This slate of BCS bowls has been dubbed "the worst since the BCS was instated." I disagree. West Virginia and Oklahoma will play in the Fiesta Bowl, and if you combine those teams' points per game average, the Fiesta Bowl should have at least 90 points scored in it. Of course, those two defenses will not let that happen. Kansas and Virginia Tech, two teams who were long shots to make the BCS, will play in the Orange Bowl. Virginia Tech, who is still mourning from the school shooting that took place April 16th, 2007, had a great year and won the ACC. Kansas, who was not seen in one top 25 in the preseason, only lost one game this year, to rival Missouri. Kansas, who got in ahead of Missouri, has a lot to prove.
Oklahoma might be playing the best football in the nation. The Sooners are more balanced than Ohio State or Louisiana State. They have the 3rd ranked scoring offense and the 9th ranked scoring defense. They have the best freshman in the country, QB Sam Bradford. One of OU‘s two losses came when Bradford was knocked out in the first quarter against Texas Tech. Oklahoma will be a tough team to beat. But then again, Boise State did it.
At least Boise State had the same coach for their bowl game against Oklahoma. Rich Rodriguez bolted from West Virginia to Michigan after the Mountaineer‘s embarrassing loss to Pittsburgh when a BCS Title birth was on the line. West Virginia is known for their dynamic spread offense, which was instituted by Rodriguez, but their defense is not too shabby. The West Virginia players have a huge chip on their shoulder. Can they win a big game without the coach who abandoned them?
When Oklahoma has the ball...
When Bradford is behind the center, OU has one of the best offenses in football. Juaquin Iglesias and Malcolm Kelly are his two favorites targets. Both wide outs have over 800 yards receiving. Oklahoma has a stable of great running backs. Allen Patrick, a senior, had rushed for 927 yards this year. Freshman DeMarco Murray has ran for 764 yards and 13 touchdowns, which leads the team. Chirs Brown, who has gotten more carries than Murray, is a capable back but is less explosive. OU has scored more than 40 points eight times this year.
On the other hand, WVU has given up 30 points only once. They give up an average of 17.5 points per game. They get constant pressure on the quarterback. Johnny Dingle and Marc Magro both have eight sacks this year. West Virginia‘s defense is ranked high in most defensive statistics. However, they have only played a few good offenses such as South Florida, Louisville, Cincinatti, and Rutgers. Oklahoma is going to be their biggest test of the year. You have to be able to stop the run and the pass. None of those previously listed teams are as balanced as the Sooner‘s offensive attack.
When West Virginia has the ball...
Speed kills. And West Virginia has lots of it, especially at quarterback. Pat White is the most athletic QB I have ever seen. White, along with running back Steve Slaton, make up the best backfield in college football. White is the 34th ranked rusher in the nation. Slaton is 47th. Both have run for over 1000 yards and have combined for 31 scores. Speedy freshman Noel Devine will also get carries against Oklahoma’s highly touted rush defense. All purpose WR Darius Reynaud is WVU‘s most legitimate receiving threat. He has found the end zone 11 times, ten more than the 2nd leading receiver.
Oklahoma‘s 8th ranked rushing defense will be put to a serious test. Oklahoma will give up some yardage, but manages to keep teams off the scoreboard. They have forced an impressive 29 turnovers, including 19 interceptions. D.J. Wolfe leads the team in interceptions and is 3rd in tackles with 83. Junior linebacker Curtis Lofton is the best linebacker in the Big 12. He leads the team with 142 tackles, including 82 solo tackles. Lofton will get help from DE Auston English, who has 9.5 sacks on the year. English will attempt to get into the backfield and disrupt the West Virginia spread offense. .
Pat White is a fabulous rusher. However, he is also an improved passer. He has a 3 to 1 TD to interception ratio. He is most dynamic when he is passing efficiently. If he can run and throw for over 200 yards, a Mountaineer victory is very likely.
Keys to the game...
1. West Virginia needs to be able to focus on the task at hand. Rich Rodriguez is a thing of the past. Bill Stewart is a very capable interim coach. As long as their heads are in the right place, WVU should be fine.
2. Never forget. Oklahoma was upset by Boise State in last year’s Fiesta Bowl. They should be motivated to win in the same bowl game that caused them such grief for the past year.
