On the (not really) Rivalry: Virginia Tech

Happy New Year's from Maize n Brew!

While everyone is watching the Lions and taking a break from college football, I thought we'd sit down with the fine folks at Gobbler Country, SBN's VT blog, and serve up a few questions.

So here you go. Take it from the guys that know Va Tech football - and enjoy the next few days! Two days till the Sugar Bowl.

Who should we be scared of on Virginia Tech's offense? Is Logan Thomas the real deal or is it too early to tell? Does he run that much or is he more of a keep-the-defense-honest runner?

I think Logan's the real deal. He isn't the kind of runner Tyrod was or Denard is. He's mobile enough to be a threat when he drops back, but he's more dangerous in the option game and especially in short yardage. He's carried the ball 24 times on 3rd down and three yards or fewer to go and has picked up the first down 23 times. It's a great weapon to have and is one of the reasons Tech is 2nd best in the ACC on third down. The trick for Tech is getting into third and short.

Michigan's weakness has historically been the passing game. Are you confident airing it out or will we see a lot of David Wilson (more on him later)?

Tech's M.O. is to establish the run to set up the play-action pass. I doubt you'll see Tech air it out, but my hope is that they'll use some short passes early to get Thomas into a rhythm and see what out players can do in space. As good a player as Wilson is, we could utilize him better against teams like Michigan with a strong defensive front by getting him the ball in the passing game on swing passes to the outside and on screens to keep the pass rush honest. We just don't do either of those a lot.

David Wilson can flat-out run. How did Clemson contain him, and what does he do well?

Well, Clemson contained him by getting an early lead and forcing Tech to go away from the ground game. Wilson had a solid game in the first meeting, but the Hokies turned the ball over and failed on some critical third downs. In the last meeting, he just wasn't given the ball enough early to have an effect on the game and the next thing we knew we were down two touchdowns and had to throw the ball again.

Any defensive standouts that will give Michigan fans nightmares?

Nightmares? Not really. Jayron Hosley was expected to be our best player defensively, but he's struggled with a tweaked hamstring all season and just hasn't been as good in coverage has he was the previous two years. He's still a strong open-field tackler, though. James Gayle is a solid pass rusher. Antone Exum can make some big plays from the secondary helping against the run. I think we're a team that's solid across the board, but doesn't have one guy that's going to stand out on film this year.

Who will be tasked with containing Denard Robinson? How will the Hokies contain him? Spies? Blitzes?

I'm really not sure if there's one guy who's going to be given the assignment of containing Denard. Exum's the best pure athlete on the defense and is the only one who could conceivably do it. I said this in the preview, but he's a special athlete and if you go out and make it your goal to stop him, you're toast to begin with. You need to take away his friends. Stop Toussaint (who I think could be the MVP of this game) from getting yards between the tackles, cover Hemingway and Koger and just hope Denard has an off night. That's the best you can do. This offense we're getting ready to face is just hot right now and hopefully the long break between games is enough to throw that off.

What happened against Clemson? Were those two games flukes or was Frank Beamer outcoached offensively?

There's nothing fluky about getting your ass handed to you by the same team twice in the same season. I don't even think it was out-coaching. We were just out-classed on both sides of the ball by a better team with better players. Clemson's defensive line absolutely dominated at the point of attack and their offensive line pushed us around.

Surprisingly, VT's special teams isn't the juggernaut they usually are. Is this just a result of a few boneheaded plays?

Our punter is a wide receiver.

How does the fan base feel about Frank Beamer? What's it like to have the same coach for 25+ years? It's been a long time since Michigan has had coaching consistency.

He's beloved. This program was built from the ground up by him, he played here, it's his show. There are some fans who are ready for this program to turn the corner and be a serious contender for a national title and Beamer has responded to that by adding some younger members to the coaching staff and putting a new emphasis on recruiting. What we've seen here is something we might never see again in college football and I think our fans need that perspective. What's happened here is special and even if we don't win a national title under Beamer, we have it pretty good.

What are Tech's gameday traditions? Anything as awesome as Michigan's third-down key jingle?

Well, we also do the third-down key jingle. We also have the "Enter Sandman" entrance, the turkey call to fire up the crowd when the defense is on third down (we used to be the Fighting Gobblers), the Corps of Cadets and corps marching band, the Hokie Pokie between the third and fourth quarters. You'll see that when the regular marching band performs at the game.

As a Sugar Bowl veteran, any recommendations for first-time fans headed to the Sugar Bowl? Eats/drinks/etc?

It depends on what your situation is. I don't have kids, but if you're going with your family I think you need to hit up the aquarium and go down by Jackson Square. If you're there to poison your liver, there are a ton of places on Bourbon Street you can go and Napoleon House just off it. For food, if you're a seafood person you'll be in paradise and if you're not a seafood person like me, you're still in paradise. I always try to hit a couple of places -- Court of Two Sisters (I'll be there for the jazz brunch the morning after the game) and Brennan's (just for the Banana's Foster because I can't afford the rest of the menu). Then I try to go to at least one place I haven't been before. This time around it's Jacques-Imo's, which comes at the recommendation of our most respected columnist.

Also, make sure you hear some live jazz of some form whether it's at Preservation Hall or anywhere along Frenchmen St.

What's your gameday drink/beer of choice? Any local breweries we should check out?

As far as local stuff, you guys may or may not have had some of the Abita stable of beers. I'm a big fan of the amber and also like Turbodog. And it's really fruity, but Purple Haze is surprisingly good. It's just too sweet to have more than one, though. The Crescent City Brewhouse is also down there and has live music occasionally. NOLA Brewing Company is also down there, though I've never had one of their beers.

Lastly, how do you see the game panning out?

Tech has its usual slow start, gives up an early score, gets kept at arms length for most of the game, gives up a big play to Denard late to seal it and loses 31-21.

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