Belk Bowl Pick
The Belk Bowl looks like the ultimate test to see just how good the SEC is. Arkansas comes into this Game having lost to Missouri last time out and only finishing with three Conference wins. Meanwhile, Virginia Tech gave Clemson a fight and is looking for a 10-win season. The Hokies were decent sized -7 points favorites at 5Dimes Sportsbook for the Game in Charlotte.
Virginia Tech already faced a mediocre SEC team this season back in September and it didn’t go all that well losing 45-24 to Tennessee. That said, the Hokies weren’t exactly outplayed, they just fumbled it a ridiculous five times and lost all of them. But that’s kind of how the season went for this team, they were extremely inconsistent, winning at UNC in a blowout one week then losing by 14 points to Syracuse the next. At the least, they kept it close in the ACC title Game against Clemson.
As the Hokies made the Conference championship Game, the Hogs lost to a Four-win Missouri team in the regular season finale. Arkansas can be good at times, but others not so much. The good was seen in road wins at TCU and Mississippi State as well as against Ole Miss and Florida. Then there were the absolute blowouts by Auburn and LSU and of course the loss to Missouri. It seems like once the Razorbacks get down, they tend to give up.
But will Virginia Tech be able to get out to a quick lead? The Hokies don’t exactly blow out teams, especially decent ones and this one should be close most of the way with neither defense all that outstanding.
That means the Arkansas offense should have enough to score. Quarterback Austin Allen has really fallen off in the second half of the season and that’s partly due to a tougher Schedule, but 10 interceptions in the last seven Games isn’t good. Limiting turnovers will be his top goal in this Game. And still, Allen threw for 400 yards and three touchdowns against Alabama so he has the potential. The Hogs also have a great running Game that should help with Rawleigh Williams, who is averaging 5.7 yards per carry and has 322 yards and five touchdowns in the last two Games.
In truth, there isn’t much that separates these teams, it’s just that Arkansas failed to show up more often than Virginia Tech. The Hokies have better defensive numbers, but that’s largely due to an easier Schedule, although stopping teams like UNC to three points and Miami to 16 can’t be overlooked.
As for the Va. Tech offense, Jerod Evans has been the difference maker with 27 TDs and only 7 picks this season. But again, when he throws interceptions or turns the ball over, this team usually loses. Evans has top WRs in Isaiah Ford (1,038 yards, 7 TDs) and Cam Phillips (868 yards, 5 TDs) as well as tight end Bucky Hodges, but it’s the ground Game that balances this offense out. Evans leads the team with 759 rushing yards and 10 more touchdowns, although they haven’t gotten much outside of him in recent Games.
If Arkansas comes to play like when they destroyed Florida earlier in the season, then this Game could easily come down to the wire and that spread would seem too much. But if the Hogs don’t show up like in the Missouri Game, then Justin Fuente’s team should be ready to pounce. However, it can’t be overlooked that this same Bret Bielema-led team has won its last two bowl Games by large margins.
The Razorbacks are 6-1 ATS in their last seven following a straight-up loss and 3-8 ATS in their last 11 neutral-site Games. The Hokies are 1-5 ATS in their last six vs. the SEC and 3-7-1 ATS in their last 11 neutral-site Games.
Our Pick – Arkansas +7