Rutgers Scarlet Knights (9-3 SU, 7-5 ATS) vs. Virginia Tech Hokies (6-6 SU, 3-9 ATS)
Russell Athletic Bowl Preview
Date/Time: Friday December 28th, 2012. 5:30PM Eastern
Where: Florida Citrus Bowl Orlando, F.L.
by Jay, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Rut +2/VT -2
Over/Under Total: 41
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Typically the Virginia Tech Hokies’ goal each season is to play in South Florida at the Orange Bowl. After all Coach Frank Beamer has consistently kept Virginia Tech at the top tier of the ACC and the Hokies are usually in the midst of the ACC Championship hunt where the winner plays in the prestigious Orange Bowl. Well this year the Hokies are headed to South Florida but possibly not as far south as they had hoped. Following one of the worse seasons in the Frank Beamer era, the Virginia Tech Hokies will meet the Rutgers Scarlet Knights in the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando on Friday December 28th.
The Hokies had to rally this season to win their final two games to finish at 6-6 at earn a postseason bowl bid. Still, the 6-6 mark is the worse for a Virginia Tech team in 20 years dating back to the 1992 season. It is unclear whether Beamer is truly in the hot seat considering the type of prestigious program he has built in Blacksburg. However, Virginia Tech definitely wants to avoid ending the year with a losing record when they meet the Scarlet Knights this Friday night. Luckily the Hokies have a little history on their side considering ACC teams have won the last 8 of 9 pairings in the Russell Athletic Bowl.
For Virginia Tech to keep the ACC trend intact they will have to take down a solid Rutgers’ team that is coming off a respectable 9-3 campaign and a share of the Big East Championship. The Scarlet Knights narrowly fell to Louisville 20-17 in the season finale. If a few things would have turned out differently in that game, the Scarlet Knights would have been headed to the Sugar Bowl. Instead, the Scarlet Knights will have a chance to win their 6th straight postseason bowl game when the meet the Hokies in Orlando.
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Ironically this game will feature two teams with eerie similar identities. Both Rutgers and Virginia Tech have struggled tremendously on offense while riding their defenses all year. Rutgers especially has been horrible on paper averaging just 341 total yards (100th in FBS) per game. QB Gary Nova has battled consistency issues all season and as a result the offense has kept the ball on the ground more often than usual. Tailback Jawan Jamison has carried the team for 1,054 yards on the ground this season and he will likely be the key guy again for the Scarlet Knight’s offense against Virginia Tech.
Still, Rutgers’ strength this year has been the play of their defense that has held teams to just 321 total yards (14th in FBS) per game. Rutgers has a lot of talent on the defensive side of the ball and they are superb against the run. Virginia Tech’s main issues this year has been the play of the offense. The Hokies have averaged just 391 total yards (71st in FBS) per game. Bud Foster’s defense has been solid as usual holding opponents to just 344 total yards per game (24th in FBS). However, Virginia Tech has to find a way to move the football against one of the best defenses they have had the privilege of playing all year when they meet Rutgers.
One of the main factors surrounding the Hokies struggles on offense this season surrounds the play of QB Logan Thomas and a subpar running game. Virginia Tech has had the luxury of housing some really talented tailbacks over the last few years but have yet to find that breakout guy in the backfield this season. Thomas actually leads the team with 528 rushing yards. The coaching staff had a lot of high hopes for Thomas entering this year but the junior has not met those expectations throwing the football. Thomas has completed just 52% passing for 2,783 yards with 17 scores and 14 picks. Obviously the turnovers have been an issue and a big reason the Hokies’ offense has been rather vanilla this year. It will be interesting to see what type of game plan Coach Beamer puts together and if he allows Thomas the opportunity to throw the ball often if the Hokies fail to have any success running the football. Somehow either Virginia Tech or Rutgers is going to have to find a way to break through on offense.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: The total for this game is set very low at the 41 mark making it one of the lowest totals for the entire bowl season. However, I think this game will still go under that mark because both offenses have been pathetic down the stretch. I’ll take my chances on the under 41. Good luck!
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