Orange Bowl Preview: Stanford vs. Virginia Tech

2011 BCS Bowl Previews: BCS National Championship | Fiesta Bowl | Rose Bowl | Orange Bowl | Sugar Bowl

Date: Monday, January 3 2011
Time: 8:30PM ET

Why Watch: The Hokies became the first program in FBS history to win 11 straight games after starting their season 0-2. Frank Beamer’s squad could have folded after losing to FCS school James Madison but instead it rallied, winning 11 in a row in impressive fashion. VA Tech largely flew under the radar while knocking off ACC opponents with relative ease and then crushing Florida State in the conference championship game. Now the Hokies look to put a bow on their season with a win against arguably the best one-loss team in the nation. Stanford had one of the best seasons in school history, losing only to an undefeated Oregon team in early October. They have a Hesiman finalist at quarterback in Andrew Luck, who would probably go No. 1 in the NFL draft if he decides to go pro next season. The Cardinal also employs one of the hottest head coaches in the nation in Jim Harbaugh.

Game Facts Stanford is 9-11-1 all-time in bowl play and will be playing in the postseason for the second consecutive year following an eight-year absence. Oklahoma beat the Cardinal 31-27 in last year’s Sun Bowl. The Hokies will be playing in their fourth BCS bowl in the last seven seasons. They’re 9-14 all-time in bowl games and they’ll be making their 17th straight bowl appearance. Under Beamer, they’re 8-9 in bowl games, which includes 37-14 win over Tennessee in last year’s Chick-fil-A Bowl.

Key Player: Steven Friday, Virginia Tech.
They say the key to any good pass defense is a good pass rush and for Virginia Tech, that starts with Friday. The senior defensive end had 8.5 sacks to lead the Hokies this season. He’s incredibly quick off the edge and if he can harass quarterback Andrew Luck, the Hokies could slow down the possible No. 1 pick and the Cardinal offense.

Odds: Stanford -3.5
Stanford opened as a 3-point favorite but the line has gone up to 3.5 at most books. The public generally likes the favorite anyway, but they especially like a favorite with a good offense, which the Cardinal obviously has. As previously mentioned, keep in mind that Virginia Tech has also flown under the radar this season after losing to Boise State and James Madison in the first two weeks of the season. It’ll be interesting to see if the line drops back down to a field goal with sharp bettors taking the hook with Virginia Tech. The total dropped to 57.5 after opening at 58, but now it’s back up to 58.

How Virginia Tech can win: By playing the kind of football we’re used to seeing out of Virginia Tech. The Hokies can’t afford to get into a shootout with Stanford because as good as Tyrod Taylor is, Andrew Luck is better, and the Hokies offense just isn’t built to trade blows with a high-scoring opponent like Stanford. Tech will have to find a way to get stops against Luck, and make plays on special teams. That sounds a lot like the way Frank Beamer and Bud Foster have won in the past.

Why Stanford will win: Because it has an incredibly balanced offense. Teams that are balanced have given the Hokies a little bit of trouble this season, albeit they haven’t seen many teams like that. Boise State put up 33 in the opener, North Carolina State scored 30 later in the season and Florida State scored 33 in the ACC title game even without Christian Ponder. Stanford is definitely better offensively than NC State and Florida State, and could be on the same level as Boise. So while Virginia Tech might not have trouble putting points on the board, its inability to stop the Cardinal will be the difference.

Prediction: Stanford 38, Virginia Tech 30

Contributors: Anthony Stalter and Paul Costanzo

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

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