MIAMI — Andrew Luck threw seven interceptions and 97 incompletions during the regular season. His knowledge of the NFL is less than encyclopedic, and he settled for a B in the most difficult class he has taken at Stanford, a mechanics course called Engineering 14.
Yet coach Jim Harbaugh is disinclined to find fault.
"Andrew is the real deal," Harbaugh says. "He is the best player I've ever been around, and he's even a finer young man. There's nothing about him where I say I wish he could do this, or I wish he didn't do this."
Stanford's passing paragon will take the national stage tonight in the Orange Bowl, when No. 5 Stanford (11-1) faces No. 12 Virginia Tech (11-2). It could be Luck's final college game. Although he's only a sophomore, he's touted as the likely No. 1 overall draft pick in April if he turns pro. He threw for 3,051 yards this year, and was mobile enough to run for 438 yards.
First there's the matter of beating Virginia Tech, which happens to have a pretty good quarterback, too. Senior Tyrod Taylor was chosen ACC player of the year, and he's often compared with one of his predecessors at Tech, Michael Vick.
Taylor seeks his third bowl win in his final college game.
"He's a stud," Luck says. "When the play breaks down, he's making guys miss and making things happen. You hate to go against guys like that, because you've always got to be on your toes. You never know when they're going to score."
While Taylor's mobility makes him dangerous, he needs to prove himself as a pocket passer to succeed in the NFL, and he's confident he can do it.
"I believe I can play in any offense," Taylor says. "Early in my career I was more of a runner. As I got older, I think I proved I can be a dropback passer. I can also use my feet, but I always keep my eyes downfield looking for a receiver."
When the Hokies were 0-2, Taylor led a seniors-only meeting that stabilized the situation.
"His legacy is that we'll always be talking about Tyrod Taylor," offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring says. "That's probably the best compliment I can give somebody."