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Orange Bowl 2011, Stanford vs. Virginia Tech Preview: Hokies Offense vs. Cardinal Defense

As the 2011 Orange Bowl between Stanford and Virginia Tech approaches, we are conducting a variety of preview updates to prepare folks for the game. It should be one of the more entertaining game as both sides bring fun offenses and lively defenses. We will be spending all month speaking with our Va Tech and Stanford blogs, Gobbler Country and Rule of Tree. Today they discussed the three best players on offense and defense. We’ll start with a look at the three best Hokies on offense versus the three best Cardinal on defense. Thanks to both sites for their time.

SBNBA: Who are the three most important players on offense for Virginia Tech in this game and why (if you feel the need to go longer or discuss a unit as whole such as your o-line, WRs, etc. you can do that as well)?

Gobbler Country: First and foremost, Tyrod Taylor has to play well for us to win the game. He probably had the best game of his career against Florida State and we’ll need a repeat performance against Stanford. The key thing with Tyrod is he may not have a lot of rushing yards like you’d expect a running quarterback to do, but when he does run it’s usually to try and pick up a first down. He did that several times against FSU, which was one of the main reasons we were 13-for-18 on third downs.

Next, one of the running backs needs to step up and be a game-changer. We rotate three running backs (Ryan Williams, Darren Evans and David Wilson) and they all bring something different to the table. Recently we’ve been getting solid, steady production out of all three. Well, one of them needs to do something special in this game like Williams did against Miami or Evans did against North Carolina. Maybe it’s time Wilson had a breakout game.

Finally, in order for those three to be successful, the offensive line needs to be effective. They’ve improved from game to game and have faced some very tough rushing defenses like Boston College, Boise State, NC State and FSU. All four of those ranked in the Top 15 in terms of yards per attempt allowed. Stanford ranks 57th in that category. In order for the Hokies to succeed, they’ll have to have a good rushing attack that keeps Andrew Luck on the sideline.

SBNBA: Who are the three most important players on defense for Stanford in this game and why (if you feel the need to go longer or discuss a unit as whole such as your corners, OLBs, etc. you can do that as well)?

Rule of Tree: Richard Sherman: Forgive senior cornerback Richard Sherman and the rest of Vic Fangio’s defense if they feel a bit slighted by the fact that no Stanford defensive player made the Pac-10 First Team. The Cardinal led the Pac-10 in scoring defense after all, and it was in large part thanks to an improved secondary. Sherman tied for the team lead with four interceptions and has a knack for making big plays in big games, or Big Game as it were. Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor has thrown seven touchdowns against zero interceptions in his last four games.

Shayne Skov: Stanford’s linebacking corps, led by the sophomore Skov, is the Cardinal’s strongest unit. Virginia Tech’s rushing attack is nearly as potent as Stanford’s and Taylor is one of the nation’s most efficient passers. When Skov committed to Stanford in 2007, it was no doubt with the thought of one day playing in a game such as this in mind. Expect Jim Harbaugh’s biggest defensive playmaker to seize the moment.

Chase Thomas: Thomas led the Cardinal with 7.5 sacks after switching from defensive end to linebacker in the offseason. He’ll have his hands full trying to contain Taylor, who, much like Luck, isn’t afraid to tuck the ball and run.