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Orange Bowl Preview: Stanford, Virginia Tech are Here Because of Their Conferences

Believe the hype.
Believe the hype.

Discover Orange Bowl, Jan. 3, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

What it is: The lowest-rated BCS bowl in most years, because for some reason it decided it wanted to be the home bowl for the ACC Champion.

The Teams: Stanford and Virginia Tech

How Stanford got here: By buzz-sawing through the Pac-10 almost as easily as Oregon. The Cardinal -- yes, it's singular -- defeated all but two teams by at least two scores, with the two-point win against Southern Cal and the four-point victory against Arizona State the exceptions. The only loss, of course, was to the Oregon Ducks. That happens when one of the teams in the conference is undefeated. The star, you've surely heard, is Andrew Luck, who threw for 3,051 yards, 28 TDs and 7 INTs while going 245-of-349. Of course, he has plenty of time to throw the ball; he's been sacked on average less than once every other game. Luck is also more mobile than a lot of people realize, running for 438 yards and 3 TDs on 51 carries. All of that while having a 1,000-yard rusher in Stepfan Taylor (1,023 yards, 15 TDs on 210 carries) in the backfield. What you might not realize is that Stanford also has a great defense, ranking in the top three in the Pac-10 in every major statistical category except sacks and tackles for loss. Whether Jim Harbaugh eventually heads to Ann Arbor or the NFL is anyone's guess -- and it is always just a guess -- but there's a reason that the Stanford faithful would prefer that he stay right where he is. Don't let the history or the fact that it's in the Pac-10 convince you otherwise; Stanford is a juggernaut this year.

How Virginia Tech got here: If you could answer that one easily, you could make a fortune. The Hokies spent the first two weeks of the season losing to Boise State and James Madison. Yes, James Madison is in the FCS. Yes, Virginia Tech did play them at home. But this is the ACC, and Virginia Tech managed to breeze by most of the remaining teams on the slate, including an 11-point win in the ACC Championship that wasn't really that close. Tyrod Taylor kind of sort of lived up to a bit of the hype, though he'll probably never be the Michael Vick clone that some people expected; he went 172-of-284 passing for 2,521 yards, 23 TDs and 4 INTs while running for 637 yards and 5 TDs on 130 carries. He only once threw more interceptions than touchdowns in a game. Helping out was Darren Evans, who ran for 817 yards and 11 TDs in his own right. The defense wasn't quite what you've come to expect in BEAMERBALL, but it was still good enough to hold opposing teams to 19 points per game and allowed just two ACC foes to score more than 21. One potential problem: Despite winning several lopsided games, the Hokies seemed to have trouble stopping the run. And most of their numbers were compiled in the ACC, so perhaps they should all be taken with a grain of salt.

College football fans care because: Stanford is a really good team and ought to be seen one more time.

SEC fans care because: We haven't done very well against the ACC this year, so we might as well enjoy when someone else defeats them.

Watch this game if...: You can. There's really no reason to miss it.

The result: Stanford 48, Virginia Tech 30