It's simply amazing when you consider that four years ago, Stanford Head Coach Jim Harbaugh took over a team that had gone 1-11 the previous year. The Cardinal are now 11-1 with the Heisman Trophy runner up Andrew Luck looking to face Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl. In short, this is the success Cavaliers fans are hoping for.
It won't be easy for Luck to complete the total transformation though, as the Hokies are red hot, firing off 11 straight wins and capturing their third ACC crown in just four years. Hokies quarterback Tyrod Taylor finished the regular season with a school-record 23 touchdown passes and only four interceptions. Also quick on his feet, Taylor was the team's second leading rusher with 637 yards and 5 touchdowns.
Stanford's sole loss on the season came to No. 2 Oregon, while Virginia Tech's came to Boise State and JMU. A win on January 3 would be the Cardinal's first postseason win since 1996.Stanford's offense is ranked ninth in the country, putting up an average 40.3 points a game. This is in no small part because of an offensive line that has offered Luck an obscene amount of protection. Luck's only been sacked five times on the season in 349 passing attempts. With all that protection, Luck will need to work on his precision. He only threw seven interceptions this year, but the Hokies' secondary is of a caliber which the Cardinal may not have seen yet this season.
The Hokies' secondary, by the way, is second in the country with 22 interceptions, and seventh in opponents' passer rating, at 105.7.
Stanford ranks 17th in the nation in rushing yards at 211. If you're looking to make a bet, go with "over", because Hokies' rushing defense is only ranked No. 59 in the country, allowing an average of 4.46 yards per carry. That's not bad per se, but that's not what you expect to see from a BCS Bowl team.
The key to this game for Stanford is to score early. Force Virginia Tech to abandon the run and rely on the passing game, and pray that your secondary can keep up with Jarrett Boykins and Danny Coale, who have caught for 763 and 640 yards, respectively.
Prediction: Despite what's been a solid Stanford rushing defense all season, Tyrod Taylor will be picking up first downs left and right, and Darren Evans will get close to breaking 1,000 rushing yards on the season (he's at 817 now). Still though, that won't be enough for Andrew Luck to Doug Baldwin, who I predict will break the 1,000 receiving yards mark (he's at 824 now).
Get ready for a high-flying shoot-out - just the way we like it - and for the Cardinal to win their first BCS bowl since 1972, 48-35.