New Year’s Eve kicks off with the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, NC. The Virginia Tech Hokies take on the Kentucky Wildcats at 12pm. We’ll break down the ACC/SEC showdown here.
Virginia Tech Hokies: 8-4 (5-3)
Justin Fuente finally got the program heading in the right direction again in his fourth season in Blacksburg. After an excellent 10-4 first season, the Hokies have dropped win totals in the following two years. This year they are going for their ninth win and are just nine points away from winning the ACC Coastal.
The season started slow for the Hokies who lost their first two conference games to start the season 2-2. They followed by winning the next five ACC games and fell just short at rival Virginia in what was a play in game for the ACC Championship game.
The Hokies have juggled quarterbacks quite a bit this season. Senior Ryan Willis started the first for games but was rotated out against Duke in his final start. His replacement Hendon Hooker went on to win every game he started with the exception of the season finale against Virginia.
Willis would see time one last time in the 2019 season after Hooker got injured against UNC. It was short lived however as third string quarterback Quincy Patterson would finish the game and lead the Hokies to a six overtime win. He also started the following game and nearly pulled off a big upset against Notre Dame.
Kentucky Wildcats: 7-5 (3-5)
Kentucky also has had their fair share of quarterback troubles. Junior Terry Wilson led the Wildcats to a 2-0 start but suffered an ugly season ending injury against Eastern Michigan. He was followed by backup Sawyer Smith who would start and lose the following three games.
Smith did not start against Arkansas due to injury and NFL bound wide receiver Lynn Bowden Jr. would take over. Since taking over the Wildcats have gone 5-2 including an absolute thumping of rival Louisville in the season finale.
Mark Stoops has once again proven that he is an elite coach. He has turned a 2-3, dangerous looking season into a promising 7-5 performance. He has managed to do it with a wide receiver at quarterback and nearly no production through the air. In his seven starts, Lynn Bowden has thrown for over 100 yards just once and has bottomed out as low as 25, 17, 9 and 4 yards.
If there’s one major flaw in the Kentucky game plan it is the obvious – a lack of a passing game. They are so obviously one dimensional that a team that has a full month to prepare may be able to develop a game plan to stop them.
Virginia Tech’s passing defense is horrendous but that shouldn’t hurt them. Their rush defense ranks 26th in the country at just 123.4 yards per game. Kentucky’s rush offense ranks 4th in the country at 274.8 yards per game setting up what should be a very entertaining battle.
Kentucky has a very strong defense as has been Mark Stoops calling card. They rank 12th in scoring defense and 4th in passing defense. They’ll have their hands full with Hooker who comes in as a threat with his legs just as much as with his arm. They’ve faced a similar challenge in Kelly Bryant earlier in the season and showed they were able to contain him.
Virginia Tech: 16, Kentucky: 24
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