Virginia Tech Hokies Looks To Knock Off The Tennessee Volunteers In Atlanta

Justin CocchiolaCorrespondent IDecember 31, 2009

ATLANTA - OCTOBER 17:  Ryan Williams #34 of the Virginia Tech Hokies against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Bobby Dodd Stadium on October 17, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Virginia Tech will be making their 17th consecutive bowl appearance tonight against the University of Tennessee in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

Atlanta has not been kind to the Hokies so far this season. In case you've forgotten, the Hokies lost to Alabama in the Georgia Dome on Sept. 5. They then lost to Georgia Tech, who happens to play down the street, in October.

And the last time Tech played in the Chick-fil-A Bowl in 2006, they blew a 21-3 lead at halftime to the Matthew Stafford-led Georgia Bulldogs.

The Hokies finished the year strong after a rough two week stretch that included the Georgia Tech loss and added an additional loss to North Carolina at home on Thursday night.

Tech is led by one of, if not the best freshman running back in the nation, Ryan Williams. Williams has rushed for over 1,500 yards this season, and the freshman has a chance to become the single-season leader in the ACC for most touchdowns in a single season.

Williams has 19 so far this season, and he will have to surpass C.J. Spiller, who now has 21, and hope that Josh Nesbitt, who has 18 touchdowns, doesn't surpass him when the Yellow Jackets take on Iowa in the Orange Bowl. 

The Hokies will also be attempting to become one of two teams to have 10 wins in six straight seasons.  Texas is already there, and Southern California was unable to reach the mark for a sixth straight year.

The 10-win season seemed to be a recurring theme in Frank Beamer's weekly press conferences, and it's an obvious goal for the Hokies. Beamer seemed to put more emphasis on 10 wins than beating out-of-conference opponents, but that's a topic for another day.

Tennessee is a middle-of-the-road SEC team that doesn't have a lot of impressive wins, but has played their hardest competitors very tough.  The Volunteers nearly beat Alabama, but had two field goals blocked in that game, including one as time expired, and lost by two.

Tennessee was expected to be slaughtered by Florida, but they played the Gators tough and lost by only 10 to their heavily-favored rival.

The Volunteers won three out of their last four games to finish out the year with wins over Kentucky, Vanderbilt, and Memphis with their lone loss coming to Mississippi.  Tennessee also had impressive victories over Georgia and South Carolina this year.

They're a tough team to pinpoint, and they definitely started coming on strong towards the end of the season.  Tennessee ranks 18th in total defense and is allowing 21 points per game, while averaging just over 30 points per game on offense.

Virginia Tech is similar, averaging just over 31 points per game, and allowing around 16 points per game on defense.

Statistics only tell part of the story, but in this case they reinforce my belief that the game will have to be won on defense and special teams.

Both teams have their strengths and weaknesses, but Tennessee's strength lies in their secondary with Eric Berry. Berry will have the ability to control what the Hokies do on offense. 

Tyrod Taylor has played better this year, but this matchup is not in his favor.  If the Hokies want to win this game, they will have to be able to run the ball effectively.  If the run is taken away, the Hokies will have to rely on the arm of Taylor, which has proven to be inconsistent throughout his career.

The same goes for Tennessee.  Jonathan Crompton has turned it on during the second half of the season after a horrendous start to his year.  If he's unable to pass the ball efficiently they will have to rely on the run.  Montario Hardesty has had a good year, rushing for more than 1,300 yards, and the ground game should be the offensive focus for the Volunteers.

The Hokies have had a hard time stopping the run this year, and that's attributed to the their inability to tackle in the open field.  The problem is most evident in the linebacking corps by anyone that's not named Cody Grimm.  Grimm has been great all year, but the Hokies inability to tackle has lost them a couple of games.

I think it will be a good game, and it could come down to the wire.  I'm not expecting a lot of points to be scored, and I think the first team to 20 points wins.

Virginia Tech 20, Tennessee 16