2009 Keys to the Game and Matchups to Watch: Tennessee

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Virginia Tech returns to Atlanta for the third time this season to face the
Tennessee Volunteers in the Chick-fil-A Bowl on New Year’s Eve. The Hokies have
hopes for a sixth straight 10-win season and a victory over a Southeastern
Conference team. Lane Kiffin, the controversial coach of the Vols, is looking to
enhance Tennessee’s reputation with a bowl victory over one of the ACC’s best
football programs.

The two teams, located less than 250 miles apart, have not played since the
1994 Gator Bowl when Peyton Manning led the Vols to a decisive victory. However,
the Hokie football program has come a long way since that game in The Swamp. The
game has certainly received a great deal of interest in southwestern Virginia,
and hopefully a series between the two schools can be inked for the future.

Both teams have ended the season strongly with Tech winning four straight,
all by 13 points or more. Tennessee has won four of their last five games to
finish second to Florida in the highly competitive SEC Eastern Division. Having
watched ten of the Volunteers’ games this year, I feel comfortable in saying
that these two teams have considerably more in common than different, at least
with regards to the offensive and defensive philosophies.

Offensively, both Tech and Tennessee rely on power, zone-blocking running
schemes and play-action passing to control the ball. Defensively, both teams use
aggressive, attacking schemes to pressure the quarterback and stop the run while
using multiple coverage schemes designed to confuse the quarterback and prevent
the big play.

The major difference in the two programs is simply the personality of the
head coaches. The always understated Frank Beamer is the antithesis of the
divisive Lane Kiffin. The head coach of the Vols wasted no time in antagonizing
his brethren in the SEC by trying to hire numerous assistants from within the
conference. Kiffin succeeded in hiring assistant coaches from Alabama, South
Carolina, and Mississippi State, as well as former Ole Miss head coach, Ed
Orgeron. However, his most significant hiring was his father, defensive guru
Monte Kiffin from the Tampa Bay