By Casey Keefe
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#13 Michigan (10-2) vs. #11 Virginia Tech (11-2) – 8:30 p.m.
The way things shook out, we knew one of these two teams would get the nod for a BCS bowl—but it raised a few eyebrows when both were selected, effectively screwing over the likes of Boise State and Kansas State. Truth be told, I have no problem with Michigan reaching the BCS, but Virginia Tech in my opinion did not deserve a spot—especially after their embarrassing non-competitive loss to Clemson in the ACC title game.
That ACC title game against Clemson proved to be a real eye opener. Tech had been blown out by the Tigers earlier in the season at home. Facing them again in the conference title game provided the biggest stage for a little Beamer revenge—but the outcome was the same…another blowout. It became painfully obvious that the Hokies simply do not match up well against the up-tempo style of offense that Clemson runs led by mobile quarterback Tajh Boyd… Well, guess who runs the same exact offense? That’s right… And I’ve got news for you—Tajh Boyd at this stage is not half the quarterback that Denard Robinson is.
Robinson (2,056 pass yards, 18 TD’s, 14 INT’s, 1,163 rush yards, 16 TD’s) has improved his consistency and decision making dramatically as the season went on. He still has the tendency to throw an errant pass and hold the ball like a loaf of bread once in a while, but when push comes to shove Robinson is a guy you want on your team. You can bet your front teeth that Frank Beamer hasn’t slept a wink since Michigan was announced as their Sugar Bowl opponent.
Robinson doesn’t do it all by himself. Like any good offense he has plenty of help around him. Receivers Junior Hemingway (636 yards, 2 TD’s) and Jeremy Gallon (450 yards, 3 TD’s) are more dangerous than their numbers show. And I would never count out Roy Roundtree (345 yards, 2 TD’s) in a big spot. The real explosiveness of the offense comes on the ground (236 rushing ypg) thanks to the legs and vision of Robinson and the emergence of running back Fitzgerald Toussaint (1,011 yards, 9 TD’s). Tech will have all sorts of trouble trying to slow down those two on the ground.
The Hokies’ offense is somewhat similar to Michigan. Tech quarterback Logan Thomas (2,799 pass yards, 19 TD’s, 9 INT’s, 416 rush yards, 10 TD’s) has had his share of ups and downs this season. He’s improved his consistency as the season went on. Against soft front seven’s (most of the ACC), Thomas and running back David Wilson (1,627 yards, 9 TD’s) are nearly unstoppable. Unfortunately for Tech’s duo, they’ll be going up against one of the best front seven’s in the nation. Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison has done a phenomenal job changing the culture in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines defense used to be as soft as Eddy Curry—now they’re one of the best units in the country.
I hate to make it sound so simple, but this game is a case of one team (Michigan) matching up better than the other on both sides of the ball. Now, I’m not trying to make it seem like this game will be a blowout because it most certainly will not. But at the end of the day, as Antrel Rolle would say, you’re going to see Michigan move the ball, convert back-breaking third downs and take advantage of Tech’s defensive holes. On the other side, as good as Thomas and Wilson can be, they will not have the chance to get into any rhythm or comfort level against Michigan’s tough, resilient defense.
New Michigan man Brady Hoke has done just about as good of a job as someone could possibly do in their first season. So much of the culture in Ann Arbor had to change, and Hoke and his staff have done just that. I’m interested to see the gameplan he comes up with, having a month to prepare. It’ll be a big test for Hoke and company—but I bet they’ll pass with flying colors when it’s all said and done. I have no doubt the Maze and Blue will be focused and ready to go. On a side note, and I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but I’m already looking forward to all the battles Hoke and Urban Meyer will wage over the next several years in the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry… Wolverine football is back.
Prediction: Michigan 30, Virginia Tech 23
Follow Casey Keefe on Twitter: @CaseyKeefeWFAN
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