The 2011 edition of the Sugar Bowl features the Michigan Wolverines taking on the Virginia Tech Hokies. This game features two storied programs meeting in New Orleans after being chosen by the BCS.
The Wolverines returned to prominence this season under new coach Brady Hoke but did not reach the Big Ten title game. They were chosen by the BCS over Big Ten runner-up Michigan State after both SEC teams reached the title game.
The Hokies will be looking to bounce back from an ugly loss to Clemson in the ACC Championship Game. The Hokies’ selection came with some controversy, as Virginia Tech makes it into a BCS game at the expense of teams such as Boise State, Kansas State, and TCU.
Here are some key matchups to look for in the Sugar Bowl. The game will be played on Jan. 3 at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.
Two of the more exciting quarterbacks in college football will be in action here.
Quite simply, Denard Robinson is what makes the Michigan offense go. He leads the Wolverines in rushing as well as passing, running for 1,163 yards and 16 touchdowns. Robinson has also thrown for 18 scores in 2011, and Virginia Tech will obviously have to limit him if they are going to win.
Thomas is not as well-known as Robinson on the national scene, but he is very talented in his own right. The big sophomore has thrown for 19 scores this year while also running for 10. This game could be an opportunity for Thomas to stake his claim as a potential Heisman candidate heading into next season.
Virginia Tech’s Wilson has been one of the top running backs in the nation this season. The junior ranks fifth in the nation with 1,627 yards rushing.
Michigan is a middle-of-the-pack team when it comes to stopping the rush, giving up 129.1 yards per game. If they can put the clamps down on Wilson, then Michigan should be able to emerge with the victory.
Virginia Tech’s Hosley is one of the top defensive backs in college football, and he will lead a defensive corps that will face up against a talented group of Michigan receivers. The top target is Hemingway, who led the Wolverines with 32 receptions for 632 yards.
Hosley suffered a stinger and missed most of the ACC Championship Game, but he should be ready to go for the Sugar Bowl. He is a top NFL Draft prospect but could possibly return for a final season with the Hokies.
Toussaint ensured that Michigan’s ground attack this season was more than just the Denard Robinson show. The sophomore running back (1,011 yards and nine touchdowns) emerged as the steady back the Wolverines have lacked since the departure of Mike Hart.
Virginia Tech has a very stingy run defense, giving up just 107.1 yards per game. They will no doubt be focused on stopping Robinson, which means Toussaint should get some open lanes to run in. His production will be key if Michigan is going to win.
This game is a pair of coaching contrasts in terms of tenure, but not style. Both Brady Hoke and Frank Beamer rely on tough running games and physical defense in order to pile up victories.
Hoke was recently named Big Ten Coach of the Year for leading the Wolverines to a 10-2 record in his first year at the helm. A Virginia Tech institution, Beamer is the winningest active and longest-tenured coach in the FBS. This will be the Hokies’ fourth appearance in the Sugar Bowl.
Many will say that neither team deserves to be in a BCS game.
Virginia Tech has not beaten a team currently ranked in the Top 25 this season, and many will say their selection as a second ACC team was solely a result of a fan base that will buy plenty of Sugar Bowl tickets.
The Wolverines were selected as a second Big Ten team over Michigan State, who defeated the Wolverines 28-14 and represented the Legends Division in the conference championship game. Critics can say that Michigan was also chosen over other deserving teams because of their large fan base and big-name program.
Neither team can really prove anything by defeating the other, but a well-played game with an exciting finish would do a lot to make everyone forget how either team got to New Orleans.