In 2014, legendary coach Frank Beamer and former SEC champion coach Tommy Tuberville squared off in the Military Bowl with Virginia Tech getting the win over Cincinnati to finish the season with a winning record.
Four years later, the Hokies and Bearcats are once again facing off in the Military Bowl with VT needing a win to extend their long streak of winning seasons. The only difference this time is the coaches with Justin Fuente and Luke Fickell facing off in this matchup of Beamer and Tuberville's successors.
Virginia Tech has had a roller coaster of a season to get this point, but after a dramatic win over Virginia and a dominant win over Marshall, the Hokies have a chance to extend their streak of winning seasons. Meanwhile, Cincinnati have had their first 10-win since 2011 when the Bearcats were led by Butch Jones with Cincy having a shot at their first season of 11 or more wins since 2009 when the Bearcats went 12-0 in the regular season under Brian Kelly. With that said, check out our pregame stories and picks for the 2018 Military Bowl below.
Bowl games can be the hardest thing to predict at times because of the fact that some teams check out and don't really show up for the game. However, both of these teams seem likely to leave it all on the field with Cincinnati having a breakout season and Virginia Tech not quitting on their season when they easily could have during their four-game losing stretch that destroyed their hopes of playing for an ACC Championship.
Weather could be a factor that limits the passing games of both teams, something that could be advantageous in some ways for Cincinnati. The Bearcats have one of the best rush defenses in America ranking seventh in rushing yards allowed per game and allowing only 3.2 yards per carry. Meanwhile, Michael Warren has been impressive for the Bearcats running for 1,163 yards and 17 touchdowns on an average of 5.2 yards per carry.
Virginia Tech will have to find a way to establish an interior running game against this stout front to create space on the perimeter for their screens especially given the potential weather difficulties surrounding establishing a vertical passing threat. Meanwhile, the Hokies' defense has improved in recent weeks and with a healthy defense, should be able to provide a tougher fight especially with the improved play of Ricky Walker due to him being 100%.
One factor to watch is the fact that Virginia Tech's best defensive performance came against Florida State when the Hokies had weeks to prepare for the Seminoles. Additionally, the Hokies seem to finally have some defensive confidence that showed at times in their dominant first half performance against Marshall.
Cincinnati will be able to move the ball well, but VT will be able to get a couple stops to force field goals thanks to their defense that's starting to find their rhythm. Meanwhile, the Hokies' running game has improved and should be able to give the offense a spark combined with a Ryan Willis that seemed to have things click for him again against Marshall, making this a much more interesting matchup.
This will be a sloppy game and though the records suggest a large margin in the on-field talent, the Hokies' momentum combined with Cincy's weak resume suggest that this matchup should be very competitive. The Bearcats are the better team and it's hard to imagine the Bearcats winning this game.
However, the Hokies have found ways to win games and finish with winning seasons at moments when they seemed to have no business doing so and this feels like one of those times. With Bud Foster having a month to prepare a healthy defense finding their rhythm combined with an improved rushing attack, the Hokies will find a way to upset Cincinnati for their 26th straight winning season.
Pick: Virginia Tech 21, Cincinnati 20
Bowl season has arrived, and the Hokies get to take part in it thanks to two straight victories including a miraculous victory over in-state rival Virginia. The Hokies face a Cincinnati squad that scores an average of 34.9 points per game.
Unfortunately, for the Hokies defensively, that statistic doesn’t fair well as they’ve given up an average of 30.7 points per game. On the other side of the ball, the VT offense scores an average of 29.8 points per game. Defensively for Cincinnati, they've been very good giving up only 16.1 points per game.
Overall, Cincinnati is 10-2, but when you look at their resume there doesn’t seem to be any convincing win that shows they’re as great of a team as they look on paper. The only ranked team they’ve played all year was UCF who they lost to 38-13.
Looking at VT, they don’t have a very impressive resume either. The Hokies are barely a .500 team, but they did beat 3 teams playing in bowl games (Virginia, Duke, Marshall).
Expect this game to start off slow. Then, by the second quarter the offenses should start to pick up. After all, neither of these teams have played for a few weeks so there could be some rust.
Either way this will be a high scoring game. So if you like offense, definitely tune into this game. Expect the game close until the end of the fourth. I expect Cincinnati to come out of this one only because of a slightly better edge on defense. Cincinnati 38 VT 28
Pick: Cincinnati 38, Virginia Tech 28
Photo Credit: Harley Taylor
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