Virginia Tech-Tennessee: Hokies Look To Restore Respect for ACC

The ACC and SEC BlogSenior Analyst IDecember 29, 2009

BLACKSBURG, VA - OCTOBER 29:  Running back Ryan Williams #34 of the Virginia Tech University Hokies carries the ball in the first quarter of the game against the North Carolina Tar Heels at Lane Stadium on October 29, 2009 in Blacksburg, Virginia.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

The ACC and SEC face each other one last time this season, on New Year's Eve, when Tennessee collides with Virginia Tech in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. 


Clemson already beat Kentucky to give the ACC the first matchup, but the Hokies will need to win as well to restore some conference pride after rivalry weekend was a clean sweep for the SEC.


The Hokies are making their third trip to Atlanta this season and hope it is better than the first two (losses to Alabama and Georgia Tech). 


Va. Tech is also playing for a sixth consecutive 10-win season that would keep pace with Texas as the longest such streak in the nation. 


The Volunteers are hoping to make many more trips to Atlanta in future years under Lane Kiffin, but they hope it is a little earlier in December and with a BCS spot on the line in the SEC Championship Game.


Still, Volunteer fans have to consider this season a success with the way they played Alabama and Florida, after some predicted utter failure because of their brash first-year head coach. 


The Chick-Fil-A Bowl will feature two of the best defensive minds in college football: Monte Kiffin of Tennessee and Bud Foster of Virginia Tech. Foster recently turned down Georgia to stay in Blacksburg, while Kiffin left the NFL to coach with his son this season.


The biggest question I have is, what can Monte Kiffin cook up with a month of preparation to slow down a Virginia Tech running game that averages over 200 yards per game?


Red-shirt freshman Ryan Williams led the ACC in rushing this season and really came on at the end of the season for Frank Beamer’s club.


Can Tennessee slow down the Hokie ground game?


But really that question could be turned around to Virginia Tech also. This season has been an unusual one for the Hokie defense, which ranks just No. 54 in rush defense. 


In all three of their losses, VT has allowed the opposition to run the ball with relative ease, especially in the second half. 


The Vols are a run-first team led by 1,300 yard rusher Montario Hardesty and freshman Bryce Brown. 


So really, I think this game comes down to who can run the ball and who can stop the run. The Hokies rank better in both of those categories and they also rank better in turnover margin—another important stat when teams look even on paper.    


I will take Virginia Tech to give the ACC two bowl wins over the SEC after a dismal end to the regular season. I feel fairly confident about this one too, giving the Hokies 24 of my 34 bowl points.


Virginia Tech 27 Tennessee 21