After playing for an ACC Championship in Orlando last year, the stakes aren't as high for Virginia Tech in Orlando this year. However, the Hokies have a chance at back-to-back 10-win seasons, but face a tough Oklahoma State team looking to send off senior stars Mason Rudolph and James Washington with a tenth win.
The Hokies and Cowboys both will be desperate to pick up an important tenth win in what has the makings of being one of the best bowl games this year. With that said, here are our picks for the Camping World Bowl.
After breaking through for a 10-win season in the first season of the Justin Fuente era, the Hokies have an opportunity to make it back-to-back via their bowl game. However, Oklahoma State is much better than last year's bowl opponent and presents a unique challenge that VT hasn't dealt with since their opener against West Virginia.
This is one of the most intriguing bowl games that isn't a part of the New Year's Six headlined by a matchup between Mike Gundy and Bud Foster. Foster's defense is the best that it has been in years while Oklahoma State's offense has been impressive in its third year of Mason Rudolph starting under center.
Virginia Tech's defense has been very impressive but if there's one weakness, it's how they've been prone to give up big plays at times. Against an offense with two receivers like James Washington and Marcell Ateman who are each averaging over 19 yards per reception, the Hokies can't afford for that to happen. Fortunately, VT has Greg Stroman and Brandon Facyson to keep close watch on them though you can bet OSU will try to find ways to get one of them on a DB not as skilled as one of those two in man coverage.
Oklahoma State has put together a strong running game with Justice Hill to compliment their passing game, but VT's rush defense has been fantastic. VT has held opponents to 3.3 yards per carry and has four players with 10+ tackles for loss led by Tremaine Edmunds with 14.5.
On the other side of the ball, Virginia Tech's offense sputtered in the final month as an injury to Yosuah Nijman showed a lack of immediate OT depth leading to more pressure on Josh Jackson. Those hits took a toll on Jackson and his confidence suffered on the way to a rough finish to the season.
However, the offensive line looked a lot better over the final two weeks as they were able to establish a rushing attack that had been missing all season led by Deshawn McClease. McClease had 141 rushing yards in the final 2 games and should receive a large share of the carries with Steven Peoples and Jalen Holston getting some work as well. With Cam Phillips out, the Hokies will need to establish their running game especially given how unknown Josh Jackson's confidence is at this point.
This is a really tough matchup to pick especially given the battle between a Mike Gundy offense and Bud Foster that should be entertaining to watch. Both of these teams are clear top 25 teams even with their injuries, and the Hokies will show that part of the reason for that is their special teams talent.
However, Oklahoma State has too much of a knack for big plays on offense and in the end, it'll help make the difference while VT's struggles to convert short third downs will prove costly this time. The Hokies will be a major player in the ACC and on the national stage next year, but they won't benefit from having bowl victory momentum going into the offseason as they will come up just short in what will be one of the best games of this year's bowl season.
Pick: #19 Oklahoma State 31, #22 Virginia Tech 27
The stockings have been emptied and the presents all opened. Hokie Nation is all ready for a bowl game treat. The Hokies extended their nation leading (I know FSU might be the leader but no one likes them anyway) bowl streak with a trip to Orlando. The Hokies are taking on a very tough Big 12 foe in Oklahoma State. The Cowboys present an interesting challenge for Virginia Tech, bringing one of the nation's best offenses with them to Orlando.
Good thing the Hokies have a great defense, because this opponent likes the score points. Bud Foster with have his hands full as Cowboy quarterback Mason Rudolph is among the best in the nation when it comes to passing. The senior has thrown for 4553 yards and 35 TDs this season.
Greg Stroman and his secondary mates will need to be near perfect to keep this game from getting out of hand. Mook Reynolds and Tim Settle will be very important for the Hokies defense as well. Reynolds will be called upon to be a coverage guy and Settle will be tasked in getting pressure on Rudolph. If the Hokies can get good pressure up the middle, the back end will have some opportunities to get some takeaways.
Historically, Big 12 defenses are nothing to really write home about, and the Hokies hope this remains true in this game. With Cam Phillips out
, the Hokies are going to have to get creative with the offense in order to stay in the game if it becomes a shootout.
The running attack will be paramount for the Hokies. Look for Jalen Holston to lead the way as he has emerged as a very capable back. Josh Jackson will need to control the game and sustain drives. Keeping Mason Rudolph off the field could turn out to be a defensive strategy that the Hokies have definitely been working on during the bowl prep.
There is no doubt in my mind Hokie Nation will turn out for this game, even with it being on a week day. The fans could be enough help to motivate Virginia Tech to victory. I think this game has the potential to be one of the best games of the bowl season. A great offense vs a great defense is exactly what any fan should want. I think the Hokies make just enough plays on both sides of the ball as well as special teams ( I’d lay money we score points there) to win a close one 35-31. LETS GO HOKIES!!!!!!!!!
Pick: #22 Virginia Tech 35, #19 Oklahoma State 31
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