A team that lost its last two games to miss out on a BCS bowl bid goes against a team that had to win its last two games just to become bowl-eligible when Rutgers faces Virginia Tech in the Russell Athletic Bowl. The early Russell Athletic Bowl odds listed Virginia Tech as a one-point favorite; the Hokies have since been bet up to -2.5.
The Scarlet Knights and the Hokies clash Friday, Dec. 28 in Orlando (5:30 pm ET, ESPN). Formerly the Champs Sports Bowl, ACC teams have won eight of the past nine editions of this game, according to the bowl history article.
Virginia Tech only returned three starters on offense this season, but was still expected to contend for a third straight ACC Coastal Division title. The Hokies then started 2-0 this season, but proceeded to lose six of their next eight games, as they surrendered late leads against both Cincinnati and Florida State.
V-Tech then just managed to extend its bowl streak to 20 straight seasons by winning its last two games, over a couple of bad teams in Boston College and Virginia. So the Hokies finished 6-6 overall this season, 4-4 in ACC play.
Virginia Tech, led by QB Logan Thomas, who accounted for 3,300 yards from scrimmage and 26 touchdowns, averaged 392 YPG this season. Defensively, the Hokies held opponents to 345 YPG.
Rutgers, for its first season without Coach Schiano, was still expected to make a run at the Big East, thanks to 15 returning starters. And the Knights started hot, winning their first seven games and climbing to No. 15 in the rankings. But the perfect season came to an end with a loss to Kent State.
A few weeks later, following a tough win over Cincinnati, Rutgers had two chances to win the Big East title outright. But the Knights laid an egg in a loss at Pitt, and then, in the season finale, they coughed up a 14-3 third-quarter lead and lost at home to Louisville 20-17.
So Rutgers finished in a four-way tie for first place in the Big East, but missed out on the conference's BCS bowl bid because of that loss to the Cardinals.
Offensively, with RB Jawan Jamison rushing for 1,000 yards, the Knights averaged 341 YPG. But they were also held to just 33 points total over their last three games. Defensively Rutgers held opponents to 321 yards and just 14 points per game.
Playing below expectations this season, Virginia Tech is 3-9 ATS. The Scarlet Knights, meanwhile, are 7-5 vs. the numbers.
Virginia Tech is 8-11 in bowls under Frank Beamer, and has lost its last two. Last year the Hokies fell to Michigan in the Sugar Bowl 23-20 in overtime. Rutgers is playing in a bowl for the second straight season. Last year the Knights beat Iowa State 27-13 in the Pinstripe Bowl.
Russell Athletic Bowl Pick: Virginia Tech hasn't done anything to impress us this season, but they should have just enough to win this game. We'll take the Hokies with the short spread. (courtesy of PickShark.com)
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