Hokies look to finish the season strong as they take on the Arkansas Razorbacks in the 2016 Belk Bowl
2016 Belk Bowl from Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina
Arkansas 7-5 (3-5 SEC) vs. #22 Virginia Tech 9-4 (6-2 ACC), 5:30 PM ET ESPN
VT -6.5, o/u 61
Virginia Tech: Lost to Clemson 42-35 in the ACC Championship
Arkansas: Lost to Missouri 28-24 in regular season finale
Virginia Tech and Arkansas are preparing to face-off in the 2016 Belk Bowl in Charlotte on Thursday afternoon, with both teams looking to close out their seasons on a high note.
For the Hokies, it has been a successful first season under coach Justin Fuente, as the Hokies won nine games and played #2 Clemson to the wire in the ACC Championship game at the beginning of December. With a win over Arkansas on Thursday, the Hokies would capture their first 10-win season since 2011.
For the Razorbacks, they look to salvage their eighth win of the season after getting battered and bruised in the tough SEC West division once again in 2016. After a loss to Missouri in the season finale, Arkansas is looking to end their season with a bowl victory to give them momentum on the recruiting trail down in SEC country.
The game itself on Thursday afternoon will pit two offenses that are similar style, but have very different strengths. Virginia Tech has made their living offensively this season by throwing the football with Jerod Evans, who posted a 3,309 yard season with 26 touchdowns to only six interceptions in his first season at the FBS level.
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It helps to have a bevy of receivers like Virginia Tech all-time leading receiver Isaiah Ford (1,038 yards, seven touchdowns) and tight end-turned-receiver Bucky Hodges (640 yards, seven touchdowns), who have tested defenses all season long. The difference-maker in this game to watch, however, is Cam Phillips, who came on strong at season’s end and finished as the team’s second-leading receiver with 868 yards and five touchdowns.
On the other side, Arkansas, while very solid throwing the football with Austin Allen, has made their money running the football with Rawleigh Williams III, who rushed for 1,326 yards and 12 touchdowns on the season. Williams III will test Virginia Tech’s 44th-ranked rushing defense, which has looked mediocre at times this season (Tennessee, Georgia Tech primarily come to mind).
When Arkansas does throw the football, quarterback Austin Allen will likely be looking primarily in the direction of Drew Morgan, whose 61 catches are well in the team lead. Morgan finished with 664 yards and three touchdowns on those receptions. Allen will also look to utilize receiver Keon Hatcher, as he is used frequently in the red zone and leads the team with seven touchdown catches on the season. It is likely in this game that Arkansas will struggle throwing the ball though, as Virginia Tech loves to bring pressure on the quarterback and has a strong secondary that helped support the nation’s 13th-ranked defense in passing efficiency.
When predicting this game, the nod has to go to the Hokies, as Justin Fuente’s bunch hangs their hat on playing good defense and efficient offense. While the offenses are clearly comparable, Virginia Tech’s defense is much, much better, which should help the Hokies capture their third consecutive bowl win, as well as their first 10-win season in five years.
Virginia Tech 31 Arkansas 20