Kentucky vs. Virginia Tech: Belk Bowl Fearless Prediction, Game Preview

Kentucky vs. Virginia Tech: Belk Bowl Fearless Prediction, Game Preview

College Football Predictions

Kentucky vs. Virginia Tech: Belk Bowl Fearless Prediction, Game Preview


Kentucky vs. Virginia Tech: Belk Bowl fearless prediction and game preview.

Kentucky vs. Virginia Tech: Belk Bowl Broadcast

Date: Tuesday, December 31
Game Time: 12:00 ET
Live Stream: fuboTV (click to watch for free)
Venue: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC
Network: ESPN
Tickets: Get Belk Bowl Tickets Here

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Kentucky (7-5) vs. Virginia Tech (8-4) Game Preview

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Three Reasons Why You Should Watch The Belk Bowl

It’s a moment for the SEC. Ever since the became an ACC vs. SEC matchup, the SEC won the first two, and the ACC has won the last three including a bizarre 28-0 Virginia crushing of South Carolina last year.

The ACC has been maligned all year for being down – it’s Clemson and a bunch of unranked teams – and the SEC has been mediocre outside of the stars in the top half. Virginia Tech and Kentucky, though, have each come up with terrific seasons through plenty of adversity.

Considering this Orange Bowl Lite. Virginia Tech came this close to being the team that lost to Clemson in the ACC Championship and getting Florida in the Orange, and Kentucky came this close to beating the Gators earlier in the season. The effort will be there on both sides – it should be entertaining.

Virginia Tech had a nice run of being a strong bowl team – winning four in a five-year stretch – but head coach Justin Fuente has lost two in a row, including last year’s Military to Cincinnati. He and the Hokies won the 2016 Belk, but losing a third straight bowl game wouldn’t be a plus considering the program hasn’t lost three in a row after starting out 0-5 before winning the 1986 Peach.

Kentucky doesn’t like this kind of talk, but bowl games are still a big deal for the program. UK hadn’t been to a bowl since 2010, and now it’s in its fourth straight under Mark Stoops, finally winning one in a strong Citrus Bowl performance against Penn State last season.

The place has only been in 16 bowls since 1947 when Bear Bryant got it all rolling, and it hasn’t been pretty, going 4-7 since winning the 1984 Hall of Fame over Wisconsin. This team never has a problem being motivated – it’s going to push for the win.

Why Virginia Tech Will Win

– The Hokies have problems with the better passing games. For the most part, there aren’t any issues against the run – Virginia’s Bryce Perkins might have something to say about it; more coming in a moment – and the VT D can be fully focused on what the Wildcats are going to try to do.

Fortunately for the Hokies, UK brings a run first, run only offense that has’t hit the 100-yard mark – by design – in seven of its last eight games.

Virginia Tech can get gashed a little bit here and there, but it hasn’t given up more than 200 yards since September, and only allowed more than 100 yards three times in the last eight games. The Hokies have the linebackers and tackling defensive backs to keep the Cats from ripping off too many plays to the second and third levels.

Hendon Hooker is going to be a thing, if he isn’t already. The Virginia Tech freshman quarterback took over after September and was ultra-efficient, averaging ten yards per throw with 11 touchdown passes and two picks – both of the interceptions coming in the regular season finale against Virginia. The 6-4, 228-pounder can move, is poised, and is only going to get better with more time logged in. He’s good enough to make this game about him.

And here comes the pass rush. The Hokies have to get to the UK running game before it gets started, and it starts with generating as much pressure behind the line as possible, and not stopping. Getting to Lynn Bowden on passing downs doesn’t really matter, but come up with a tackle for loss here and there, put the Wildcats in a long down-and-distance situation, and there’s a huge problem.

Kentucky’s offense struggles on third downs, but the offensive line is good at keeping defenses out of the backfield. It’s going to be up to Rayshard Ashby and the rest of the Hokie defensive front to change all of that.

Why Kentucky Will Win

Virginia QB Bryce Perkins ran 19 times for 164 yards and two touchdowns in the thrilling 39-30 win over Virginia Tech. That has to be Lynn Bowden.

The coaching staff turned to its star wide receiver and made him a quarterback after various injuries and a rough 2-3 start to the season. The offensive adjustment changed everything up, at least for the ground attack.

Bowden is turning pro early and should be a solid receiver at the next level – Randall Cobb made a similar move years ago – after catching 30 passes for 348 yards and a score in the first five games this season.

Running the ball, he rips off runs in gashes, coming up with 1,235 yards and 11 score with six 100-yard games in the final seven, and a 99-yard day against Georgia in the other. Everyone has tried to stop him, and it hasn’t worked.

The Virginia Tech special teams are strong, and the punting game is great, but Kentucky’s is better. Ray Guy winner Max Duffy helps lead the nation’s best punting game, averaging close to 49 yards per kick putting 24 inside the 20. The Australian blasted away to get the team out of jams time and again, and he’s going to be vital in a game like this where field position is going to mean everything.

Virginia Tech has a fumbling problem. Again, Kentucky can’t lose in the breaks department considering its style. It has to own the field position fight, and it has to be on the plus side – at least, not in the negative – in turnovers. UK hasn’t lost the turnover battle in its last five games, and it’s 4-2 overall when forcing two or more takeaways. Virginia Tech has lost 14 fumbles and is a -5 on the season in turnover margin.

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