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December 28, 2012
Staff Picks: VT vs Rutgers
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Some of the pressure is off now that Virginia Tech has reached its 20th straight bowl game. But the previous 19 seasons finished with winning records. Can the Hokies defeat Rutgers to extend that mark to 20?
We take our shots at calling what will happen at today's 5:30 pm ET kickoff.
Jason Stamm, publisher
This season was not what I nor any Virginia Tech fan expected. This was a Hokies team that reached as high as No. 13 in the polls before losing to Pittsburgh in September.
But somehow, Virginia Tech slogged its way to a 20th straight bowl. When your past two bowls were the Orange and Sugar Bowls, the Russell Athletic Bowl doesn't have the same cache. That much was especially evident at yesterday's pep rally, where Rutgers fans easily outnumbered Hokies fans three to one.
It would be understandable for this team to not be up for this game. But this Virginia Tech team doesn't want to be the one to end the winning season streak. And if it is junior quarterback Logan Thomas' last game in a Hokies uniform, he doesn't want it to end in a loss that ends the streak.
Rutgers should be amped going to its best bowl in years, but word is the Scarlet Knights are looking elsewhere, many players because they have NFL aspirations.
I'd like to think the Hokies will play hard and put some positive drives together. But this won't be a cake walk.
With Thomas playing for draft stock, he cuts down on mistakes, the defense continues its late-season prowess and limits the Scarlet Knights. It'll come down to the end of the game, but Virginia Tech keeps the winning streak going by holding off the Scarlet Knights.
PREDICTION: Virginia Tech 27-24
Doug Bowman, senior writer
This one isn't going to be pretty and it's going to be very tight. This is going to be won on the ground and on special teams. Field position is going to be huge.
I don't expect this one to get past the lower 20s at most. I also don't expect Virginia Tech's offense to explode or change significantly at this point, but the defense will be able to keep them in it and give them a chance to win.
At the end of the day, I think Thomas on the ground keeps the Hokies close and the defense forces a fourth quarter turnover allowing junior kicker Cody Journell to win another one.
PREDICTION: Virginia Tech 20 - Rutgers 17
Mike Stancik, staff writer
With all the ingredients needed for a defensive battle, this game may come down to whoever makes the least amount of mistakes. While Virginia Tech's defense has the 24th best group in terms of yards (344.6 YPG), Rutgers owns the 14th ranked unit (321.3 YPG) and is also fourth in the nation in scoring defense at a paltry 14.3 points per game.
The game could feature two stud linebackers with at least 10 tackles: Virginia Tech junior Jack Tyler (112 tackles) and Rutgers' Khaseem Greene (125 tackles) are each squad's true playmaker. Because of Rutgers incredibly strong run defense (11th in the country), don't expect anything different from the Hokies' gameplan: Thomas, Thomas, and more Thomas. It wouldn't surprise me if LT3 has over 20 carries, which has occurred in three of the past five games.
I think this game comes down to a single factor: If there's anything that can beat this Hokie defense, it's a quick-moving, accurate quarterback. Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova is not one of those players- he's thrown 13 picks in the past six games and hasn't rushed for more than seven yards in a game this season. The Virginia Tech defense is able to hold an offense in a last-minute drive for the second straight game to give the Hokies a three-game winning streak to close out the year.
PREDICTION: Virginia Tech 20 Rutgers 13