Sugar Bowl keys

The Allstate Sugar Bowl should be a fun, interesting chess match between not only veteran coach Frank Beamer and first-year coach Brady Hoke, but also between Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster and Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges, who has shown ample creativity with his play-calling this season. Here’s a look at three keys for the Hokies heading into tonight’s game:

1. The defensive line must win up front. In order to have a chance at limiting Denard Robinson and Fitzgerald Toussaint, the Hokies first have to get to them, and they’ll be going against a stable offensive line that is lead by center David Molk, the Rimington Trophy winner. Four of the five linemen have started all 12 games, and they’re a big reason why Toussaint had 450 yards over the past three games. Robinson and Toussaint both rank among the nation’s top 40 rushers. Michigan has the No. 12 rushing offense in the nation and has scored 28 points or more in each of its 10 wins.

2. Continue to control the clock. Virginia Tech’s best defense could simply be keeping Michigan's offense off the field by sustaining drives. The Hokies are No. 5 in the country and lead the ACC in time of possession with 33:54. They’ve got to get back to running the ball with David Wilson, which the Hokies weren’t able to do in the ACC championship game against Clemson. The Hokies ran for just 56 yards in that game.

3. Make the stops on third downs. Michigan is No. 12 in the country in third-down conversion percentage at 48.39 percent. The Hokies, though, are No. 10 in the country in third-down conversion defense, holding opponents to just 32.4 percent.