Arkansas (7-5) vs Virginia Tech (9-4)
When: Thursday, December 29th 2016
Where: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC
Time: 5:30 ET | TV: ESPN
Two teams who have never met and both of whom have had recent Bowl success, will meet in this year’s edition of the Belk Bowl from Charlotte, North Carolina. The Virginia Tech Hokies will take on the Arkansas Razorbacks out of the SEC in what should be a great contest. Virginia Tech has won three of their last four Bowl games and are in the postseason for the 24th consecutive year. The Hokies defeated North Carolina, Miami (Fla.) and Pittsburgh as part of a solid first season under coach Justin Fuente, but came up just short in the ACC title game against Clemson. The Hokies got big production in that title game from quarterback Jerod Evans (one passing TD, two rushing TDs), Travon McMillian (two rushing scores) and Cam Phillips (12 catches, 92 yards and a TD). Evans enters the postseason with 27 touchdown passes, seven interceptions, and 10 rushing scores, while McMillian has added six TDs on the ground and another three through the air. Phillips (70 catches, 868 yards) forms a dynamic tandem with Isaiah Ford (73 receptions, 1,038 yards) for the Hokies. Ford totaled 10 catches for 143 yards and a touchdown in the victory over Pittsburgh earlier this season, but has scored only one TD in five games since and hasn’t reached 90 receiving yards in any of those games.
The Razorbacks also won some quality wins (TCU, Ole Miss, Florida), but ended the season losing two of their final three games including a 28-24 loss to lowly Missouri. The Razorbacks have won their last three bowl games, but they will need Austin Allen to play like he did in the first half of the season if they are going to extend their streak. Allen’s first five games featured 12 passing touchdowns, a rushing score and only two interceptions. His last seven games saw him throw 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, including multiple picks in the disappointing loss to Missouri to end the regular season. Rawleigh Williams III ran for at least 117 yards seven times this season and totaled 322 yards and five rushing scores in the last two games. Arkansas’ defense gives up a lot of yards and points, ranking in the lower-half in most categories. They are 76th in total defense (428.7), 94th against the run (209.3), and 83rd in points allowed (30.8). Their five losses this season came by an average of 25 points.
This Virginia Tech team is better than most think. They’ve always had solid defensive units, but now the offense can put up some points. Arkansas is not that good and they’re coming in with a couple of late season loses and QB Allen has been struggling. I think the Hokies win this one easily.
Pick: Virginia Tech -7