2012 Sugar Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. Michigan Preview

Virginia Tech Hokies (11-2, 7-2) vs. Michigan Wolverines (10-2, 6-2)
2012 Sugar Bowl

Time: 8:30 p.m. EST
Date: Tuesday, Jan. 3
Place: New Orleans, La.
Stadium: Superdome
(Cap: 76,468, Open: 1975, Field: UBU Sports Synthetic Turf)
TV: ESPN and ESPN3.com
Radio: ESPN Radio, VT IMG, SXM 84
Spread: Virginia Tech + 2.5
Tickets: $120-180 (Face value)
Opposing Blogs: Maize N Brew, MGoBlog, SBN Updates

Michigan: Here's a more in-depth look at the Wolverines. Michigan used a vastly improved defense and the most dynamic quarterback in the nation to record its first 10-win season since 2006, when the Wolverines started the season 11-0. Michigan's two losses coincided with by far its two worst offensive performances of the season, a 28-14 loss at Michigan State and a 24-16 loss at Iowa. Against MSU, the Wolverines were an abysmal 3-for-15 on third down. The Iowa game was the only game all year they didn't force a turnover and they finished -2 in turnover margin, their worst of the season.

Trends:The Hokies won their final seven games of the regular season before falling to Clemson in the ACCCG while Michigan has won three consecutive games. Michigan is 1-5 in its last six bowl games and 1-3 all-time in BCS games. Virginia Tech is 3-4 in bowl games since joining the ACC and 1-4 all-time in BCS games.

History Lesson:This is the first meeting between the two teams. Virginia Tech is 1-2 in the Sugar Bowl, losing in their last two trips. Michigan's lone trip to the Sugar Bowl was a loss to Auburn in 1984.

What to Watch:

  • Statistically, Michigan will be the best defense the Hokies have faced this year in terms of yards per game. It will also be one of the largest defensive fronts they've faced, as the Wolverines front four and front seven comes in just under North Carolina's in terms of size.
  • Michigan's defenses is very comparable to UNC's. Not only are the sizes close, but UNC has allowed 5.23 yards per play this year and Michigan 5.24. Yards will be tough to come by against the Wolverines, particularly on the ground.
  • Against UNC, the Hokies averaged 4.0 ypc minus sacks, one of their worst outputs of the season, and David Wilson had his streak of 100-yard games broken as he ran for 82 yards on 21 carries (3.9 ypc). Against Michigan and the likes of defensive tackle Mike Martin and defensive end Ryan Van Bergen, I think we can expect similar output in terms of yards per carry. I think Tech will do very well to average more than 4.5 ypc, which would give them the third best output by a Michigan opponent this season.
  • I think the key for the Hokies offensively is to get the ball out to the flats quickly in the passing game and try to get the ball away from that front seven and into space. Some teams, like Illinois, have seen some success with zone-read plays.
  • Illinois' rushing stats look like garbage in that game because the Illini fell behind early so they threw more and the Wolverines tallied 49 yards worth of sacks. But they were able to move the ball effectively with zone-read. Same with Northwestern, who also did well on some speed option plays out of the shotgun. In terms of run/pass percentage, those are the two teams we most resemble from the Big Ten.
  • On the other side of the ball, Tech will be the third-best defense Michigan has faced behind Michigan State and Illinois. Looking at the defenses the Wolverines have faced this year, the two they lost to, MSU and Iowa, were really good up front and were able to force turnovers. Teams we're probably similar to in terms of personnel, like Nebraska, were carved up by these guys.
  • The Hokies have not faced a player like Denard Robinson this year and how he plays will determine if Tech wins this game or not. If he has an off night with reading defenses on zone-reads and an off night throwing, Tech has a chance. But if he has his typical game, then it's not going to happen for the Hokies.
  • At the end of the day, Robinson is going to have a handful of plays that frustrate a defense and prolongs drives. The key for the Hokies is to do a good job of eliminating his friends. Fitz Toussaint has made this offense more dynamic at the end of the year and does a good job of shedding tacklers and getting yards after contact.
  • Tech needs to stop him from getting yards in the middle of the field and have good coverage against some very solid pass catchers led by Junior Hemingway and tight end Kevin Koger. Koger is Robinson's favorite target in the red zone and a third of his catches this year have come there, including four for touchdowns.
  • As far as how the game goes, I see Tech having its usual slow start, falling behind early, being kept at arms length and giving up a late game-sealing score on a long play by Robinson. 31-21, Michigan.

Hokies Win If: They force turnovers and can run the ball consistently to keep Michigan's offense off the field.

Wolverines Win If: Robinson is solid their defense can force the Hokies into third-and-long.

Dot-dot-dots: This is Virginia Tech's first game in a dome since they beat Tennessee in the 2009 Peach Bowl ... that win broke a streak of five consecutive losses in domes, including a loss in the 2003 Copper Bowl, when the roof to the Arizona Diamondbacks' stadium was closed ... Virginia Tech has only faced a Big Ten team once in its history, a win over Indiana in the 1993 Independence Bowl ... Michigan is 15-2 against the ACC since 1960 ... its last game against the ACC was an 18-17 win over UVa in 1995 in Ann Arbor ... the Wolverines' last loss against an ACC opponent was a 17-15 loss to UNC in the 1979 Gator Bowl.

Important Site News: This will be the last post from me before the game and posting will be very limited for some time after it. My laptop died and I can't afford to get a new one AND go to New Orleans. New Orleans wins and I won't have access (or want to, honestly) to blogging once I get down there. I will try to get a postgame post up once I get back from the game Jan. 4, but it's going to be very quiet around here until I can scrounge up enough cash to get a new computer.

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