This has been a good week to be a Vol and a Vol fan.
Lane Kiffin has worked all week to keep his team focused on the task at hand, to improve while maturing his young ball club.
This team has been fun to cover, fun to watch and hopefully will cap off the 2009 season with Kiffin's signature win of his inaugural season.
Lets not kid ourselves, its not going to be an easy task.
Virginia Tech is a very formidable opponent and on paper probably should win the contest. With Monte Kiffin having over three weeks to scheme a plan against the Hokies I have to like our chances of pulling off the upset.
James' Prediction: 21-17 Vols
Lane Kiffin has been concerned with Tennessee's focus throughout their bowl preparations while Frank Beamer has applauded his team for a great week of practice. It seems that the big city has affected Tennessee's practice all week long. If the Volunteers have any advantage it has to be defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. With almost a month to prepare you have to believe the elder Kiffin has pieced together a phenomenal game plan.
Without special teams coordinator Eddie Gran I believe the Vols with struggle mightily in the kick game. Virginia Tech's special teams are known throughout college football and will play a large role in Thursday night's game. Tennessee will have a great mismatch in junior tight end Luke Stocker, but defensive coordinator Bud Forster seems acutely aware of Stocker's ability.
Frank Beamer has continuously stressed turnovers throughout the week. I believe the team that wins the turnover battle with walk away the Chik-fil-A bowl title. In the end I think Tech will be too much for the Volunteers in the Georgia Dome. I hope I am wrong because it will be a long ride home to Knoxville after a loss and a crummy start to my new year.
Chris' Prediction: Virginia Tech 28 Tennessee 24
After watching the Vols practice all season, I can attest that I have not witnessed a level of focus equal to this week's. Montario Hardesty is really fresh and it shows. I think behind a rested, yet thin offensive line, Hardesty will surpass 100 yards tonight.
The Hokies rush defense is 52nd nationally, not overly impressive. But that's not to say Ryan Williams won't surpass 100 yards on the night too. I don't expect either team to air it out much, with two respected secondaries manning the field.
Hate to break it to you Vols fans, but Eric Berry will not snag an interception tonight and the record will not be broken. Virginia Tech knows better than anyone not to throw his way, and Monte Kiffin will utilize Berry more as a linebacker anyways, to back up a weak Volunteers linebacker core. But hey, maybe Janzen Jackson will force another fumble?
Over the Fulmer years, it seemed like I became conditioned to expect letdowns in bowls, as Fulmer teams went 3-5 since 1999, following the ‘98 National Championship. That includes two years in which Tennessee failed to make a bowl game.
This is the first bowl game under the brash Kiffin and Co. and my heart tells me he will not let us down. With over a month to scheme, Monte will definitely be ready for what has been advertised as a diverse Tech offense under mobile quarterback Tyrod Taylor. I expect a low-scoring game, with lots of running. If the Vols don't turn it over, they will control the game at the end.
Patrick's Pick: Tennessee 17 Virginia Tech 14