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Orange Bowl

Virginia Tech vs. Stanford

Betting Line: Stanford -3.5 o/u 58

1/3/11

The fact that the Virginia Tech Hokies are in the Orange Bowl is a testament to the heart of the players and the coaching of Frank Beamer. The ACC Champions dropped their season opener to Boise State on national television. After that they did the unthinkable by dropping a game to FCS foe James Madison. When most teams would've given up on the season, the Hokies did not. They proceeded to win 11 consecutive games with victories over North Carolina, North Carolina State, Miami and Florida State. Their final opponent will be much stronger than any of those.

The Stanford Cardinal would be perfect this year if not for a single half of play against BCS Title participant Oregon. The Cardinal led them at the half by a score of 31-24, but failed to score in the second half and lost 52-31. En route to their 11-1 record they defeated Notre Dame, USC, Arizona and California. There is no question that HC John Harbaugh's team would rather be playing in the Rose Bowl, but the Orange Bowl is definitely a great prize too.

The spread on this game opened with Stanford as a 3 point favorite and has held steady at about half of the major books with the other half adding the hook. Action has favored Stanford the whole way at 64% compared to 37% for the Hokies. Virginia Tech is an incredible 10-2 ATS this year. The Cardinal are also solid at 7-3-1. Stanford is putting 40.3 PPG compared to 35.5 for the Hokies. The Stanford defense gives up 17.8 PPG compared to 19.1 for Virginia Tech. The total in games for VT is 6-6 compared to 6-5 for the Cardinal.

Both of these teams are chock full of stars on both sides of the ball. Let's start with the Virginia Tech offense. They are led by QB Tyrod Taylor. The seasoned veteran has 6,795 passing yards and 43 TDs in his career. This year he has posted 2,521 yards and 23 TDs. He has 637 rushing yards and 5 TDs. Taylor is a very mobile QB, but an equally good if not better passer.

Taylor will get plenty of help from the running game. Sophomore RB Ryan Williams missed much of the season because of injury, but has looked good since his return. He had 142 yards and a TD against Miami. RB Darren Evans has been rock solid too. The junior has 817 yards and 11 TDs on the year. He took one carry 51 yards against Florida State in his last game. WRs Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale are Taylor's best weapons. They own a combined 1,403 yards and 9 TDs this year. 

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Stanford is also led by a mobile QB. Andrew Luck is projected to be the #1 overall pick if he chooses to enter the NFL Draft. The junior has 3,051 passing yards and 28 TDs this year. He has also rushed for 438 yards and 3 TDs. This defense will be by far the best he has seen all year outside of maybe Oregon. Luck is surely a stud, but will have to be careful against such a strong secondary. Expect Harbaugh to see to it that he puts his running game to good use. Twice this year he has tucked the ball in and taken it 50+ yards. RB Stepfan Taylor will relieve some of the pressure on Luck. The sophomore has 210 attempts for 1,023 yards and 15 TDs this year. He has scored multiple times on 4 occasions this year including a 4 TD performance against Arizona.

As per the usual, Virginia Tech is strong on defense, but you wouldn't know by looking at the numbers. They have allowed many teams to reach 400+ total yards. They do a great job of creating turnovers though. The Cardinal saw only two good offenses this year and gave up 625 and 499 total yards. Its tough to say how they will respond against the Hokies.

Virginia Tech was very close to being a Key Release for us. The yards per point numbers for these teams are dead even, and both very good. Our score prediction model has the score 25-24 Stanford.  Virginia Tech is a whopping +18 in turnover margin and Stanford is a not too shabby +14. Virginia Tech also played a slightly stronger schedule than Stanford.

Lastly, the Boise State game comes to mind. The Boise offense was explosive, just like Stanford. But Tech went toe to toe and really should have won that game. This shakes out as a dead even football game. A mistake or key turnover will likely decide it and when one team is +18 in turnover margin, you have to like your chances with them. To top it all off, you're getting points.

Oh,, and let's not forget the possible distractions for Stanford. Coach Harbaugh is being courted by NFL teams and college teams alike. Michigan is interested, the 49ers are interested, and John Elway, who took a front office job with the Broncos is going to be a guest of Harbaugh at the game as he tries to lure him to Denver. Any way you slice it, this is a big distraction.

So, plenty of reasons to like Tech in this game getting +3.5. We're going to pass however. We watched this Stanford team all year. Some times you just get a hunch with a team. This has been a special year for them. A year they aren't likely to duplicate any time soon. Sometimes games like this, like some past Super Bowls, can get away from one team and get blown wide open. Of the two, Stanford is the more likely to team to run away with the game if that happens.

We'll call this a strong opinion on Virginia Tech +3.5. The numbers support a play on Tech, but we are passing. Call it a hunch. Good Luck is you decide to play.
 

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