2008 Orange Bowl - Virginia Tech vs. Kansas
Virginia Tech RB Branden Ore
Virginia Tech RB Branden Ore
Posted Dec 27, 2007

It's the final BCS game before the big one, and now the pressure is on to be the one non-blowout of the bunch. It might be. Branden Ore and Virginia Tech showed some offensive pop over the second half of the year, while Kansas wants to prove it belongs in the big show over Missouri in the 2008 Orange Bowl.

Virginia Tech (11-2) vs. Kansas (11-1)

January 3rd, 8:00 p.m. ET, Fox

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Talk about a lack of national love, Virginia Tech vs. Kansas appears to be generating little more than a quiet yawn in a year of potential snoozer BCS matchups. This deserves more attention since it could be the only big money game that's any good.

While there was talk of Oklahoma possibly stepping in to face the Hokies, and Missouri certainly deserved to be here over the Jayhawks in what would've been a showdown to get the crowd moving, Kansas and Virginia Tech should be able to put on a far better show than many expect. After all, with a few bounces the right way, these two could've been playing each other for the national championship.

Lost in the haze of the last few weeks of the regular season was just how good these two teams really were. Kansas had a cup of coffee at No. 2 and did a great job of overcoming a shaky first half to battle Missouri until the end in the showdown for the Big 12 North title. Virginia Tech would've been probably been playing Ohio State for the whole ball of wax if it weren't for Matt Ryan's terrific late touchdown pass in the 14-10 loss to Boston College.
National Rankings
Kansas Virginia Tech
Total Offense
6th  491.08 ypg 99th  332.38 ypg
Total Defense
14th  318.25 ypg 5th  293.31 ypg
Scoring Offense
2nd  44.33 ppg 50th  29.31 ppg
Scoring Defense
4th  16 ppg 2nd  15.46 ppg
Run Offense
27th  196.58 ypg 82nd  133.54 ypg
Run Defense
7th  91.42 ypg 5th  86 ypg
Pass Offense
14th  294.50 ypg 86th  198.85 ypg
Pass Defense
57th  226.83 ypg 27th  207.31 ypg
Turnover Margin
1st  1.58 10th  1.00
Central Mich W 52-7
SE La W 62-0
Toledo W 45-13
FIU W 55-3
at Kans St W 30-24
Baylor W 58-10
at Colorado W 19-14
at Tex A&M W 19-11
Nebraska W 76-39
at Okla St W 43-28
Iowa State W 45-7
Missouri (in KC) L 36-28
Virginia Tech
East Carolina W 17-7
at LSU L 48-7
Ohio W 28-7
Will & Mary
W 44-3
No Carolina
W 17-10
at Clemson
W 41-23
at Duke
W 43-14
Boston Coll
L 14-10
at Ga Tech W 27-3
Florida St W 40-21
W 44-14
at Virginia
W 33-21
ACC Championship
Boston Coll W 30-16
Position Ratings
relative to each other
KU 5 highest
1 lowest
4.5 Quarterbacks 4
4 RBs 4
3.5 Receivers 3.5
4 O Line 3
3.5 D Line 4.5
3.5 Linebackers 5
4 Secondary 5
4 Spec Teams 4
5 Coaching 4

The Hokies finished the season No. 1 in the country, at least according to the BCS computers, thanks to the third toughest schedule in America with eight games (including two against BC) against bowl teams, and while they were blasted 48-7 by LSU early in the year, this is a night-and-day different squad than the one that took the field against East Carolina on September 1st.

The offense went from one-dimensional and predictable to potent and dangerous thanks to the two-headed quarterback attack of Sean Glennon and Tyrod Taylor. Branden Ore hasn't had to carry as much of the rushing workload thanks to the mobile Taylor, Glennon has settled into a role as the veteran passer, the receiving corps is starting to make more plays, and, of course, the Hokie defense is still the Hokie defense.

Tech finished the season fifth in total defense and second in scoring D, but it was the offense that made the team special scoring 30 points or more in six of the final eight games. One of the games under 30 was the loss to BC in awful conditions, and the other was a commanding 27-3 statement win over Georgia Tech in Atlanta. With all the talk of Georgia and USC peaking at the end of the season, Virginia Tech might actually be the nation's hottest team coming into the bowls, but we've heard it all before.

All things considered, Tech has been a bowl dud ever since a coming out party type of a victory over Texas in the 1995 Sugar Bowl. Since then, the Hokies have gone just 4-7 with the only wins in decent bowls coming over Louisville in the 2005 Gator and over Clemson in the 2000 Gator. Last year, this was one of the nation's hottest teams going into the bowls and it collapsed in the second half in a 31-24 Chick-fil-A Bowl loss to Georgia. It's not like Beamer's teams haven't played well, but there just hasn't been a really big bowl win in a while and is 0-2 in BCS games.

2004 Sugar vs. Auburn. 16-13 loss. 1999 Sugar vs. Florida State for the national title. 46-29 loss. 1996 Orange vs. Nebraska. 41-21 loss. There's no question that Virginia Tech is an elite program and this team is one of the best in the country, but only a win over Kansas would get the respect due to the top teams, and the top conferences this season. The ACC needs this win.

In what used to be the Big 8 champion's reward, this is now supposed to be the ACC's showcase bowl game but it hasn't won it since the league champion was automatically sent to Miami. The last ACC team to win the Orange was Florida State in the 1996 win over Notre Dame with the league going 0-for-5 since. Looking to keep the streak alive, Kansas would like to go old school and bring an Orange Bowl back to middle America.

Kansas went to the Orange Bowl in 1948 and 1969 and lost both, and this is just the program's third bowl appearance since 1995. Last year's Orange Bowl featured the season's most improbable story, Wake Forest, and even though KU didn't win its conference, its season also came from out of leftfield.

