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2008-2009 Orange Bowl Preview

#12 Cincinnati (11-2, 6-1) vs. #19 Virginia Tech (9-4, 5-3 ACC)

January 1, 2009 @ 8:30 PM (EST) – FOX – Miami, FL



Cincinnati Bearcats - Big East  

2008 Record: 11-2, 6-1
Last Bowl Appearance: 2007 Bowl vs. Southern Mississippi (W 31-21)
Coach: Brian Kelly (21-5 at Cincinnati, 159-56-2 overall)
Bowl Record: 2-0 at Cincinnati, 2-0 overall
Offensive Coordinator: Jeff Quinn
Defensive Coordinator: Joe Tresey
Big Wins: 11/8 at West Virginia (26-23), 11/22 Pittsburgh (28-21)
Losses: 9/6 at Oklahoma (26-52), 10/25 at Connecticut (16-40)


Statistical Leaders for the UC Bearcats:

  • Rushing: Jacob Ramsey, RB, 630 yards

  • Passing: Tony Pike, QB, 2,168 yards

  • Receiving: Marshwan Gilyard, WR, 1,118 yards

  • Tackles: Ryan Manalac, LB, 74

  • Sacks: Connor Barwin, DE, 11.0

  • Interceptions: Mike Mickens, CB, 4

The Big East might not be the best BCS conference around, but Cincinnati still has some impressive victories. To win the conference, the Bearcats had to beat West Virginia and Louisville on the road and knock off a good Pittsburgh team at home. Not only did Coach Brian Kelly and company win all three of those games, but they won them all in consecutive weeks from November 8 th to November 22 nd. That means this is a team with a ton of momentum heading into the BCS bowl game and they have the belief that they can beat anybody.


Strengths for the Bearcats:
The Cincinnati defensive front has been very impressive this year. Not only do they do a great job of stopping the run, but they lead the conference in sacks. Much of that production can be attributed to senior ends Connor Baldwin and Lamonte Nelms. Both spend a lot of time causing havoc in the opponents’ backfield. Like the front four, the linebackers are also an experienced and talented group. Senior Ryan Manalac is the teams leading tackler and anchors the linebacker corps. When Tony Pike has been healthy, the Bearcats passing attack has been solid. The signal caller bruised his sternum late in the year and suffered a broken forearm on September 27 th against Akron. Yet, now he is fully healthy and doing a solid job running the team. Pike has thrown for 2,168 yards, 18 touchdowns and seven interceptions on the season. With downfield receiving threats Marshawn Gilyard and Dominick Goodman, Pike has a couple great receiving options. With one of the top ranked passing offenses in the Big East, Cincinnati has the ability to come from behind and score a lot of points in a hurry.


Cincinnati's Weaknesses:
The offense does struggle to find the running game. Neither Jacob Ramsey or John Goebel have emerged as a go-to back and the team often gives up on the ground game quite quickly. Nearly all the big plays the Cincinnati offense has had this year have come through the air and the opposition can find a way to shut down Gilyard and Goodman, the Bearcats offense is not going anywhere. The other big concern is the turnovers. While Pike has done a good job keeping the interceptions to a minimum and the secondary has picked off quite a few passes of their own, the Bearcats have a negative turnover ratio due to the amount of lost fumbles they have had this year. If the offense cannot keep the ball, even the great passing game will have trouble making up for it against a BCS caliber opponent. The injury front could present its own set of problems for Coach Kelly. Cornerback Mike Mickens, who will likely be a first day selection in the NFL draft in April, missed the last three regular season games with a torn meniscus in his left knee. His replacement, Brandon Underwood, has done a solid job in Mickens’ absence, but Mickens is a superb talent who can shut down the best receivers in the nation. He is expected to return in time for the bowl game, but missing that much time at the end of the year is never a good thing.


