Military Bowl Pick

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Military Bowl

Pick

Virginia Tech

vs.

Cincinnati

12/31/18

The Military Bowl features an experienced defense against one of the younger defenses in the country and unsurprisingly, the experienced group is favored. Cincinnati was a -5.5 point favorite with an over/under of 53.5 a week before the Game in Annapolis.

Virginia Tech (5-7 ATS) is in an interesting situation in that it’s an underdog against a Group of Five opponent while being closer in proximity to the bowl site. The Hokies no doubt had a bad season, but they needed to win their final two Games and did just that against two bowl opponents in Virginia and Marshall. That’s a decent reason to take the underdog even though they lost to Old Dominion earlier in the season.

As for Cincinnati (7-5 ATS), it’s hard to ignore its 10 wins, but an easier Schedule has to be taken into account. Its only two losses came against the best teams in the AAC and the one at UCF came by 25 points. The Bearcats got some wins over bowl teams like Ohio, Tulane and USF, but those don’t scream five-point favorite against an ACC school.

Cincy’s defense is the reason it’s here after allowing 16.1 points per Game, 3.2 yards per carry and 6.0 yards per pass. Those are great numbers, but again, the AAC isn’t teeming with top offenses. The Hokies have far from a good offense, but they showed up late in the season with help from Ryan Willis (22 TDs, 8 INTs), who struggled more often than not. His main goal will be to not turn it over, but also keep plays alive with his legs after rushing for 321 yards. Willis should get top wide out Damon Hazelton (745 yards, 8 TDs) back from injury and that is another boost for the passing Game. The question will be what the ground Game can do after Steven Peoples only managed 760 yards and five touchdowns as the leading running back. 

While VT’s offense wasn’t consistent, it wasn’t as bad as the defense that allowed 30.7 points per Game, 5.3 yards per carry and 7.7 yards per pass. Those numbers are almost the opposite of Cincy’s, though most offenses Tech saw were much better than the ones Cincy faced. The Hokies started the season young, but improved by season’s end and another month of practices could help the youth even more.

The problem is that Cincy has a run-first offense between quarterback Desmond Ridder (563 yards) and running back Michael Warren (1,163 yards, 17 TDs). That combo could simply be too much for a bad VT rush defense. Of course, when Warren failed to reach 100 yards, that’s when the offense had issues and the Games were closer. Ridder is a decent passer with 19 touchdowns and only five picks, but didn’t face much adversity and was downright brutal in the two losses going a combined 25-for-59 with no touchdowns.

ACCording to the numbers, a lot of things point to Cincinnati but strength of Schedule has to be considered. When Virginia Tech had its backs against a wall, it won its last two Games and with a few more weeks of practice, Justin Fuente (2-1 in bowls) will undoubtedly have his team ready. The Bearcats are 5-2 ATS in their last seven non-Conference Games, but 2-7 ATS in their last nine bowl Games. The Hokies are 2-6 ATS in their last eight overall and 1-4 ATS in their last five on field turf.

Our Pick – Cincinnati -5.5