Three Things to Watch for Virginia Tech Against Oklahoma State

By: Tim Thomas | @TimThomasTLP | Dec 28, 2017
Gameday is almost here as Virginia Tech looks to finish their season with a big bowl win that can give them some extra momentum going into the offense. Meanwhile, Oklahoma State is looking to send off star senior QB Mason Rudolph with a bowl victory and a 10-win season. With that said, take a look at the three things to watch for VT in the Camping World Bowl.

1. Virginia Tech's Defense vs. Oklahoma State's Offense

When this bowl game was announced, analysts across the country were immediately intrigued by the matchup between the Hokies' elite defense and Oklahoma State's high-powered offense. The stats back it up as VT's defense leads the nation in opposing completion percentage while Mason Rudolph was one of the top QBs in the nation and won the Unitas Award this year, the award for the best senior QB in the nation, over Heisman winner Baker Mayfield. There are plenty of great matchups especially on the outside with arguably the best WR pair in the nation (James Washington, Marcell Ateman) facing one of the best CB duos in the nation (Greg Stroman, Brandon Facyson). This will be the best individual matchup in this game and could make a big difference especially if VT can contain Washington who averages over 20 yards per reception. Oklahoma State also has a very good rushing game led by Justice Hill, but VT has a great rush defense to counter. The Hokies have shut down lots of talented RBs and allowed only 3.3 yards per carry during the regular season. Hill has had seven games with over 100 rushing yards, but he's also been held under 60 rushing yards twice and could have some problems against VT's rush defense. If there is one big concern for the Hokies' defense, it's the fact that they're allowing 14.7 yards per completion. That stat backs up the one weakness that the Hokies have had some problems giving up big pass plays at times from the 2 passing TDs allowed vs. Georgia Tech to the long screen TD against Clemson and the 74-yard completion against Pitt. The best part of this matchup may be the coaching battle between Mike Gundy and Bud Foster, two of the most talented football minds on their respective sides of the ball. Watching Gundy and Foster make adjustments should be fascinating to watch between two of the best at doing that. Bowl games are supposed to give us matchups that could only come together in these unique circumstances, and this year's Camping World Bowl has done that pitting one of America's best offenses against one of America's best defenses. For general college football fans, this matchup gives fans a compelling matchup that should be very entertaining to watch. For Hokie and Cowboy fans, they know this battle between the VT defense and OSU offense will likely be decisive.

2. Can the Young WRs Step Up?

With Cam Phillips out, we'll get a small early look at where Virginia Tech's wide receiver corps is at as they head into the offseason. While VT will benefit from having an eligible Damon Hazelton and healthy Caleb Farley next season, this game will show us where VT's receiving corps stands at. Eric Kumah and Sean Savoy will be the Hokies' primary guys as Savoy established himself as the #2 option early in the season while Kumah improved significantly into a reliable target over the course of this season. However, neither guy has had to be the primary guy until now with Phillips being out. The question is can Savoy, Kumah, and the other Hokie WRs step up with Phillips out? Fortunately, the Hokies are facing an Oklahoma State pass defense that is ranked 117th in the nation with opponents and gives up 7.7 yards per pass attempt (13.31 per completion). This is a great opportunity for Savoy and Kumah to show that they can be trusted as featured targets without a star like Cam Phillips to take some of the attention away. The matchup may be preferable for Kumah and Savoy, but they will still be tested by having to step up and become the primary focus. Kumah and Savoy both give VT different options with Savoy being the speedy receiver with lots of big play potential while Kumah gives VT a more physical, possession receiver on the outside. Savoy and Kumah have also both stepped up in previous games. Savoy took over the primary receiver role against Boston College with a career high 9 catches for 139 yards and a TD despite Cam Phillips getting injured in the first quarter. Kumah led VT against Georgia Tech with 6 catches for 82 yards to take some pressure off Phillips. Both have shown that they can be primary targets, but they'll have to do it this time with OSU knowing that those 2 will be the focal points of VT's passing game. Kumah and Savoy aren't the only Hokie wideouts to keep an eye on. CJ Carroll made his return against Virginia, and now has had multiple weeks of practice after his first game in weeks at the end of November. Carroll should help VT's offense and may push Savoy outside at times. Phil Patterson and Hezekiah Grimsley showed flashes of potential towards the end of the season with Grimsley having a career game against UVA. The question is can either of these receivers build some consistency in the bowl game.

3.Which Josh Jackson Shows Up?

Josh Jackson was two different players this season as he played well with lots of confidence during the first two months of the season, and struggled during the closing month of the season with his confidence decreasing significantly. Jackson had his three lowest passer ratings during the month of November with a small bounce back game against Virginia. During the Miami game, it was clear that Jackson was rattled in part by an offensive line that was struggling and causing him to take a lot of hits even if he got the ball away before taking a sack. Jackson's decreased confidence caused the Hokies' offense to struggle with VT's offense not scoring more than 20 points in any game in November after being significantly better during the first two months of the season. The offensive line play improved over the final two games of the regular season, but Jackson continued to struggle including against Pitt where he had his lowest passer rating and completion percentage of any game this season. However, Jackson should have more confidence in his offensive line now after their improved play in the final two games to build up that trust even if it didn't help him that much in those two games. Jackson should benefit from facing an Oklahoma State defense that gives up more passing yards per game than any FBS team Jackson has faced this season. The redshirt freshman QB also knows that the offense will have to be better than they were against UVA given the opponent, but we've seen Jackson rise to the occasion before as he did against West Virginia. So which Josh Jackson will we see against Oklahoma State? The answer to that question could make the difference in this game.

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