AllState Sugar Bowl Breakdown
The Big Ten sends Denard Robinson and the Wolverines to the Sugar Bowl and the ACC is sending Logan Thomas and the talented Hokies. This game features two great, athletic quarterbacks and two outstanding defenses. The Wolverines have not won a bowl games since 2007 and have not won a BCS bowl game since they won the 1999 Orange Bowl under Lloyd Carr. This game means a lot for the Wolverines and newly hired coach Brady Hoke, who has already won over the Michigan fan base and had an outstanding inaugural season. Winning the Sugar Bowl would be the icing on the cake of one of the best turn around jobs in college football. Opposing Michigan will be the Hokies, who are use to the pressure of a BCS bowl game. Last year they earned a bid to the Orange Bowl but fell to the Stanford Cardinal. Virginia Tech has two losses on the year, both to Clemson. Will another team be able to beat them? Or will the Tigers prove to be the only team to best the Hokies? Let’s find out!
Quarterback Play-Looking at the Numbers:
Both of these quarterbacks are very well known. Logan Thomas filled the shoes of Virginia Tech great Tyrod Taylor and has done an outstanding job. The Wolverines are led by the electrifying Denard “Shoelace” Robinson. The 6’6, 254 pound Thomas has had an outstanding season. He has thrown for 2,799 yards for 19 touchdowns and just nine interceptions. He has been pretty efficient as well, completing 59.2 percent of his passes. On the ground Thomas has done damage as well, rushing for 416 yards and 10 touchdowns. He is a great athlete and can make something out of nothing and is a threat to hit a homerun on every snap. Opposing him is Denard Robinson, who is king of the big play in college football. He has not had the Heisman type year that some expected, but has still had an excellent season. He has thrown for 2,056 yards and 18 scores; however he has been intercepted 14 times. He has completed a respectable 56.1 percent of his passes. However, where Robinson is really scary is when he runs. He has rushed for 1,163 yards and 16 touchdowns! He averages a whooping 5.6 yards per carry. When this guy breaks contain or escapes the pocket, look out because a big play will likely ensue.
Bottom Line: Both of these quarterbacks are extraordinary athletes and make a lot of plays. Most teams would love to have either of them on their roster. However, the Hokies have the edge here, as Thomas is more efficient as a passer and does not turn the ball over nearly as much. Thomas is the better passer, even though Robinson is the better runner. I take the quarterback whose arm I can trust more in a big game, so edge; Hokies.
The Hokies average 28.5 points per game and the Wolverines score 34.2 points per game. Each wields talented skill players which allow the offenses to score as many points as they do. Outside of Robinson, the Wolverines are led by the ultra talented sophomore running back Fitzgerald Toussaint. He has 174 attempts on the year and has amassed 1,000 yards. He averages an impressive 5.8 yards per carry and has collected nine scores on the year. Robinson and Toussaint combine to make a scary rushing attack. When the Wolverines chose to assault through the air, Robinson most often hooks up with senior wide out Junior Hemingway. The 6’1, 225 pound receiver has reeled in 32 balls and has been responsible for 636 of Robinsons passing yards. He has also tacked on two touchdowns. Hemingway also leads the team in yards per catch with an impressive 19.9. Senior tight end Kevin Koger is a red zone threat, as four of his 21 catches have gone for six, which is tops on the team. These players help Robinson make plays so it is not just a one man show, much like it was last year. However, the Hokies fight back with some extremely talented skill players as well. They have a pair of talented senior wide outs in Danny Coale and Jarrett Boykin. Coale is leading the team in yards with 787 and is just short of Boykin’s in both touchdowns and receptions. Coale has 52 catches and three scores, whereas Boykin has reeled in 57 balls, has totaled 731 yards and is responsible for five of Logan Thomas’s 19 passing strikes, which is tied for tops on the team. The huge junior receiver, Marcus Davis (6’4, 228), has chipped in with 29 catches and a team high 17.2 yards per catch. So when Thomas needs a big play, watch out for him to hook up with Davis, who also has five scores to tie Boykin. The Wolverines will need to keep all three of these wide outs in check. To help balance the offense, the Hokies turn to the talented junior back, David Wilson. He has rushed for 1,627 yards and is one touchdown shy of reaching double digits. I am sure he would love to score that tenth in this game. Wilson also averages an impressive 6.1 yards per carry.
