing season. Has a lot of skills though we do not fully beleive he is a feature runner at the next level.|
|6-7||Tyrod Taylor||QB||5||4Sr||Run/pass signal caller coming off a very good campaign. Significantly improved his passing this season.|
|7th||Rashad Carmichael||CB||21||5Sr||Tough, feisty cornerback best facing the action.|
|FA||Jarrett Boykin||WR||81||3Jr||Potential underneath receiver that needs to improve the consistency of his fundamentals.|
|FA||Danny Coale||WR||19||4Jr||Resilient receiver that constantly comes away with the tough or ordinary grabs. Lacks the speed to stretch the field but a money receiver.|
|FA||Beau Warren||C||60||5Sr||Mechanically sound blocker with potential in a zone blocking system.|
|FA||Andre Smith||TE||88||5Sr||Large target who gets up in a crowd then comes down with the ball. Lacks speed and quickness in his overall game.|
|FA||Blake DeChristopher||T||62||4Jr||Narrow based blocker who must improve his balance.|