The 2012 Sugar Bowl will feature No. 13 Michigan (10-2) and No. 11 Virginia Tech (11-2) in a matchup that showcases two surprise teams on Tuesday night at the Superdome in New Orleans.
Neither team finished in the Top 10, while perhaps more deserving teams like Arkansas, Boise State, Kansas State, and South Carolina, were invited to less prestigious bowl games.
Still, Michigan and Virginia Tech have had solid seasons, and are rather evenly matched. First-year coach Brady Hoke has turned Michigan around after the Wolverines had a combined record of just 12-13 over the past two seasons.
The Wolverines were perfect at home this season, and the team's two losses were within two scores. Michigan's offense has really come to life in the last three games with high-scoring efforts that include defeating then-No. 17 Nebraska, and rival Ohio State.
The Michigan offense revolves around star quarterback Denard Robinson, who will be looking to finish the season strong after posting weaker numbers than he did in 2010. The junior rushed for 16 touchdowns and 1,163 yards, and threw for 18 touchdowns and 2,056 yards in 2011. Robinson will need to be more careful throwing the ball, as he threw 14 interceptions and completed just 56.1 percent of his passes.
Robinson's main target is Junior Hemingway. The senior wide out led the Wolverines with 32 receptions for 636 yards in 2011. Hemingway will likely be covered by junior cornerback Jayron Hosley, who is considered a future first-round draft pick.
Though the Wolverines rely on Robinson, running back Fitzgerald Toussaint has been exceptional this season, and when he is not on his game, the Michigan offense struggles. Michigan lost both games when Toussaint was held to under 60 yards rushing. The sophomore rushed for a total of 1,011 yards in 2011, and has rushed for 120 yards or more in four of his last five games.
The Wolverines' defense will focus on David Wilson. This might be the last game of the junior's collegiate career, as Wilson is considered one of the best running backs in the nation. Wilson rushed for 1,627 yards in 2011 and averaged 6.1 yards per carry. However, he is coming off his worst game of the season, when he ran for only 32 yards on 11 carries, in the Hokies' 38-10 loss to Clemson.
Quarterback Logan Thomas is another Virginia Tech weapon on offense. The junior threw for 2,799 yards and 19 touchdowns. Like Wilson, Thomas will look to bounce back from the Clemson loss, when he threw two costly interceptions.
For Virginia Tech, the Sugar Bowl is about respect. The Hokies failed to defeat a ranked opponent all season, so a win over Michigan will do wonders for the program's credibility going into the 2012 season.
Frank Beamer would love to come away with a victory after last season's brutal loss to Stanford.
LINE: Michigan is favored by 3 points.
OVER/UNDER: 52 points
PREDICTION: Two teams that like to run ball will be doing a lot of running. Expect a big game from David Wilson, who probably has another 100-yard game in him. Virginia Tech may have a stronger defense, but they may find catching an elusive Denard Robinson more trouble than they anticipated. Michigan seems more battle-tested for this game, so the Wolverines will have the slight edge. Expect this game to go down to the wire.
PREDICTED SCORE: Michigan over VT, 35-31