Bottom Line: The Hokies are more balanced between their quarterback, running backs, and receivers than the Wolverines are, which does not allow defenses to key on one or just a few players. This, again, gives their skilled players a slight edge.
Defense- Looking at the Numbers:
The Wolverines went through a drastic transformation from last season to this season. They changed head coaches, moving on from the Rich Rod experience to their true Michigan Man in Brady Hoke. The offense underwent a major change, going from a spread offense to a more pro style offense. However, their defense was where the Wolverines have seen the starkest change. A year ago the Wolverines were the laughing stock of the Big Ten on the defensive side of the ball. Now they are one of the Big Ten’s most prideful units, allowing the 7th least points per game in the entire nation. Opponents only are able to muster up 17.2 points against this unit. They are very stout against the run, allowing only 129.08 per game, which means strength versus strength in this matchup, as the Hokies prefer to attack on the ground. The Wolverines also average 2.33 sacks per game, which is good for 27th in the nation. Logan Thomas will be under duress in this contest. The Wolverines have a very opportunistic defense, as they have the 25th best turnover margin in the nation, at .5
The Hokies have a great defense themselves, allowing the same amount of points per game as the Wolverines. As a unit their rushing defense is even better than the Wolverines, allowing just 107.77 rushing yards per game. They are able to generate slightly more pressure than the Wolverines, averaging 2.92 sacks per game (tied for 11th in the nation). The Hokies are able to protect the ball and generate turnovers on their own, as they have the 29th best turnover margin in the nation at .46.
Bottom Line: Both of these units are extremely talented and even allow the same amount of points per game. However the Hokies have a slightly better pass rush and rushing defense. Both of these teams are very evenly matched on the defensive side of the ball and the both defenses excel in stopping the run, which makes this game very intriguing. However, as the Wolverines generate more turnovers than Virginia Tech they get a slight edge here.
X Factors to Watch:
- 1. Win the Turnover Battle: Turnovers are the difference in many tight games, especially in big time bowl games. Which defense can force the key turnover could be the difference between a win and a loss.
- 2. Offensive Line Play: Both of these teams love to pound the ball and both defenses are excellent in stopping the run. The pressure will be on the offensive line to create running lanes for the tailbacks, as well as to protect the quarterback. If the team cannot protect their quarterback, they will be at a significant disadvantage.
- 3. Special Teams: Coach Beamer’s team has long been known for great special team play, but that allure seems to have subsided in recent years. However, special teams are a third of the game, and most of them deal with scoring plays, so playing excellent special teams is key in any matchup. A missed field goal or blocked kick could be the difference in a game like this. Both teams have struggled in this facet of the game, so whichever unit has the better game could be the deciding factor.
Keys to the Game:
- 1. Contain the Quarterback: Both teams need to contain the opposing quarterback. Of course this is much easier said than done, as both quarterbacks are extremely athletic and escape masters. Forcing these quarterbacks to throw the ball, particularly Denard Robinson, can completely change the dynamic of the game.
- 2. Stop the Run: Stopping the run is what both defenses do best, however it is also what both offenses do best. In this strength versus strength contest, whoever can win it will have a deceive edge
- 3. Denard Robison versus Darron Thomas: Both of these quarterbacks are extremely athletic and talented. But which quarterback will make the bigger play? Or which quarterback will crumble under the pressure and make a critical mistake? The quarterback who can rise to the occasion will give his team a definitive advantage.
Bottom Line: Both of these teams are battle tested as they play in major conferences. The Hokies have the better quarterback as well as better skill position players and have only lost to one team all year. This will change in this game. It will be a battle, but ultimately it is the Hokies who will prevail.
Virginia Tech 24, Michigan 20