Posted by Tom Fornelli
MICHIGAN WILL WIN IF: While both offenses in this game are pretty balanced, the Wolverines proved to be more potent on offense throughout the season, and generally did so against better defenses than the Hokies this year. Which should be good preparation for the Virginia Tech defense that Michigan will be facing in New Orleans. Statistically, the best defenses Michigan faced this season belonged to Michigan State, Illinois, Ohio State and Notre Dame. In those four games the Wolverines averaged 30 points per game. A good sign going into a game against a Virginia Tech defense that's allowing only 17.2 points per game this season, which is good enough for 8th in the country.
The true test for the Wolverines will be running the ball against a Hokie defense that allowed only 107.7 yards per game and 3.2 yards per carry on the season. Still, considering that Michigan's strength on offense is running the ball with both Fitzgerald Toussaint and Denard Robinson (the duo combined for 2,174 yards and 25 touchdowns in 2011) it wouldn't be in the Wolverines best interest to change things up now. Also, whie the Hokies were successful stopping the Georgia Tech run game this year, Georgia Tech doesn't present the passing threat that Michigan brings. No, Denard Robinson is not a great passing quarterback, as he completed only 56% of his passes this season, but he did throw for 2,056 yards and 18 touchdowns. What Robinson lacks in accuracy, he can make up for with the deep ball once Virginia Tech safeties begin creeping toward the line of scrimmage to stop the run.
VIRGINIA TECH WILL WIN IF: The Virginia Tech offense is similar to that of Michigan, though it's a bit more proficient when it comes to moving the ball through the air thanks to Logan Thomas. That being said, Virginia Tech averaged only 28.5 points per game this season, which is pretty middle of the road, and nearly 6 points less per game than Michigan. So how will Virginia Tech make up for those 6 points against a defense that is just as sturdy as its own? It's a good question and one that's tough to answer because Michigan is the best defense the Hokies will face this season.
Still, there is some reason to be optimistic about Virginia Tech's chances. The only defense that compares to Michigan that the Hokies faced this year would be that of Virginia's, and the Hokies posted 38 points and 410 yards of offense against their state rivals at the end of November. The best way for Virginia Tech to repeat that performance against Michigan may be to put the ball in the hands of running back David Wilson. Wilson finished the season with 1,627 yards rushing and averaged over 6 yards per carry. While Michigan's defense was solid as a whole, against the run it was rather mediocre. The Wolverines may have allowed only 129.1 yards per game on the ground, but they did so while giving up 4.07 yards per carry, which is only good enough to be 57th in the nation. So Virginia Tech would be well-served to use Wilson and the run game to set up Logan Thomas and the passing game.
X-FACTOR: While there are plenty of people upset by the fact Michigan and Virginia Tech are playing in this game rather than higher ranked teams like Boise State and Kansas State, the fact is, this matchup should be pretty interesting. These two teams are incredibly similar to one another, which could lead to a pretty exciting and close game. And anytime that's the case, you tend to look at the special teams, as a field goal could very well be what decides this contest. Unfortunately, that's another area where these two teams are essentially the same.
At least, they were during the regular season. Since then, however, Virginia Tech kicker Cody Journell has been suspended indefinitely after being charged with breaking and entering. In a game like this that should be close, being without Journell could be the deciding factor and tilt things in Michigan's favor.