Thursday, January 1, 2009

Orange Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. Cincinnati


January 1, 2009 * 8:00 * FOX

The Orange Bowl features an Old-School Big East team in Virginia Tech versus the New-School Big East champion Cincinnati. Both of these programs exceeded pre-season expectations, as Virginia Tech became the first school to win back-to-back ACC Championship games and Cincinnati's 11 wins is the most in school history. Virginia Tech will be looking to make up from their sloppy loss against Kansas in the Orange Bowl last season while Cincinnati will try to win their first BCS bowl game in school history.

When the Hokies Have the Bowl

The Hokies are a running team led by their freshman tailback Darren Evans. In his last five games Evans posted three 100-yard performances, including 253 yards against Maryland. During that stretch he also caught 12 balls for 98 yards. Although they do not throw the ball often, the play of quarterback Tyrod Taylor is very important to Virginia Tech winning the game (12-2 overall as a starter). Taylor started and played entire ACC Championship game and nearly took every snap in the Hokies final regular season game against Virginia. Taylor isn't a great passer but can create big plays with his running ability, rushing for 691 yards and six touchdowns. He has split some of the snaps with senior Sean Glennon who is a slightly better passer. The Hokies leading receivers are all freshman – Jarrett Boykin leads the team with 413 yards receiving. Cincinnati has proven they can stop the run, ranked the 13th best rush defense in the country. They stopped the Rutgers' rushing attack earlier in the year and held LeSean McCoy to only 82 yards. They did allow 150 yards to Donald Brown of Connecticut, but most of those yards were when the game was over due to six turnovers by the offense. Senior linebacker Torry Cornett has been the Bearcats most consistent tackler in the second half of the season. They have also shut down a running quarterback this season holding Patrick White to 42 yards on 20 carries.

When the 'Cats Have the Ball

The Bearcats enter Miami on a six-game winning streak, much of which is due to the clutch performance of their quarterback Tony Pike. Because of injuries he was forced to take over under center and many doubted Cincinnati could win the conference. Pike responded down the stretch throwing for 11 touchdowns in the last six games including a three-touchdown effort against ranked Pittsburgh. A big part of his second half success has been the depth Cincinnati has at wide receiver. All Conference receiver Marshawn Gilyard leads the team with 1,118 yards and ten touchdowns. He is lightening fast and a big play wide out catching six balls for over 40+ yards – watch out for his yards after the catch. He finished the season strong averaging 120 yards and nine catches in his last three games. Senior Dominick Goodman is a strong possession receiver leading the team with 78 catches – his seven grabs for 101 yards propelled Cincinnati in a victory over Pittsburgh, which all but clinched the conference title. Keep an eye out for sophomore wide receiver Marcus Barnett and tight end Ben Guidugli. Sophomore Running back John Goebel has taken a bulk of the carries down the stretch; he leads the team with seven rushing touchdowns. Virginia Tech has the speed and playmakers on defense to shut down the run and defend a strong passing attack. A great match up in this game will Victor Harris and Stephan Virgil against the Bearcat wideouts. Harris is an All-Conference lock down corner – sixth in the nation with six interceptions. A key factor in this game could be Virginia Tech's ability to win the game up front in the trenches. This is a strong defensive line ranked the 18th in run defense and 21st in the nation in sacks. Sophomore Jason Worilds leads the team with eight sacks and has been very disruptive down the stretch recording at least one sack in his last seven games.

Cincinnati Bearcats (11-1, 7-1)
Pass: Tony Pike – 2,168 yards, 18 TDs
Run: Jacob Ramsey – 630 yards, 2 TDs
Catch: Marshwan Gilyard – 1,118 yards, 10 TDs

Virginia Tech Hokies (9-4, 5-3)
Pass: Tyrod Taylor – 896 yards, 2 TDs
Run: Darren Evans – 1,112 yards, 10 TDs
Catch: Jarrett Boykin– 413 yards, 2 TDs

Prediction: Cincinnati 23 Virginia Tech 14

Photo Credit: David Knachel, Virginia Tech Athletics Communications