NCAA Orange Bowl 2011: #4 Stanford Cardinal vs. #14 Virginia Tech Hokies Open Thread

Tonight's game will be full of intrigue for many bay area sports fans as well as many other pundits, talking heads, and pro scouts. The game will showcase two highly ranked teams and feature several potential pro-caliber talent.

Andrew Luck will hands down be the most watched player in tonight's game. Most folks already have him chalked up to being the very first selection in the 2011 NFL Draft... should there be one of course. Luck has led his team to an 11-1 record this year losing only to the National Championship team Oregon Ducks. Although the Cardinal lost, the offense still managed to put up 31 points. Currently Stanford's ranked 9th in the nation scoring 40.3 points a game. Luck will not be left to do things on his own this evening as he has a terrific supporting cast in the run attack led by sophomore running back Stepfan Taylor.

Stanford has some good players on defense, but there may not be a single player on that side of the ball (with exception to senior fullback/ linebacker Owen Marecic and senior defensive lineman Sione Fua) that will be selected very high, if at all, in the April's draft. With that said, they are still ranked 11th in the nation in total points allowed (17.8).

Virginia Tech is similar to Stanford in that their strength is on offense. Like Stanford, they don't have a bunch of players on defense that have mounds of pro talent with exception of corner Rashad Carmichael; they just manage to play well as a unit.

Most people knock Tyrod Taylor calling him a "run-first quarterback", but fail to realize, even if that is half true, he is still a better quarterback statistically than was current pro bowl starter Michael Vick when he played for the Hoakies. Taylor will have his work cut out to out-duel Andrew Luck, and may not. But one thing is for certain, he will have a nice supporting cast on the ground as carries will be shared between Ryan Williams and Darren Evans, who together have combined for 1200 + yards and 20 touchdowns. We should see a healthy dose of both of those guys in tonight's Discover Orange Bowl.

All in all, it seems as though Coach Harbaugh will have his team focused and ready to come out of this thing with a win. Even so, Virginia Tech will play hard for 60 minutes. One thing is still uncertain in regards to Harbaugh, and the question remains... will coach Harbaugh pursue a career in the NFL? And if so, where will he end up? So far the three teams that may have expressed the most interest in Harbaugh are the 49ers, the Dolphins, and the Broncos. 

Join after the jump to look at some of tonight's

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#4 STANFORD CARDINAL VS. #14 VIRGINIA TECH HOAKIES

 

KEY PLAYERS TO WATCH THIS EVENING FOR THE CARDINAL:

1. Andrew Luck - QB: Andrew Luck is regarded in many different ways by a lot of different people. Some say that he is overrated and others think he is the real deal. Well tonight he has a chance to put to rest a majority of the skeptics. However, even if he plays well, there will always be doubters out there. The only thing that matters, is that Luck believes in himself. I believe that he has a really good chance to showcase his confidence come game time. He will be tested against a very good secondary.

2. Stepfan Taylor - RB: Taylor is regarded as one of the best running backs in the nation. There is no doubt, that barring injury, he will be lining up on Sunday's eventually.

3. Owen Marecic - FB/ OLB: It's not too often that you see guys play both sides of the ball anymore. Well Marecic does it and he does both well. He has been one of the leaders on this team throughout his career. There is no question that he will be a big part of tonight's game.

4. Ryan Whalen - WR: Whalen is a very solid receiver and has been for his time at Stanford. He is one of Andrew Luck's best targets. Look for these two to be on the same page all night.

5. Sione Fua 34DT: Fua is going to be a pro and in many ways already plays like it. His stock has dropped some as of late, but he can give it a ride back up this evening.

6. Delano Howell - S: Howell is Stanford's leading safety with 4 interceptions. He will need to have to a big game tonight in the secondary to help slow down Tyrod Taylor and wide receiver Jarrett Boykin of the Hoakies.

7. Richard Sherman - CB: Sherman has 4 interceptions for 39 yards this year. He has been the number one corner all year. He is tall for a corner at 6'3" and weighs 192 LBS. He is a senior this year, so getting him in a later round could be feasible.

 

KEY PLAYERS TO WATCH THIS EVENING FOR THE HOAKIES:

1. Tyrod Taylor - QB: Taylor is going to be a nice project quarterback to pick up in the NFL Draft for 2011. His ceiling is very high. He will be a low risk-high reward selection for whoever grabs him. He doesn't possess Michael Vick speed, but he is very dangerous as a duel threat.

2. Darren Evans - RB: Evans seemed to have been resurrected this season after he missed all of 2009. He had 800 + yards on the ground and 100 through the air. He has a chance to go over 1000 multi-purpose yards this evening. He had 11 touchdowns on the year which made for 22 career touchdowns at the college level.

3. Ryan Williams - RB: Williams missed a stint of 4 games in the middle of the year for 2010. This seemed to have dropped his stock some, but he is still just as dangerous and explosive. Even though he missed, he still scored 10 times this year (9 on the ground and 1 in the air).

4. Jarrett Boykin - WR: Boykin is the Hoakies best option at the receiver position. Boykin could be tonight's silent star. What I mean by that, is that he could be the key piece to Virginia Tech having great success tonight.

5. Jayron Hosley - CB: Hosley led the ACC in interceptions with 8. He managed to rack up 110 yards after those picks. He is very dangerous and will be lurking and waiting to pluck an Andrew Luck pass out of the air. Hosley is only a sophomore; if he continues on like this, he has a bright future ahead of him.

6. Davon Morgan - S: Morgan is the Hoakies second on the leader board in regards to team interceptions. He is safety net for the Hoakies secondary. He will need to be one of the pivotal pieces if the Hoakies want to win tonight. Of course it will be a team effort, but Morgan will have to have some say so.

7. Rashad Carmichael - CB: Carmichael started out as one of the top prospects at his respective position. He is still considered to be good, but his stock has dropped some as has his production. He still has 4 interceptions on the year which is two less than his 6 last year. He has 10 total career interceptions; two of which he has taken back to the house.

 

Coverage: ESPN/ ESPN3, ESPN Mobile

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