For one thing, Virginia Tech doesn't necessarily have the offense to run away from Kansas. For another, each team's strength – Kansas's offense versus Virginia Tech's defense – will be directly matched up against one-another.
Because of that, most of these matchups occur on that side of the ball.
Here are the matchups for the 2008 Orange Bowl:
With Vince Hall listed as a game-time decision, Adibi will likely carry the battle standards for VA Tech's linebacking corps. It's no small job in this game. Not only will Adibi have to help against a very good Kansas rushing offense, he'll also have to key on Reesing to make sure he doesn't swashbuckle his way to big plays. Reesing is at his most dangerous when he can escape the pocket and either take off down the field or buy more time for receivers to break open. On the flip side, Reesing will face the fastest defense he's played all year, and may have to contend with poor field position on more than one occasion, courtesy of Tech's superior special teams. Task 1 is to stay mistake free, but Reesing will also have to make some big plays if Kansas wants to win this one.
2) Kansas wide receivers versus the Virginia Tech secondary
Marcus Henry enters tonight's game likely just one catch from 1,000 yards. He's a tall receiver with the speed to make a huge play, but he has his work cut out for him tonight. Brandon Flowers and Victor "Macho" Harris are among the top cornerbacks in all of college football, and they both have the skills to shut down Kansas's primary receivers, including Henry. But Kansas's offensive ability stems largely from its depth at wide receiver, matching up receivers like Dexton Fields and Kerry Meier against linebackers, safeties and nickel backs that don't have the strength or speed to keep up. Flowers and Harris can't be everywhere, and Kansas will need to open things up, perhaps with a post or corner route to Fields or Meier, to take advantage.
3) James McClinton, defensive tackle, versus the interior Virginia Tech line
For much of the game, McClinton will be matched up with guard Nick Marshman, who has nearly 80 pounds on him. While the McClinton has been undersized in just about every matchup this year, he has also won just about all of them, earning second-team All America honors. He suffered from an injury late in the year, and it shouldn't take long to see whether he's up to snuff. He'll need to be. While Tech's line hasn't been great this year, allowing 49 sacks, behind the line will sit Tyrod Taylor, a mobile quarterback who can take off in an instant. Defensive ends John Larson and Russell Brorsen are solid positional players who will try to keep Taylor from breaking containment, meaning McClinton will have to detonate the pocket from the inside out. If he's healthy, and his quickness is back, this could make for one of the most intriguing matchups in the game.
Collins is an athletic and nasty offensive tackle who was named a first-team All American. Ellis, on the other side, is a long, quick defensive end and bona-fide draft pick who has 8.5 sacks on the year and a number of hurries. They'll scrap it out on Reesing's backside, with the winner possibly determining the game. If Ellis can get to Reesing on a consistent basis, or force Collins to get help, Tech could supply the pressure it covets to try and rattle Reesing and make a big play. But if Collins is fully healthy and, in his typical dominating fashion, pushes Ellis over the field, Reesing should have the time he needs, and it could kick start a run game that VA Tech is usually so adept at stopping.
These two will be matched up for part of the game, but it's not there that this matchup ends. Royal also has the speed to impact a game in the running game and as a return man, while Talib will likely take some snaps on offense and at punt returner as well. When the two match up together, Talib has better size, while Royal has the better wheels. But both playmakers may need to dial something up in a key situation in their other roles, a big play to give their team the momentum to carry through to the finish.
The main key for Kansas is for Reesing to stay turnover free and manage the game against a defense hell-bent on pressuring him into mistakes. Key 1B will be how Kansas handles Virginia Tech's special teams unit with a penchant for blocking kicks and playing for field position.
Of course, with many bowl games, other factors include how teams adjust to the long layoff, as well as how they handle the emotion that comes with big plays. This game will likely see many big plays, from both sides, and how a team bounces back from adversity, or how well they deal with success, could also determine this game.
At the end of the year, Virginia Tech showed a very good offense to go with its great defense. Kansas, meanwhile, has a very good defense offset by a great offense. This one won't be a blowout either way.
Virginia Tech 24