ACC Football Standout Senior 2012: Virginia Tech

Senior LB Bruce Taylor Leads a Young, Hungry Defense for the Virginia Tech Hokies

While we won’t be naive (and/or like Rick Reilly/Peter King/insert-your-own-cliched-columnist) and claim there’s some sort of pristine or pure honor in playing out your four years that other players just don’t get to experience, we’d still like to point out the senior players that are likely to stand out in 2012. These players have put in the time during their college careers, and now serve as the cornerstones of their respective teams’ potential success this season.

We’ll be going team-by-team in the ACC to identify the “standout senior” that’s key to his team, and why. Have a different thought on the matter? Feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments.

Bringing back most of a surprisingly young defense in 2012, Virginia Tech‘s still in need of a leader to keep everyone in line. Obviously, that duty falls to one of the few seniors in the group, linebacker Bruce Taylor. While Taylor spent half of 2011 out due to injury, there’s little thought the time away will hurt his effectiveness. With five sacks and 53 total stops through about seven-and-a-half games last year, he was obviously on track for an All-ACC season. Now, he starts his senior year with a mind on redemption (both personal and team). Continue reading

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Does the ACC Have the Nation’s Best Group of Quarterbacks?

We Look at Whether or Not the ACC's Crop of Quarterbacks Is the Nation's Best

The ACC, top to bottom, has the nation’s best group of quarterbacks for the 2012 season. Laugh all you want, but it may be hard to avoid the fact. While some may call out the pure number of schools we’re considering (14), or the fact that none are necessarily “elite” (false, by the way), this post’s going to try to prove those naysayers wrong. Or at least make them consider the opposing point of view. Maybe. Let’s jump in…

Of the 14 ACC starting quarterbacks, not one is in a real quarterback controversy. Just one (Stephen Morris) lost a position battle last year, and he still got considerable reps in 2011. Every one of these guys are upperclassmen — half seniors, half juniors. Six of them have also thrown for more than 3,000 yards in a season. Need I go on?

Below you’ll find a breakdown of the ACC’s signal-callers, compared to how they stack up to their counterparts in the Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC. To make all things even, we’ll average out all statistics across all passers. The categories will include: Career wins, 2011 passing yards, 2011 (total) TDs, and 2011 interceptions.

We’ll keep in mind this “study” isn’t perfect or scientific, so long as you remember we never claimed it was either. Continue reading

2011 ACC Season Recap: Virginia Tech Hokies

Was Virginia Tech's Defense a Product of Scheduling, or Were They Really That Good in 2011?

Team: Virginia Tech Hokies

W-L: 11-3 (7-2)

Postseason: 23-20 (OT) AllState Sugar Bowl loss to Michigan

Top Offensive Performer: Logan Thomas, QB

Top Defensive Performer: James Gayle, DE

Virginia Tech’s strategy during most seasons is simple — crush four patsies in the non-conference schedule, get themselves into the top 10-15 or so, and then hope the rest of the ACC has a down year. Given the four titles they’ve won since joining the league, I’d say it’s worked pretty well. The 2011 season was an exception, however. Against a young, fiery Clemson team that had its number, Tech was downed twice, each in resounding fashion. VPI would play just three games against ranked teams (teams that appeared in the year’s final top 25) all season, and lost all three. So was their season a farce?

The Hokies gave up just 17.6 points per game (seventh in the nation) — held even more impressive when you remove the team’s ACC title game debacle in which they allowed 38 points. In all, seven of their opponents scored 14 points or less, but just one of those possessed a winning record. Virginia Tech’s biggest flaw, as it ends up, was that teams could spread the field on them with the right set of athletes. Clemson did it twice. Michigan and star QB Denard Robinson pulled it off as well in a postseason loss for the Hokies. Georgia Tech managed it while even throwing the ball (rare, for them), and Miami came up just short as well. What Virginia Tech did best was pressure the quarterback and make stops in the red zone. Beyond that, the secondary was none too active, hence why all the QB pressure failed to create too many turnovers. For mobile passers (all of the teams above definitely had one), avoiding the pressure was all they had to do, with little worry about turnovers once the ball was released. Continue reading

Allstate Sugar Bowl Preview: Virginia Tech vs. Michigan

The 2012 Allstate Sugar Bowl Matches Virginia Tech Against Michigan

After suffering an embarrassing loss at the hands of Clemson in the ACC title game, few outside of Blacksburg gave Virginia Tech much of a chance to get to a BCS bowl. Yet, the Allstate Sugar Bowl organizers found the Hokies more appealing than the rest of the at-large field, despite owning zero wins against top-25 competition. They’ll face a resurgent Michigan team in what is arguably their toughest test to date.

Bowl Game: (Allstate) Sugar Bowl

Location: New Orleans, La.

First Year: 1935

2012 Participants: Virginia Tech Hokies (11-2) vs. Michigan Wolverines (10-2)

Last Meeting: None

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Virginia Tech (previous bowl game: 40-12 loss to Stanford in 2011 Orange Bowl)

Virginia Tech ran roughshod over its competition for much of the regular season, with its only loss coming to Clemson back in October. Though the Tigers would get the better of them once again in the ACC Championship Game, the Hokies defense remains one of the premiere units in the country — finishing eighth overall (FBS) in points allowed per game. While always a strong point, this year’s edition of the Tech D was first in the conference in sacks, second in interceptions, first in opponents third down conversion rate and second in turnover margin. On the other hand (as mentioned earlier), Virginia Tech lost their only two games to teams ranked in the final top 25 (both to Clemson) and was tested very little in the non-conference schedule. Also of note, they’ve been shown to struggle against mobile quarterbacks (Clemson’s Tajh Boyd, and for three quarters, Georgia Tech‘s Tevin Washington, in particular).

Michigan (previous bowl game: 52-14 loss to Mississippi State in 2011 Gator Bowl)

First-year coach Brady Hoke has brought the Wolverines back to the national spotlight, with a new, exciting brand of Michigan football that was regularly a must-watch game of the week. Quarterback Denard Robinson, their mobile and exciting captain, has delivered clutch play and an increased sense of maturity in 2011 — with come-from-behind victories and over 3,200 total yards. As frightening as Robinson is, however, he’s not the only piece of the puzzle. Michigan sports their own impressive defensive attack, ranking one spot ahead of Virginia Tech at seventh overall in points allowed. With so many ways to beat you, the Wolverines have scored at least 30 points in nine of their 12 games, and held opponents to 14 points or less in six games. Given time to gameplan for Robinson however, defenses have been prone to containing him (Iowa and Michigan State both did the job this season).

Verdict

In a game that could potentially be about two great defenses, this matchup may actually come down to who executes best on offense. With weapons like Robinson and the Hokies’ Logan Thomas on either side, points may actually hit the 30s for both teams, nullifying both defenses. Ultimately, the teams’ similar rushing attacks also equal off, leaving it up to their respective passing capabilities. In spite of Thomas’s superior numbers, Robinson is truly the better creator when passing the ball. And, since he’s been involved in more lopsided victories, his opportunities for late throws have been fewer. It may seem to be an inexact science, but the nod goes to Michigan and their high-powered attack. Prediction: Michigan 33, Virginia Tech 28