A trend to live by in college football: A proficient run defense will get you into a BCS bowl (unless you’re Boise State*—I can’t help you there). All 10 teams in BCS bowl games this year are ranked among the top 20 in the country in stopping the run. Seriously, here they are:
Texas, No. 2
Alabama, No. 4
USC, No. 5
Penn St., No. 8
Cincinnati, No. 13
Utah, No. 14
Florida, No. 16
Oklahoma, No. 18
Virginia Tech, No. 19
Ohio State, No. 20
*In case you’re curious, and I know you are, Boise State is ranked No. 15.
I don’t really want to get into why the above statistical rankings seem to prevail in getting teams into BCS games; that’s neither here nor there. What I would like to do is examine the implications that rush defense (now that we’ve established that it could very well be a trumping stat) may have on games involving Big East Conference teams.
Today, I’m focusing strictly on the marquee bowl for the Big East: the Orange Bowl. As you’ll see above, Cincy has a better rush defense than its Orange Bowl opponent, Virginia Tech, so notch a point for the Bearcats.
Virginia Tech does, however, grab the edge in rushing offense (No. 42) over Cincy (No. 93). What does this mean? Well, if you ask me, it’s a push because Cincinnati’s superior run defense will marginalize Tech’s solid rushing attack, and vice-versa.
Where things will get interesting is in the passing attack. Frank Beamer’s pass defense is incredible (No. 15). Brian Kelly can’t say the same for his pass defense (No. 68).
I’ve left the best stat for last, though: Virginia Tech is downright dreadful when it comes to throwing the ball. In fact, the team’s TD:INT ratio is 6:11. You read that correctly, folks; Virginia Tech as a team (we’re not just citing one quarterback’s statistics) has thrown for fewer touchdowns than interceptions, which is good for No. 111 in passing offense.
I’m sure Cincinnati’s fine coaching staff can already see where I’m going with this. If you stack eight men in the box for most of the game, Virginia Tech will have a tough time running the ball despite its decent ground game. Worried about them coming over the top with some down-the-field throws? Don’t be. Tyrod Taylor is better passing to opposing defensive backs than his own receivers, as demonstrated by the passing offense stat mentioned previously.
This brings me back to my opening point: Rush defense wins games. Don’t get me wrong; I do think that Virginia Tech can keep this game relatively close with its overall proficiency on the defensive side of the ball. But, given that Cincinnati can for the most part concentrate one-dimensionally on stopping the run, I give the edge to the Bearcats in the Orange Bowl.
Be sure to tune in on New Year’s Day to see if I’m right.
Learn more about the least respected BCS conference in the nation at http://dangerfielddivision.blogspot.com/.