Arkansas Razorbacks (7-5 SU, 5-7 ATS) vs. No. 22 Virginia Tech Hokies (9-4 SU, 7-6 ATS)
College Football Belk Bowl Preview
Date/Time: Thursday December 29th, 2016. 5:00PM (EST)
Where: Bank of America Stadium Charlotte, N.C.
by Jay, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: ARK +7/VT -7
Over/Under Total: 61.5
The Arkansas Razorbacks will meet the no. 22 Virginia Tech Hokies in the 2016 Belk Bowl at Bank of America Stadium on Thursday, December 29th. The Hokies are coming off a pretty impressive effort in the ACC Championship Game where they stood toe to toe with no. 3 Clemson through 60 minutes but fell short in a 42-35 loss. However, Virginia Tech proved in that performance that they are a really solid football team especially behind the play of quarterback Jerod Evans. Now the Hokies will try to reach the 10 win mark for the first time since 2011 when they take on a competitive Arkansas team in Charlotte.
In many ways, the Razorbacks were a victim of the dreadful SEC West. Outside the SEC West, the Razorbacks were 5-1 SU with the majority of their losses coming against the likes of Alabama, Texas A&M, Auburn, and LSU. I think Virginia Tech will be the popular pick in this game for the way they played on the primetime stage against Clemson combined with the fact the Razorbacks faded down the stretch. However, I think it will be interesting to see how this Arkansas team stacks up against an out of conference opponent that they match equally in terms of overall talent.
I think the biggest matchup concerns for Arkansas is will their defense be good enough against Jerod Evans? Evans has put together an extremely impressive junior campaign by completing 63.5% of his passes for 3,309 yards with 27 scores and 7 picks. Evans also leads the Hokies in rushing with 759 yards and 10 touchdowns on the year as well. The Razorbacks pass defense has been pretty solid this year but they have struggled against the run. Therefore I think the opportunity is there for Evans and tailback Travon McMillian to make some plays between the tackles. If that happens, it will definitely open things up for Evans in the passing field.
Arkansas matches up pretty well against this Virginia Tech defense but they cannot afford to let the Hokies start dominating on the ground. If they can avoid being dominated in the run game, they match up well on the outside. Still, the Razorbacks are going to score points and that is where it is a bit difficult to predict how this game will unfold. Arkansas has been very inconsistent on offense. This is the same offense that was held to 3 points against Auburn, bounced back to score 31 against a very strong Florida defense in victory, then scored 10 in the loss to LSU, bounced back to hang 58 in the win over Ole Miss, and then ended the season with a surprising 28-24 loss to Missouri. Therefore, this offense epitomizes inconsistency in every way possible.
To make things even more confusing, Bud Fosters Virginia Tech defense has been pretty inconsistent as well. I know they do not have the best talent but you never really know what type of effort you are going to get from that bunch either. What we do now is that the Razorbacks are aligned with talent at the skill positions. Quarterback Austin Allen has thrown for 3,152 yards with 23 scores and 12 picks. Running back Rawleigh Williams III has rushed for 1,326 yards with 12 touchdowns and they have plenty of talent in the receiving corps to test teams down the field. Therefore, they have all the weapons to test Virginia Techs defense and potentially yield a winning effort. However, I just do not see any clear advantage from either team in this game. As a result, I like the free points in this game.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I think this game is a toss-up in terms of talent and matchup potential. I believe it really comes down to the team that approaches this game with conviction. Bielemas teams have historically played well in the postseason and the Razorbacks are 2-0 SU under his command in bowl games. Therefore, I will take the points and Arkansas +7!
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