#13 Michigan Takes on #11 Virginia Tech in Sweet Sugar Bowl Showdown

Michigan's Denard Robinson and Fitzgerald Toussaint look to make life difficult for Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl.

Though many College football fans may question the Sugar Bowl invites extended to the #13-ranked Michigan Wolverines (10-2, 6-2 Big Ten) and the #11 Virginia Tech Hokies (11-2, 7-1 ACC) this year over a number of higher-ranked and perhaps more deserving programs, now that game day has finally arrived and two solidly-matched football programs are set to hit the field, few will doubt that tonight’s 2021 Allstate Sugar Bowl will provide some exciting College Football action and great online sports betting choices for the lone Bowl game on Tuesday night.

The Michigan Wolverines have had one of the quickest and most exciting turnarounds for a College Football team in recent years, and that is in many ways due to the presence of junior quarterback Denard Robinson, one of the most explosive and exciting players in College Football today. While Robinson’s production may have eased from last year’s breakout performance during a 7-6 season, the improvements made on defense combined with the inclusion of a very capable running back in Fitzgerald Toussaint, has helped to balance the load for Michigan, and has brought them back to the elite level of play Michigan fans had grown accustomed to, finishing this year at a 10-2 overall record. Make no mistake however, this is still Robinson’s team first and foremost; Generating 18 touchdowns through the air and 16 more on the ground, Robinson has accounted for 34 of the team’s 51 touchdowns this year, and leads the team in rushing with 1163 yards on 208 carries. Running in tandem with the aforementioned Toussaint (174 carries, 1011 yards, 9 TDs), Michigan’s Denard Robinson-led offense comes into this match-up as a serious challenge on the ground against the 7th-ranked Hokies defense that is allowing just 17.2 points/game, as the 235.7 yards/game generated by the Wolverines with the run is undoubtedly a challenge even for the very best of defenses. However, with relatively little going on in the passing game, as no player on the Michigan squad has more than 32 catches or 4 TDs, it’ll be interesting to see how the Wolverines alter their run-first attack against a stout Virginia Tech team that is allowing just 107.8 yards on the ground this season (17th in the FBS).

For Virginia Tech, tonight’s bowl game is a shot to bounce back from the second loss of the season to Clemson in the ACC title game, and a chance to prove that their weak non-conference schedule has nothing to do with how good a team the Hokies really are. Their hopes of overcoming Michigan will start first and foremost with lead running back David Wilson (266 carries, 1627 yards, 9 TDs), who has been the heart and soul of the VT offense and is the ACC player of the year for 2011-12. In possibly his final game for the Hokies (he’s draft eligible after this season), Wilson will put his 125.2 yards/game average on the line against a solid Michigan defensive front which is allowing just 129 yards per contest. It is essential for Virginia Tech to have success in the ground game tonight, as it’s become plainly evident VT can’t keep up the scoring without good production from its lead back first and foremost. In the 38-10 loss to Clemson to close out the season, Wilson was held to just 11 carries for 32 yards, and the Hokies were forced to play catch-up via the pass, which obviously didn’t work well for them. While big-man sophomore quarterback Logan Thomas may be a decent all-around quarterback (2799 yards passing, 19 TDs/416 yards, 10 TDs on the ground) and does have a quartet of good receivers around him (4 Hokies receivers have more than 450 yards and 3 TDs on the year), VT can’t rely on the pass to help them through tonight’s battle with Michigan, as the bulk of their scoring and yardage comes via the ground attack. Therefore, getting Wilson started from the get-go will be job number one for VT, but keeping Michigan honest by throwing downfield at Danny Coale (52 catches, 787 yards, 3 TDs) and Jarrett Boykin (57 catches, 731 yards, 5 TDs) will certainly help ease pressure on their star running back, who Michigan undoubtedly will be intent on shutting down tonight.

In response to two teams that have very good quality running games, both the Michigan and Virginia Tech defenses are going to focus on containing the options for passing, and honing in on shutting down the run. For Virginia Tech, stopping Denard Robinson on the ground and forcing him to go to the passing game is their best shot at holding the Michigan offense in check. Robinson isn’t a great quarterback, as is evident by his %56.1 percent completion rate and 14 interceptions on the season, so forcing him to ditch the run and fall back on the pass would certainly play into VT’s game plan. However, VT must avoid hedging their defensive plan on just Denard Robinson alone, as Michigan has two 1,000 yard rushers in the backfield for the first time since 1975. Attention needs to be paid to Fitzgerald Toussaint as well, who when given 20 carries or more has gone for at least 120 yards rushing, and has averaged 150 yards and a TD in his last 3 outings to end the season. Virginia Tech must find ways to penetrate a very stable Wolverines offensive line led by center David Molk, winner of the Rimington Trophy for best center in College Football. Michigan has played very well behind a confident and strong front five, and getting through them will be tough but necessary towards slowing Michigan’s offense down. For Michigan on the other hand, the task gets a little simpler with their main area of focus lying on David Wilson. When Wilson doesn’t perform, the Hokies find themselves having to bank on their 66th-ranked passing game (227.1 yards/game) to pull them past opponents, and while only scoring 28.5 points in total with both offensive attributes production, forcing them to rely on the pass will be their undoing. The Hokies are also very good at ball possession, ranking 5th in the nation and 1st in the ACC at controlling the ball on offense; Getting stops on 3rd downs will certainly go a long way towards giving the Wolverines an advantage

in the Sugar Bowl tonight.

Betting Lines for #13 Michigan vs. #11 Virginia Tech at Oddsmaker Sportsbook
Despite their lower national ranking, the #13 Michigan Wolverines come into tonight’s Sugar Bowl battle against Virginia Tech as a -150 favorite to win on the money line, with -3 points to cover against the spread at -110 odds. VT on the other hand is a slight underdog at +130 odds, and gets 3 points to play with against the spread. The over/under may very well be in jeopardy in this bowl game tonight, as we’ve seen in most bowl games so far featuring good defenses; inevitably good defense in College Football is overcome by good offense, thus the 52 points as the total could fall with ease as these two teams find ways to score on big plays throughout the game despite the best efforts of the opposing defenses. It’s worth noting in this game tonight that history in bowl games is on VT’s side, as Michigan has lost 5 of their last 6 postseason appearances, and has not had a BCS Bowl game berth since 2007. Virginia Tech on the other hand has won 2 of their last 3 trips to bowl games, despite losing last year to Stanford in the Orange Bowl, and their players should have an advantage returning to the national stage on which they’ve had plenty of experience.

Our Pick to Win:

While Virginia Tech will make a good effort to prove they are worthy of being in a BCS bowl game after losing the conference title game to Clemson and sitting on a pretty weak schedule this year, Michigan is the team to beat in tonight’s match-up, with a better offense and just as good a defense as VT has. While I expect the solid Hokies’ defense to limit the all-around performance of Denard Robinson, I also think they’ll struggle with containing both Robinson and Fitzgerald Toussaint, who will give the Hokies a lot of different looks to contend with this evening. VT is vulnerable on offense especially because they hedge so much of their game on the run, led by David Wilson. If he doesn’t have a good game, VT won’t either. Therefore, expecting the Wolverines to find ways to generate offense even with Robinson held in check, I’m backing Michigan to squeak by in a close game, narrowly covering the points spread and beating the over/under in a 28-24 victory.

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