2008 FedEx Orange Bowl Preview
#3 Virginia Tech (11-2, 7-1 ACC) vs. #8 Kansas (11-1, 7-1 Big XII)
January 3, 2008 @ 8:00 PM (EST) – FOX – Miami, Florida
The biggest Cinderella story of much of the regular season was the Kansas Jayhawks, who went from unknown to unbeaten through 11 games.
The run ended, and so did their unlikely shot at a national title, with a loss to archrival Missouri in their final regular season game, but they wound up with a nice consolation prize - a trip to south Florida to play the Virginia Tech Hokies in the Orange Bowl.
Virginia Tech was a darkhorse national title contender coming into the season, but fell flat on their faces in a big showdown at LSU in the second week of the season. They rebounded to win five in a row, but a last-minute loss to Matt Ryan and Boston College put them out of the national title picture for good.
However, four straight wins landed them in the ACC title game with a rematch against BC, and the Hokies triumphed 30-16 to book their first BCS bowl bid since the 2005 Sugar Bowl.
For Virginia Tech, it starts with tough defense and special teams, which are two hallmarks of Frank Beamer’s success in Blacksburg.
Virginia Tech is allowing only 86 rushing yards and 15.5 points per game. Eight players have at least six tackles for loss, and the Hokies have 43 sacks as a team.
And, you can’t have an excellent Virginia Tech defense without defensive touchdowns, of which there’ve been five (all interception returns).
The special teams has also been sharp, with three kick returns for scores (two punt, one kick) and four blocked kicks.
The Hokies’ offense is led by QB Sean Glennon, who lost the starting job to Tyrod Taylor during the season, but regained it and played well down the stretch, throwing for 605 yards and five touchdowns (with only one INT) in the last three games. Taylor will see some action as well, and is a weapon with his athleticism and ability to run or pass well.
Virginia Tech’s offense has had its struggles this season, but was much improved down the stretch, so they’ll be going into the Orange Bowl with momentum.
QB Todd Reesing may be small, but he put up big numbers - 3,259 yards, 32 touchdowns (only six INT) - by far the best year for a QB in Kansas history.
It’s not all about Reesing though, as the Jayhawks averaging nearly 197 yards rushing per game, led by bruiser Brandon McAnderson, who has 1,050 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns, with Jake Sharp productive out of the backfield as well, with 788 yards and seven scores.
In the defense, the star is cornerback Aqib Talib, who is rated as one of the top shutdown corners in the country. But, the Kansas defense as a whole has been excellent all year, giving up only 16 points per game and 91 rushing yards per game, while forcing 32 turnovers (+19 turnover margin).
The offensive lines will play a big part in this game. Virginia Tech’s has had some issues in that area, and it’s resulted in Glennon and Taylor taking quite a few lumps this season, to the tune of 49 sacks. And Ore, after averaging 5.9 and 4.7 yards per carry in his first two seasons, is averaging only 3.6 this year, and the team‘s per carry average is 3.4 yards.
Kansas, on the other hand, has allowed only 22 sacks, and are averaging a full five yards per rush attempt.
Both defenses love to get into the backfield (93 tackles for loss for Va. Tech, 95 for Kansas), so blockers have to hold their own from snap to whistle.
If it’s a lower-scoring game, you’d have to favor the Hokies, because it’ll likely mean that they’ve succeeded in slowing down Kansas’ prolific offense.
If the Virginia Tech defense has trouble slowing Reesing and McAnderson down, it could mean trouble, because Virginia Tech’s offense isn’t built for shootouts. However, Kansas’ defense did struggle against Oklahoma State and Missouri’s potent offenses late in the season.
The keys for both teams will be minimizing mistakes and, as mentioned above, how well each team’s offensive line holds up.
Kansas has only made 13 turnovers all season, so they’ll have to continue to play sharp and not allow Virginia Tech any chances to turn the game on a defensive score. The Hokies have two excellent corners in Brandon Flowers and Victor Harris, so instead of trying to go for the big play, Reesing needs to focus on smart passes, getting yards after the catch, and then, when it opens up, go for the big one, but no unnecessary risks.
The same must be said for special teams as well, both in the return game and protection on punts and field goals. If any of those things go against Kansas, they could find themselves in the same hole they did against Missouri, too far down to make a comeback even with the offense they have
As for the Hokies, Glennon needs to be protected, and the ground game needs to chew up yardage, and Kansas can’t be given a chance to give VT a taste of their own medicine.
Virginia Tech is the proven commodity, while Kansas is the new kid on the block. The proven commodity is the favorite, but the new kid has what it takes to come out on top in this one, and it won’t be a surprise if they do.
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