2008 Cincinnati Team Stats:

  • Rushing Offense: 121.23 (93rd in nation, 8th in conference)

  • Passing Offense: 254.08 (24, 2)

  • Total Offense: 375.31 (50, 4)

  • Scoring Offense: 27.31 (51, 3)

  • Rushing Defense: 104.00 (13, 2)

  • Pass Defense: 212.08 (68, 6)

  • Total Defense: 316.08 (26, 3)

  • Scoring Defense: 20.15 (26, 4)

  • Turnover Margin: -.38 (83, 6)

  • Sacks: 2.85 (9, 1)

  • Sacks Allowed: 2.31 (91, 7)



Virginia Tech Hokies - ACC

2008 Record: 9-4, 5-3
Last Bowl Appearance: 2007 Orange Bowl vs. Kansas (L 21-24)
Coach: Frank Beamer (176-89-2 at Virginia Tech, 218-112-4 overall)
Bowl Record: 6-9 at Virginia Tech, 6-9 overall
Offensive Coordinator: Bryan Stinespring
Defensive Coordinator: Bud Foster
Big Wins: 9/13 Georgia Tech (20-7), 12/6 vs Boston College (30-12)
Bad Losses: 8/30 at East Carolina (22-27), 11/13 at Miami (14-16)


Statistical Leaders for the VT Hokies:

  • Rushing: Darren Evans, RB, 1,147 yards

  • Passing: Tyrod Taylor, QB, 896 yards

  • Receiving: Jarrett Boykin, WR, 413 yards

  • Tackles: Purnell Sturdivant, LB, 91

  • Sacks: Jason Worilds, DE, 8.0

  • Interceptions: Victor Harris, CB, 6

Call it mediocrity or call it parity, but any way you look at it the ACC does not have a dominate team. Yet, it was Virginia Tech, once again, who battled through the ACC Coastal division and made it to the conference championship. Once there, the Hokies and Coach Frank Beamer knocked off a Boston College team that beat them by five points earlier in the campaign.


Virginia Tech's Strengths:
Few teams have dominated on the defensive side of the ball over the last decade as much as the Hokies. But Beamer Ball is about special teams as much as it is about defense. When the team actually has a good offense, VT has a great overall team. When the offense, like this year, is just mediocre or worse, the Hokies fall well short of greatness. Yet, the defense and special teams will keep this squad in just about every game. During the regular season the Hokies allowed just 162 yards through the air per contest. Victor Harris and Stephan Virgil are having great years on the corners and Kam Chancellor has emerged as a solid free safety after spending last year at the rover spot. As long as the front four gives the secondary a little help, nobody is going to throw too much on the Hokies. And usually the help from the front four is there. Veteran Orion Martin and youngster Jason Worilds are solid ends who have done a good job getting into the opposing backfield.


Weaknesses for the Hokies:
The muddled quarterback situation has turned the Hokies offense into a very inconsistent unit. Senior signal caller Sean Glennon has thrown just three touchdown passes and five interceptions on the season. That paved the way for Tyrod Taylor to step into the starting lineup. Taylor’s passing numbers are not any better, in fact with two touchdown passes and six interceptions and a 57 percent completion percentage, the numbers are actually worse. Yet, Taylor is a more dynamic playmaker and if your quarterback cannot pass, you might as well play one who can run. Taylor has rushed for six scores on the season and that has sparked an offense that would otherwise be very easy to defend. Redshirt freshman Darren Evans has done an admirable job at running back. He has had some big games and rushed for 1,000 yards on the season, but he is still a freshman and is prone to make a few mistakes. It is not fair to simply blame the quarterbacks for one of the nation’s worst passing offenses. Virginia Tech lost a ton of wide receivers from the 2007 campaign and Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale are the only two who have really stepped up and turned into relatively consistent targets.


2008 Virginia Tech Team Stats:

  • Rushing Offense: 167.92 (42nd in nation, 3rd in conference)

  • Passing Offense: 128.23 (111, 11)

  • Total Offense: 296.15 (105, 12)

  • Scoring Offense: 22.23 (89, 8)

  • Rushing Defense: 107.00 (19, 2)

  • Pass Defense: 170.08 (15, 4)

  • Total Defense: 277.08 (7, 2)

  • Scoring Defense: 17.46 (13, 2)

  • Turnover Margin: .85 (18, 3)

  • Sacks: 2.62 (21, 3)

  • Sacks Allowed: 3.00 (111, 12)


Orange Bowl Pick: Virginia Tech 17 - Cincinnati 14


by Joel Welser Senior Staff Writer

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