Stanford Cardinal (11-1 SU, 7-4-1 ATS) vs. Virginia Tech Hokies (11-2 SU, 10-3 ATS), 8:00 p.m. EST, Orange Bowl, Monday, January 3, 2011, Sun Life Stadium, Miami Gardens, Florida, TV: ESPN
By Scotty L of Predictem.com
Betting Odds: Stanford Cardinal 3/Va Tech Hokies +3
Over/Under Total: 57.5
Two teams playing extremely good football collide in the Orange Bowl, as the Stanford Cardinal take on the Virginia Tech Hokies. Outside the National Championship game, you might be hard-pressed to find a team playing better than these two squads. In terms of peaking and momentum, this game should feature a barnburner between two of the better teams in the country. Both teams have showed tremendous character in soldiering back from setbacks.
In terms of bouncing back, Virginia Techs turnaround is unprecedented. After losing their first two to Boise State (no shame) and Division I-AA James Madison (a lot of shame), many stuck a fork in the Hokies. Not only did they bounce back, but they did so with flair. The Hokies have since won 11 straight and covered 10 of those games, underlying their ability and the fact that they were prematurely relegated to the scrap heap. In rampaging through the ACC in juggernaut fashion, the Hokies have redeemed themselves. Never able to get past #13 in the rankings after the two defeats, they are probably better than that number indicates.
The Cardinal didnt have the unenviable season-rebuilding task that faced Virginia Tech, but have shown character in their own right. After jumping up on Oregon 21-3, youd have to think some of those Stanford kids had a thought or two about a National Championship dancing around in their heads. As we now know, Oregon turned on the jets and outscored Stanford 48-10 the rest of the way to win big. Some suspected Stanford would be crestfallen by this setback and for a while they might have been. They came back to nip USC as 10-point favorites, then struggled to defeat lowly Washington State by 10, even though they were favored by 37.
Under Heisman finalist QB Andrew Luck, Stanford started picking up steam again, going 5-0 (4-0-1 ATS) after that rough patch. They blew out Oregon State 38-0 in their last game. This is a team that is peaking and would probably give Oregon a better game if they were to play again. Luck has been great, completing 70% of his passes for 28 touchdowns and only 7 picks. Workhorse Stephan Taylor (210-1023-15) leads the way in a ground game that is 17th in the nation. WR Doug Baldwin (56-824-9) captains a pass catching crew that has 5 players with over 22 receptions. This wide variety has led Stanford to become the 8th highest scoring offense in the nation. There is not much bad to say about an 11-1 team, whose only loss was to a team that might end up becoming the best in the country.
This season, Hokies QB Tyrod Taylor filled his promise as a playmaker and leader. With coach Frank Beamer doing his magic and Taylor becoming the consummate field general, this is now a highly dangerous team with a head of steam going into this game. The Hokies have 3 players who have rushed for over 600 yards, led by Darren Evans with 11 touchdowns. Even Ryan Williams has 9 touchdowns, despite under 500 yards in rushing. Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale lead a rich receiving crew. Taylor has a lot of options. On defense, the Hokies are 17th in points allowed. They are only 49th against the rush, but Jayron Hosley anchors a solid secondary with 7 interceptions.
Va. Tech might have an edge in familiarity, as Stanford never sees this venue and is more out of their element. The Hokies played one of their best games of the season on this very field, as they beat ACC rival Miami in a season-defining win. That edge might be minimal, yet significant in a game where there is little to separate these teams. Backers of either team need to acknowledge the danger factor of the other team. This should be a well-contested game that comes down to a few plays.
Scotty Ls Pick to Cover the Point Spread: This will be a good one. Expect various momentum shifts where no lead is safe. These two squads are sharp, play with heart, and respond well to their coaches. It will be a treat to watch. Stanford will have success running the ball, perhaps more than Virginia Tech at points. The Cardinals might get out to a lead, but Virginia Tech will surge late. The 4th quarter will decide this game. Maybe Stanford can wear out the Hokies defense significantly enough to allow them to control clock late. A late score or two gives Stanford the edge. Take the Stanford Cardinal minus 3 points.