Denard Robinson has helped power Michigan back into the top tier of college football.
Allstate Sugar Bowl, Jan. 3, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
What it is: The bowl where the SEC champion goes when not in the national title game -- so, never
The Sponsor: An insurance company to protect you from mayhem -- like Joe Tessitore
The Teams: Michigan and Virginia Tech
How Michigan got here: Denard Robinson. The quarterback/sensation threw for 2,056 yards and 18 touchdowns against 14 interceptions and ran for 1,163 yards and 16 more touchdowns. Robinson had a lot of help from Fitzgerald Toussaint, who rushed for 1,011 yards and nine touchdowns in his own right. But the Wolverines also made an enormous amount of progress on defense; last year, they were ranked in the triple digits nationally in passing efficency, total and scoring defense. This year, they are ranked 37th, 17th and seventh in those three categories. And those are just the most striking examples. Michigan didn't really get blown out in either of its losses -- to eventual division champ Michigan State and bowlbound Iowa -- and only had a few truly narrow wins. If the first season is any indication of what Brady Hoke can do in Ann Arbor, than the Wolverines are definitely on their way back to college football's elite.
How Virginia Tech got here: Nobody really knows. The fact of the matter is that Virginia Tech is a relatively bad football team that played a schedule that made Georgia's slate this year look like the NFC North. The Hokies played just one team all year that was ranked in the final AP Top 25. They played that team twice. Virginia Tech lost both times. And most of the Hokies' wins were by relatively narrow margins, so it's not like they were leveling those teams to show that they deserve to be ranked. There's really no reason to carp at the Sugar Bowl for taking Virginia Tech, especially among the sportswriters who are responsible for the rankings in the first place. If the boosters in New Orleans want to have a blowout in the Superdome, that's their right. The Hokies do rank well on both offense and defense, but again -- schedule. Logan Thomas (215-363, 2,799 yards, 19 TDs, 9 INTs; 137 rushes for 416 yards and 10 TDs) is a nice player and should be a star quarterback in his senior season -- but the chances that he can power the Hokies past the Wolverines seem remote right now.
College football fans care because: Unless you're a Virginia Tech Hokies fan, you should be rooting for Michigan on principle.
SEC fans care because: If there's one conference SEC fans should hate more than the B1G, it's the ACC.
Watch this game if...: You really like Michigan or really don't like Virginia Tech.
The result: Michigan 45, Virginia Tech 13