2009 Orange Bowl Preview
by Matt Severance - 12/30/2008
Cincinnati (11-2) vs. Virginia Tech (9-4)
Conference matchup: Big East champ vs. ACC champ
When: Jan. 1, 8:30 p.m. (Fox)
Location: Dolphin Stadium, Miami
Spread: Cincinnati -2.5, total at 41.5
Line movement: It has shifted toward the Bearcats, who opened as between 1-1.5 point favorites. The over/under has risen about a half-point.
Bowl history: It's the first BCS bowl in school history for Cincinnati, which is 5-4 all-time in bowls and has won the past three. The Big East has won three consecutive BCS bowl games. The Hokies are in the Orange Bowl for the second straight year - they lost to Kansas on Jan. 3, 2008 - and are 7-14 all-time in the postseason. The ACC hasn't won a BCS bowl since Florida State's 1999 national championship season, when the Noles beat, ironically enough, Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl. That's eight BCS losses in a row for the conference.
How they got here: Cincy has used five total quarterbacks this season due to injury but won nine of its final 10 games after getting routed by Oklahoma. It didn't look good for Virginia Tech in terms of returning to the ACC title game after the Hokies lost at Miami to fall to 6-4 overall and 3-3 in the conference. But wins over Duke and Virginia and some help got them a rematch with Boston College in the conference championship game. The Eagles had beaten Tech in the regular season but then fell in the ACC title game - just like in 2007. A victory would give the Hokies 10 wins in each of the past five years. Only Southern Cal and Texas have accomplished that feat.
Key trends: Cincinnati is 1-5 ATS in its past six bowls but 4-1 ATS in its past five vs. teams with a winning record. Virginia Tech is 2-5 in its past seven bowls and just 1-8 in its past nine non-conference games. The over is 4-1 in the Bearcats' past five games, while the under is the same record in the Hokies' past five.
Hokies lose three: Virginia Tech will have to do some serious juggling heading into the game as three starters, linebacker Brett Warren, defensive end Jason Worilds and left guard Nick Marshman will not play in the Orange Bowl.
Warren, second on the team with 86 tackles, tore his right ACL on Nov. 16 at Miami yet played the next three games hurt. Worilds, who leads the Hokies in sacks (eight) and tackles for loss (18.5), separated his shoulder not just once but in three different games and continued to play. Both now need surgery.
"Those are two guys that have really been instrumental in us playing good defense," said Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer.
Redshirt freshman Barquell Rivers will replace Warren and make his first start after playing only 28 snaps during the season. Junior Nekos Brown - who played frequently and started a game this year - takes Worilds' spot.
Marshman played in the ACC title game against Boston College but is now academically ineligible. Junior right guard Sergio Render will move over to left guard to take Marshman's spot and freshman Jaymes Brooks will get his first career start at right guard. Brooks has only seen limited duty in practices this season.
Even with Marshman, the Hokies gave up 39 sacks this year, while the Bearcats led the Big East with 36 sacks.
Bearcats getting healthy: Cincy WR Dominick Goodman (shoulder) and CB Mike Mickens (knee) both are practicing and will play despite late-season injuries.
In the regular-season finale at Hawaii, Goodman (78 catches, 977 yards, seven TDs) separated his right shoulder. He was unable to practice again until Dec. 16, but is now back all the way.
Mickens, a preseason All-American, missed the team's final three games because of a torn meniscus in his left knee and had arthroscopic surgery in late November. He is the school's all-time leader in interceptions (14).
Overview: These teams are pretty much polar opposites, as the Hokies are a run-first defensive club and the Bearcats generally like throwing the ball. Virginia Tech ranks No. 8 in total defense, allowing just 277 yards per game, while the Bearcats averaged 375 yards of offense. Hokies QB Tyrod Taylor will beat you with his feet (just two TD passes this year but 651 yards rushing and six TDs), while Bearcats QB Tony Pike, who once was fifth on the depth chart, overcame a broken non-throwing arm to pass for 2,168 yards and 18 touchdowns. He also has two very good receivers. The Bearcats seem to have a clear advantage on offense, and while the Tech defense is very good, Cincy's is underrated and ranked No. 25 in the nation. That defense and all those key Tech personnel losses will be too much for the offensively one-dimensional Hokies to overcome.