3. Which defense can stop the other team’s explosive offense? Both teams have great offenses, and very strong defenses. Can West Virginia win if they only score 28 points? Can Oklahoma slow down Pat White and Steve Slaton? This game will be won by the defense that is fearless and stops the opposing offense.
The staff says...
They are not flashy. They are not sexy. But those wins sure look good. And Virginia Tech just keeps on racking them up. The Hokies won 11 games this year, their 4th consecutive season with ten wins or more. Their offense is not the best, but their defense is as good as it gets. And do not forget those Frank Beamer special teams that have been blocking punts and kicks since he took over as head coach in 1987.
Kansas is playing for something important in January. This time it is the Kansas football that is playing. The Jayhawks won 11 games for the first time in school history. Their offense is arguably the best in college football. Their defense is better than people give them credit for. They are a very worthy BCS team, make no doubt about it. Do they deserve it over Missouri, the team that beat them only a few weeks ago? Maybe, maybe not. Kansas can prove themselves worthy with a win in the Orange Bowl.
When Virginia Tech has the ball...
Tech ran a two quarterback system in nearly every game. Sean Glennon, a junior, took most of the snaps. He threw 11 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. Freshman Tyrod Taylor is fast and explosive, but he is not a proven leader or passer. Taylor took 70 less pass attempts than Glennon. He threw for five touchdowns and ran for six. Branden Ore, who will not play in the first quarter due to suspension, is not the player he was last year. However, he is a durable and capable back that has been playing better of late. Eddie Royal is the Hokie’s best playmaker. He is a very dangerous punt and kick off returner. He has returned two punts for touchdowns. He still needs to improve on catching the ball, but the playmaking ability is there.
Kansas is a lot like West Virginia. They are known for their offense. However, their defenses have performed solid all year. Kansas ranks 7th in stopping the run. They only give up 16 points per game, 4th best in the country. Aqib Talib is one of the best corners in the country. He has a team high four interceptions, one of which he took back for a touchdown. Linebacker Joe Mortensen leads the team in tackles and tackles for loss. He had an impressive 13 tackle performance against Missouri. Look for Mortensen to have another big game.
When Kansas has the ball...
Only Hawaii and Oklahoma scored more points this year than Kansas. QB Todd Reesing threw 32 touchdowns and only 6 interceptions. He loves to pass it to Marcus Henry and Dexton Fields. Against Oklahoma State, Henry caught eight balls for 200 yards and three touchdowns. Brandon McAnderson, who is 5’10” and 235 lbs., ran for 1050 yards and 16 touchdowns this year. This team is the best offense that Tech will have see all year. Kansas has been held under 30 points only three times this year. Only LSU scored more than 30 points on the Hokies.
The Jayhawk‘s defense is very good. The Virginia Tech defense is down right scary. They only give up 15 points a game. They rank 5th in total defense. They are 5th in stopping the run. They are lead by stellar linebackers. Seniors Xavier Adibi and Vince Hall have collected 108 and 92 tackles respectively. Brandon Flowers leads the team with five interceptions and has made 51 solo tackles. Tech has returned five interceptions for touchdowns, each one by a different player! Kansas has a great offense, but every team in America would struggle at some point against this defense.
Todd Reesing did not receive one Heisman vote. His stats are just as good or better than Matt Ryan’s, Chase Daniel’s, or Colt Brennan’s. He will be tested when he steps onto the field to face a tenacious Virginia Tech defense. I think he will rise to the occasion and try to prove the skeptics wrong that a 5’10” QB from Kansas can’t win a BCS bowl game.
Keys to the game...
1. Special teams and takeaways. Virginia Tech is great at forcing turnovers and making big plays on special teams. Kansas has to limit these things if they want to win the game.
2. Virginia Tech has to support their defense. The Hokie defense can only hold Kansas back for so long. Glennon and the rest of Tech’s offense has to put up points early. They need to make Kansas think that they do not belong in a BCS bowl game.
3. Kansas has to get the Missouri loss out of their head. Kansas did not play a very tough schedule. When they played a highly ranked opponent, they lost. Confidence means everything in bowl games. Without it, things can get ugly. For a blossoming program like Kansas, an ugly loss in a big time bowl game could cripple their progress.
The staff says...