Don’t look now, but the Maize and Blue are back in the BCS. It may not be the Rose Bowl, but things appear very good in Ann Arbor in Brady Hoke’s first season with his Michigan Wolverines.
But then again, his opponent in the 2011 Sugar Bowl is Virginia Tech, and neither this program nor head coach Frank Beamer is a stranger to this game or the big stage. The Hokies have yet again made a statement that they are one of the class programs in all of college football with another big game appearance.
The Wolverines were a dominating 8-0 at home in the Big House this season, so one of the main concerns for me is how they will perform away from home, albeit in a neutral environment. Michigan played just four road games this season and finished 2-2 in those games.
Virginia Tech, however, stepped out and played more games away from Blacksburg than they did in their home, Lane Stadium. The Hokies were an impressive 6-1 in away games this year and nearly as good at 5-1 at home.
Denard Robinson, Michigan’s do-it-all quarterback, is no doubt going to be the talk of the town leading up to this year’s game in New Orleans. But with Logan Thomas opposing him under the center, Virginia Tech has its own dual-threat calling the plays.
Thomas did record 400 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns this season, along with playing more efficiently and with fewer turnovers through the air than Robinson (2,700 yards, 19 touchdowns and nine interceptions).
Points are going to be scored in this one. Michigan knows its best chance to win is to outscore teams with Robinson and his feet. Granted, this offense is much more tame than last year’s version. But Michigan knows it isn’t going to pitch many shutouts—especially with its defense still evolving and improving from a season ago.
Michigan scored 30 or more points nine times this season with four games of 40 or more points. Virginia Tech sprang for 30 or more on seven occasions this year as well.
2011 Sugar Bowl College Football Odds
Michigan is currently listed as a 2.5-point favorite over Virginia Tech in the 2011 Sugar Bowl, according to college football odds.
The total between the Wolverines and Hokies is 51, and has held steady at that number across the board.
2011 Sugar Bowl Betting Trends
The Wolverines have seen 10 of their last 11 bowl games go over the posted total. But this year, Michigan was just 5-7 against the total number in its games. U of M is also just 8-20 ATS in their last 28 games against winning teams.
Virginia Tech has covered 70 percent of the time in their last 20 games as an underdog. They are 18-8 ATS in their last 26 games against winning teams. However, the Hokies are only 3-9 ATS in their last 12 games overall.
2011 Sugar Bowl Predictions
Let’s watch Bud Foster work. How will Virginia Tech’s defensive coordinator scheme up a plan to contain Denard Robinson?
Well, containing Robinson isn’t really possible, so maybe the thing he will have to do is limit is number of rushes and force the turnover-prone quarterback into bad decisions throwing the ball. That is something Michigan’s top weapon has done way too often over the last couple of seasons.
But at the end of the day, I have a hard time seeing how Virginia Tech can match what Robinson brings to the table offensively. I know Logan Thomas and speed merchant David Wilson are going to be dynamic together in the backfield.
But Michigan is playing too well and knows how big this game is toward making another step forward to reclaim its position as the dominant program it once was.
As long as Michigan doesn’t completely struggle with turnovers, they will score a BCS victory.
2011 Sugar Bowl Free Pick: Michigan 31, Virginia Tech 27
Doc Moseman is the owner of Doc's Sports football picks website.