Kentucky +3 -120 buy 1/2 3% play
The ACC was one of the worst conferences this year, and Virginia Tech is clearly a team that benefited. It was impressive what they were able to do down the stretch "AD", which is what they labeled their season after their beat down from Duke. However, they were unable to get to the ACC Championship by losing to Virginia, a team they have owned for nearly two decades. They gave up 164 yards to the QB Bryce Perkins, and I think they have a tougher task containing QB Lynn Bowden here today.
Although there is a major difference in the fact that Bowden can't throw he is more electric, and I think Virginia Tech will have trouble if they are unable to get tackles for loss. Kentucky has proven it against better run defenses with this new offense that they had to put in because of injuries. Virginia Tech does have the 31st run defense, but that has come against an average rushing offense ranking 89th. They have faced two teams in the top 75 in rushing offense and lost both of those games. They actually rank 98th in explosive run defense, and we saw a little bit of that with Perkins breaking off a couple long runs in the last game of the season and Kentucky ranks 3rd in explosive runs. Will the extra time to prepare for Kentucky help Virginia Tech? Maybe, but Kentucky will definitely have something up their sleeve knowing all of this, and they were able to run on the #4 run defense earlier this year on the road. They lost the game, but nobody ran for more yards than Kentucky did on Georgia. Nobody ran for more yards than Kentucky did on Tennessee - 302. Tennessee ranked 36th vs. the run and that comes with an average opponent offense rankig 47.5, so clearly Tennessee has a better run defense than Virginia Tech. Kentucky also ran for 297 vs. Missouri who ranks 44th against an average run offense of 65.5, and you could argue Missouri is also better than Virginia Tech given the offense they have faced. My point is that it hasn't mattered when good run defenses know the run is coming Kentucky has still ben successfull running the ball.
Virginia Tech's offense has been different with Hooker in the lineup, but I question that he can play a clean game here. Virginia Tech has had 8 games with 2 or more turnovers. Kentucky's #'s are great against the run, but they have the size and speed outside to stop this running game, and Stoop is a defensive minded coach with extra time to prepare. Virginia Tech also ranks 107th in ypc, and 96th in rushing success, 102nd in rushing explosiveness. Most of their offense comes from the passing game, and they don't really want to do that, and they struggle when they get behind the chains. Kentucky ranks 23rd in sack %, and Virginia Tech's offensive line is extremely young and ranked 77th protecting the QB. Again, I see Kentucky's defensive size and speed being an issue for Virginia Tech here.
Coaching goes to Kentucky in my opinion they have achieved more in a tougher conference, and Stoops is building something here, and the fact that he's sticking around and he has players like Bowden who declared for the NFL draft playing in this game tells me a lot about Stoops. Bowden is going to run the ball 20+ times against a heavy hitting defense, and he's still playing for his boys. That effort and attitude that Benny Snell brought last year carried them to an upset win over Penn State. I see the same thing happening here against a Hokies team that hasn't won a bowl game in a while.
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