The schedule might not have been anything special, with the best win coming over an average Oklahoma State team, but in this crazy season of upsets, KU was jaw-dropping in its production averaging 44 points per game, good for second in the nation, and was 14th in total defense. The team did almost all the little things right (except for the punting game), and was a machine when it had to answer every challenge outside of the Missouri game. While the Jayhawks might not deserve to be here over Missouri, they don't have to apologize to anyone after finishing eighth in the final BCS rankings. Blame the dumb system that doesn't allow more than two teams from a conference to get in.  

Chances are this will be one of the most competitive BCS games, even if there aren't a slew of nationally recognizable players. Don't worry about what the game could've been and you'll be fine.

Players to watch: You might have forgotten, but there was a time when Kansas junior QB Todd Reesing was on the short list for the Heisman. He's not big, doesn't have a huge arm, and he isn't necessarily a runner, but he's a pure baller who finds ways to make plays to get the job done. An accurate passer on the move, and tough in the pocket, he'll have to avoid making big mistakes in the face of the Virginia Tech pass rush, and he'll have to be very, very careful on his short to midrange passes against the ultra-quick Hokie linebackers. Against Missouri, he forced throws way too often trying to make something happen that wasn't there, and then he settled down and picked apart the Tiger defense in the second half. He has to be flawless for the Jayhawks to win.

Virginia Tech's offense started to shine once star freshman Tyrod Taylor started to get the hang of things. Sean Glennon started the year with a 245-yard day in the win over East Carolina, but struggled to move the offense over the next several games and was benched bottoming out with a 2-of-10, 16-yard, one interception day in the loss to LSU. With Taylor taking the pressure off, Glennon appeared more relaxed, more comfortable, and more assured of his passes as he grew into the role of co-quarterback. Taylor threw for 296 yards against Florida State, but his worth is as a runner who keeps linebackers up close to the line. He has a nice passing touch when he gets time and should grow into a top all-around player with more and more playing time. Kansas has to prepare equally for both of them.

Of course, Tech's defense gets the headlines and sets the tone for the team led by linebackers Vince Hall and Xavier Adibi. Hall is the star of the defense with 92 stops despite missing four games with an injured wrist. While not asked to do much in pass coverage, he's a beast against the run with seven double-digit tackling games in the nine he played in including 11 in the ACC championship win over Boston College. Adibi didn't necessarily pick up the slack with Hall out, but he's been a steady, consistent all-around force all year long. Tremendously quick, he can stay with any tight end and is just as good dropping into pass coverage as he is rushing the passer.

KU's defensive star is junior corner Aqib Talib, one of the few bright spots on a woeful 2006 pass defense, and an All-America caliber star who rarely got picked on this year. With excellent athleticism and great size, he's in a salary drive as he auditions for the NFL scouts. A premier coverman with 21 broken up passes over the last two years and six interceptions, he also saw time as a receiver with four touchdowns on eight catches. As the season went on, he played exclusively on defense once the receiving corps improved, but he could move over to offense again to add a bit of a spark.

Kansas will win if... Reesing gets time. While the KU passer has good mobility and has been decent under pressure, he hasn't faced a team that can bring the heat like Virginia Tech. The Hokie defensive front was able to get to Matt Ryan, and just about everyone else, finishing with 43 sacks on the year and pressure after pressure to force big mistakes including 21 interceptions. Kansas is at its best when it gets into a rhythm on both sides of the ball with a balanced offense and attacking defense that gets into the backfield. Mostly, the offense has keep the chains moving, can't expect to hit any home runs, and it has to be patient even if things don't go well early. This is Virginia Tech. There's a good chance it'll go into a second half lull if it gets comfortable.

The KU defense doesn't generate too many sacks, but it can get consistent pressure and it great against the run. Texas A&M was held to 74 rushing yards, Missouri only ran for 151, and Kansas State gained just 53 while only Oklahoma State ran for more than one touchdown. The Jayhawks will sell out against the run, for Tech to win through the air, and hope Talib and the playmaking secondary can get the job done.

Virginia Tech will win if... it can outKansas Kansas. KU thrives on turnovers, ball control offense, and capitalizing on every mistake. Sound familiar? The Virginia Tech defense is better than the Kansas defense, and the offense can be just as strong as KUs if the momentum is going the right way, but the Hokies need to win the turnover battle, has to come up with the bigger plays on special teams, and can't get down. KU is equipped to make a late charge or a potentially big comeback with Reesing and its offense, but Tech doesn't necessarily have the parts or the makeup to overcome a big deficit.

Hall, Adibi and the Hokie linebackers have to keep Brandon McAnderson and the KU running game from consistently breaking off big runs, while the defensive line has win the battle in the trenches and rush Reesing. Offensively, getting Branden Ore going is a must to settle down the offense. The more Reesing is on the sidelines, the better, and that comes from controlling the clock with the running game and coming up with third down stops. Virginia Tech is third in the nation in third down defense allowing teams to convert just 28.6% of their chances.

What will happen: It's not always going to be the prettiest of games with each defense coming up with its share of big stops early while the offenses try to establish a running game. Kansas will move the ball well only to see drive after drive stall, or end up with a field goal instead of a touchdown. Virginia Tech isn't going to force enough mistakes to make this a blowout of any sort, and it'll have a few moments when it's stunned that KU can actually play, but the D will tighten up in the second half while the offense will come up with two key drives to finally pull away.

Line: Virginia Tech -3.5 ... CFN Prediction: Virginia Tech 27 ... Kansas 16

2008 Orange Bowl History, Each Team's Best Bowl Moments, & More