Keys to the Game: The Sugar Bowl

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Snubbed by the BCS calculators and slide rules, SEC champion and #3 Auburn heads into the Sugar Bowl with a big chip on its shoulder. They will want to start fast and finish faster, looking to steamroll ACC champion and #9 Virginia Tech to show the college football world that they belonged in Miami, not New Orleans. Tech will gladly accept the challenge, playing up the role of the heavy underdog as only the Hokies can do. While Auburn tries its best to shake the distractions and disappointment of the BCS snub, the Hokies return for the third time to their favorite bowl destination, with confidence, karma, and no pressure.

As usual, in this article I will focus on specific factors that will be key for Tech’s success on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. I considered adding a special teams section this time, but I haven’t done that so far and who am I to mess with karma? Plus, I’m a little superstitious when it comes to the Hokies, so offensive and defensive keys it is.

Enough of the fluffy introduction stuff. Let’s get to the details….

Tech Defense vs. Auburn Offense

Everyone knows about Auburn’s superb running back duo of Carnell “Cadillac” Williams and Ronnie Brown, and while both have been as good as advertised, they do not tell the full story of the Auburn offense. This is an offense that is best described as multi-dimensional, versatile, and very balanced. This season they have shown a variety of formations, have introduced a new wrinkle or two each week, and have run or pass with equal comfort on any down in any situation.

In Jason Campbell, the Tigers have an experienced quarterback that has flourished in his senior season under new offensive coordinator Al Borges. Campbell is a big, strong quarterback that can make all the throws. Not particularly quick or fast, he isn’t a scrambler per se, but he has good feet and good mobility out of the pocket. He reminds me of former UVa QB Aaron Brooks, with Brooks a little more athletic and Campbell a little stronger. Like Brooks, Campbell prefers to throw from the pocket where he can exploit vertical passing lanes with his height, but he is also very good when he’s on the move, both on planned rollouts or when escaping pressure.

Much like Tech’s Bryan Randall, Campbell has