2016 Belk Bowl, Virginia Tech vs. Arkansas Prediction, Game Preview, History, Scores

2016 Belk Bowl, Virginia Tech vs. Arkansas Prediction, Game Preview, History, Scores

Virginia Tech

2016 Belk Bowl, Virginia Tech vs. Arkansas Prediction, Game Preview, History, Scores

Belk Bowl Prediction, Virginia Tech vs. Arkansas Game Preview, History, Scores


Three reasons why you should watch the Belk Bowl between Virginia Tech (9-4) vs. Arkansas (7-5), why each team might win, honest thoughts, line and prediction.


200-belkBroadcast

Date: Thursday, December 29th
Game Time: 5:30 pm
Venue: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC
Network: ESPN

Contact/Follow @PeteFiutak

Scroll down for the video preview and bowl history

The Bowl Matchup Ranking Of Awesomeness (1 best-40 worst): 18 out of 40

Three Reasons Why You Should Watch The Belk Bowl

The ACC needs this win. It’s a down year for the SEC – that’s not going to happen for long. It’s an up year for the ACC – that might continue. But it would be a black mark on the ACC season if the team that came really, really close to pulling off an ACC championship loses to a middling SEC team that struggled to find any semblance of consistency. For Hokie head coach Justin Fuente, this would be a nice way to end a first campaign.

Bret Bielema isn’t on any sort of a hot seat, but … he’s 25-25 in his four years as the Arkansas head coach. He’s had time to put his pieces in place, and while his teams have been competitive, and it’s never easy to rock in the SEC West, a loss would mean he’s got a losing record during his time. Don’t think that won’t be brought up if Arkansas gets out to a slow start next year.

These have been two great bowl teams over the last several years. The two programs are used to closing the season strong. More on Arkansas and bowls in a moment, but the program has won four of the last five bowls going back to the overtime win over East Carolina in the 2009 Liberty. Virginia Tech won a wild 55-52 shootout over Tulsa in Frank Beamer’s last game – the Independence Bowl – with wins in three of the last four bowls.

Here’s Why Arkansas Will Win The Belk Bowl

Time to get all tough and be what Arkansas is supposed to be. Can the Hogs line up and blast away like they’re supposed to under Bielema? Tennessee was able to rumble for over five yards per carry, and teams that committed to the ground game were able to crank up the big numbers when they had to. 11 of the 21 rushing touchdowns Virginia Tech allowed came in the four losses – Arkansas has to get running.

Field position might matter, and the punting game should have plenty to do with that. The Hogs didn’t get too much out of the kicking game over the last few years, but Toby Baker has been terrific this year, averaging close to 45 yards per kick for a punting game that’s among the best in the country. Virginia Tech has an offense to do just about everything, a tilted field is a big deal to an Arkansas offense that bogs down at times.

There might be issues overall, but all of a sudden, Bielema is the guy who can win bowls. Barry Alvarez was only partially joking when he jabbed that Bielema getting to Rose Bowls was fine at Wisconsin, but the goal is winning them. After going 2-4 in bowls with the Badgers, and losing four of his last five, he’s won both of his bowl appearances with the Hogs, and both in blowouts. They blasted Texas two years ago, and Kansas State in the Liberty last season.

Here’s Why Virginia Tech Will Win The Belk Bowl

Can Arkansas come up with a third down stop? The Hog defense has had its moments, and when it dominates on third downs, it wins – Florida converted 1-of-11 chances – but on the year opposing offenses have been able to keep the chains moving without a problem. What’s been among the biggest keys in the five loses? The Hogs are 1-5 when allowing offenses to convert 45% or more of their third down chances? Virginia Tech averages 42%. On the flip side …

Virginia Tech’s defense is a rock on third downs. Clemson was able to own third downs in the ACC championship, and Syracuse converted 10-of-21 chances in its shocking upset over the Hokies. Duke was the only other team to convert more than 30% of its third down chances. For an Arkansas team that needs to control the ball and the clock, conversions are a must.

Jerod Evans is one of the better quarterback in a league full of great quarterbacks. As long as he doesn’t throw picks, the Hokies are fine. Five of his seven picks came in three of the four losses, and there were other issues against Tennessee. However, he’s been among the nation’s most dynamic playmakers throwing for over 3,300 yards and 27 scores, while running for 759 yards and ten touchdowns. Not only is he able to keep the offense rolling, but as he proved against Notre Dame and Clemson, he can rally the team back if needed.

You’ve Read This Far, So You Get Three Honest Thoughts On The Belk Bowl

Will the Arkansas pattern continue? The Hogs have been able to bounce back from losses, or they’ve let down after wins, depending on which way you want to look at it. After starting out the season 2-0, Arkansas went win-loss-win-loss-win-loss-win-loss-win-loss. If you believe in never messing with a streak, this might be a win.

Will the Belk finally be any good? There was a nice run of a few games with four straight close battles from 2008 to 2011, but the last four have been big, dull duds that got lost in the glut of the bowl season. The SEC blew out the ACC in the last two, and the last four have been decided by 13 points or more. This should be closer – at least that’s the hope.

Austin Allen didn’t get enough credit for a solid season, but this might be his breakthrough moment for next year. Arkansas is supposed to be about running the ball, but he carried the offense throughout the year throwing for 187 yards or more in every game. Yards aren’t a problem – he hit Alabama for 400 – but it’s about the picks. Nine of the 12 interceptions came in the five losses. However …

Super. So Who’s Going To Win The Belk Bowl?

Can the Arkansas running game get going? The Hogs are 6-0 this year when running for 180 yards or more, and Virginia Tech has allowed at least that many in five of the last six games.

Expect the Arkansas defense to play with another gear, and for the offense to come up with the balance needed to keep the aggressive Hokie D on its heels.

This will be the Florida game Arkansas, and not the LSU or Auburn versions, but you’ll know how it goes right away. If Virginia Tech owns the first quarter and looks terrific, it’ll roll – but it won’t.

Final Score

Arkansas 37, Virginia Tech 30

Line

Virginia Tech -7, o/u: 61.5

ATS Confidence: 3.5
5: Your New Year’s Eve chances to score in your favorite bar
0: Your New Year’s Eve chances to score after covering a College Football Playoff semifinal

Must See Rating: 3.5
5: New Year’s Eve: Defected In The House, Ministry of Sound, London
0: New Year’s Eve Live with Anderson Cooper and Special Co-Host Kathy Griffin

Get Tickets For The Belk Bowl

Belk Bowl History, Results

Dec. 30, 2015 Mississippi State 51 N.C. State 28
Dec. 30, 2014 Georgia 37 Louisville 14
Dec. 28, 2013 North Carolina 39 Cincinnati 17
Dec. 27, 2012 Cincinnati 48 Duke 34
Dec. 27, 2011 N.C. State 31 Louisville 24
Dec. 31, 2010 USF 31 Clemson 26
Dec. 26, 2009 Pittsburgh 19 North Carolina 17
Dec. 27, 2008 West Virginia 31 North Carolina 30
Dec. 29, 2007 Wake Forest 24 Connecticut 10
Dec. 30, 2006 Boston College 25 Navy 24
Dec. 31, 2005 N.C. State 14 USF 0
Dec. 30, 2004 Boston College 37 North Carolina 24
Dec. 27, 2003 Virginia 23 Pittsburgh 16
Dec. 28, 2002 Virginia 48 West Virginia 22

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