The game is still eleven days away, but I think it's time to start looking at the Virginia Tech Hokies and thinking about how they'll match up with the Mighty Card. With a quarterback that looks a lot like a better version of Oregon's Darron Thomas and a trio of running backs headed to the NFL, the offense looks scary. When you add a top-flight defense with one of the best secondaries in the nation, it's clear that the Cardinal will have their work cut out for them in the Orange Bowl. With all this in mind, I reached out to two different writers who follow the Hokies closely and asked them a few questions about their team. Next up is Justin Cocchiola of ACCRivals.com. You can check out my answers to Justin's questions over there also. Enjoy...
ACC Rivals.com: Well, first off, it has nothing to do with a turkey, although it does resemble one (and a gobbling noise is often played in Lane Stadium during games). The creation of the word "Hokie" also led to the color combination at Virginia Tech. The university was founded in 1872 and decided to change it's name to Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College and Polytechnic Institute in 1896, with VPI serving as the shortened nickname. A competition was held to write a new cheer for the school, and O.M. Stull, who won the contest, used the word "Hoki" three times in the first line. They then changed the colors from black and gray to Chicago maroon and burnt orange, because no other university used that color combination in the nation. "Hoki" later added an "e" to the word, but Virginia Tech had been known as the "Gobblers" up until the 1970's. That is until head coach Bill Dooley came to town and learned that "Gobblers" originated because of how the team ate their food. He went for an image change and began using the word Hokie. It began picking up steam, and Virginia Tech changed their mascot in 1982, but it wasn't until 1987 that today's mascot, the Hokie Bird, took form. And that's how Virginia Tech became the Hokies, and that's why it resembles a turkey.
ACC Rivals.com: Taylor is the most dangerous when he's got time in the pocket. It seems obvious, but if Taylor is given time to search for receivers down field or run with the ball, it's almost guranteed he's going to get a first down. When you think a play is dead, Taylor will extend it and make something happen. What separates Taylor from past seasons is his ability to throw the ball. He's among the nation's best in passing efficiency and it's because of his ability to extend plays with his legs, but he finishes a lot of those plays with his arm. Even when you think you have him wrapped up, he can scramble out of the pocket and reach the open field, which is where it's really difficult for linebackers to stop him.
ACC Rivals.com: Williams is 100% right now. When he went down with a hamstring injury the coaches were very cautious about his return because there is so much depth in their backfield. When he returned, Billy Hite and Bryan Stinespring had decided on a rotation, and they stuck with it for the rest of the season. It was hard to always agree with their rotation because it would take a hot runner off the field after each drive. Running back management was understandably difficult this season for Virginia Tech, but somewhat disappointing at times. As far as Williams being the feature back in 2011, he will be if he returns, but many doubt that's going to happen. It's unfortuante because he is one of the greatest talents Virginia Tech has ever seen, and this season was cut short, but he's still considered to be among the top running back prospects in the nation. ESPN Scouts Inc. Analyst Todd McShay was saying that he expects Williams to go late first round, early second round at the latest in the NFL Draft, and if Williams has a good showing in the Orange Bowl then it will likely be his final game for the Hokies.
ACC Rivals.com: When Gibson went down in the ACC Championship, Jake Tyler and Tariq Edwards stepped up and had great games. Tyler especially, so that experience should help out the linebacker position. It's also expected that linebacker Barquell Rivers is going to try and play, at least some in this game. Rivers tore his quadricep muscle while weight lifting back in March, and was expected back by week three or four, but tendinitois in his knee formed and really hampered his progression. He has not played this year, so the Hokies won't be relying on him to play, but if he does it could pay dividens. Overall, Gibson isn't a great coverage linebacker so I don't think the Hokies will be hurting too much. The linebacker unit is led by Bruce Taylor and he should provide good leadership out there.
ACC Rivals.com: Linebacker Jake Tyler will have a good game, but I'm going to look at the secondary for Virginia Tech. That unit is led by Jayron Hosley who is an All-American and tied for the lead nationwide with eight interceptions. Rashad Carmichael should also be back from injury and Davon Morgan is a key part of that unit. However, true freshman Kyle Fuller has been very impressive for the Hokies so far this year. Why is he a player to watch? You'd have to imagine Jim Harbaugh and Andrew Luck want to attack the true freshman cornerback, but if he can play shutdown defense then it will force Luck to focus on other areas of the field, which means attacking more experienced corners and safeties.
ACC Rivals.com: Stanford will have some type of score on the opening drive and then the Virginia Tech defense will go back to the sideline and get an earful from Defensive Coordinator Bud Foster and settle into the game. It seems to happen every game. That being said, look for Stanford to get up early and hold a close lead at halftime. The Hokies are a second half football team, and as long as they don't dig themselves too big of a hole like they did against Boise State they should be okay. Virginia Tech has to be able to establish a running game against a tough, physical Stanford defense, but look for Taylor to have a huge game because it's the last one he'll play in a Virginia Tech uniform. The Hokies offense doesn't concern me as much as the defense does. There are often a number of holes in the middle of the Hokies defense and if that happens against Stanford, Luck is going to have a field day. The linebackers have to play well in coverage, and the defensive line has to find a way to pressure Luck. This game will be higher scoring than some people may be expecting, and the first team to 40 is going to win. I think that will be Virginia Tech in a classic game that may come down to the last possession. This game could go either way, but the Hokies have been to the Orange Bowl three times now in the last four seasons and should handle the expectations just fine.
Virginia Tech wins 41-35 over Stanford.