Monday, December 30, 2013

Sun Bowl Preview: Virginia Tech vs. UCLA

By Justin Cates

In honor of this game's host city of El Paso, Texas I'm going to shoot straight from the hip in this preview. I won't be bothered by silly stats and thoughtful analysis. I'm basing everything on my gut.

Besides, trying to figure out this Hokie football team is a fool's errand.

Tech managed to navigate a schedule featuring 10 teams that made bowl games at 8-4. Not bad considering the brand new offensive system and general lack of proven talent on that side of the ball.

Of course, a reasonable argument can be made that there's very little reason the Hokies shouldn't be 11-2—assuming a loss to Florida State in the ACC title game—and readying for a BCS game.

The Alabama opener wasn't close, but losses to Maryland, Boston College and Duke were all avoidable.

Now Duke is a much better football team than the Hokies, but they played like hot garbage juice when they won 13-10 in Blacksburg. The Hokies played...well, like something worse than that.

The results were a bit better against Maryland and BC, but there were far too many orange and maroon mistakes.

Sorry to relive that, but my point is No. 17 UCLA is much better than those teams so it's a mighty tall order to expect Tech to win this one.

Bruins quarterback Brett Hundley likely began salivating when he saw the Maryland tape. Terrapin QB R.J. Brown ran all over the Hokies and he was coming off an injury. Hundley is a much better passer and probably a better runner. Yikes.

Senior linebacker Anthony Barr leads UCLA on defense and he's an absolute monster. At 6-4, 248 there is little question why he's considered a likely top five selection in the NFL Draft. His 10 sacks this season prove he's an outstanding pass rusher. It's too bad he'll end up somewhere terrible next season like Oakland.

The powder blue uniform belies the ferocious nature of Anthony Barr.

Linebacker/running back Myles Jack is a headache wherever he lines up. He was named both the Pac-12 offensive and defensive rookie of the year.

The last four games, Jack has seven touchdowns on just 37 carries. UCLA's diamond formation may well give Bud Foster a migraine.

But, given all that it's not unthinkable Tech can pull an upset. Bowl games are essentially a toss-up and the Hokies tend to play to the level of the opponent.

To win however, Tech needs a running back to step up and fill the hole left by injured starter Trey Edmunds. Logan Thomas has to avoid mistakes. Chuck Clark has to play big on defense to fill in for Kyle Fuller who will dress, but is limited due to injury.

As Doc Brown said in Back to The Future, so long as all of those things happen perfectly..."everything will be fine."

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