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Orange Bowl Preview: Stanford's 'D' vs. Virginia Tech's 'O'

Quarterback Tyrod Taylor is the unquestioned leader of a Virginia Tech offense that averages 35.5 points per game, and while he's demonstrated an ability to beat teams with his arm, the running game is the Hokies' biggest strength. The mobile Taylor is part of Virginia Tech's ground attack, which ranks just behind Stanford in yards per game (208.92). The Hokies typically rotate Ryan Williams, Darren Evans, and David Wilson at running back. In the ACC title game against Florida State, that trio combined for 45, 69, and 45 yards, respectively. When the Hokies go to the air, Taylor most often looks to 6-foot-2 Jarrett Boykin, who led the team with 48 receptions and six touchdowns, and speedster Danny Coale.

Three Keys

Contain Taylor: The Virginia Tech experts from Gobbler Country don't know how much zone-read option the Hokies will employ in the Orange Bowl, but given its effectiveness earlier in the season and Stanford's inability to slow Oregon's Darron Thomas, expect to see Tyrod Taylor attempt to get to the edge against the Cardinal's outside linebackers. The senior quarterback was Virginia Tech's second-leading rusher this season, but hasn't rushed for more than 57 yards since October 9.

Force Turnovers: Virginia Tech leads the nation in turnover margin and a big reason is that Taylor has thrown only one interception in his last eight games and four all season. Stanford ranks third in turnover margin and a big reason is that its secondary produced 15 interceptions.

Avoid the Big Play: Stanford's defense didn't allow many small plays, much less big ones, toward the end of season in limiting its last five opponents to a combined 44 points. Virginia Tech doesn't have quite the same quick-strike ability of Oregon, but it's important that Stanford doesn't get lulled to sleep by the Hokies' running game and then get beat deep. In other words, stay disciplined.

Three Numbers of Note

34: Points allowed by Stanford in the first quarter this season. Virginia Tech scored 14 points in the first quarter of its 44-33 win against Florida State in the ACC Championship.

3: Shutouts for Stanford this season, the most by a Cardinal defense since 1969.

9/16/1995: The last time Virginia Tech was shut out. The Hokies lost 16-0 to Cincinnati.

Three Players to Watch

Sione Fua, Stanford DT: Fua, who has 4.5 sacks this season, will be tested up the middle by Virginia Tech's regular rotation of running backs.

Owen Marecic, Stanford LB: The two-way starter and fan favorite has 13 tackles in his last three games and is playing his final game in a Stanford uniform.

David Wilson, Virginia Tech RB: While Gobbler Country thinks Williams could be the running back primed for the biggest game against Stanford's 3-4, Wilson is the player most likely to break off a big run.