By Tommy Smith
Cincinnati Bearcats vs. Virginia Tech Hokies
Saturday – December 27 – 12:00 pm
Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium – Annapolis
How they got here
Virginia Tech (6-6) needed a 24-20 victory over Virginia in their final game to become bowl eligible stretching the nation’s longest postseason streak to 22 years. The Hokies notched road wins over playoff bound Ohio State and Duke this season but suffered their first losing season (3-4) at home since 1992. The Bearcats (9-3) grabbed a share of the American Conference Championship by winning their last seven games. Virginia Tech is 5-5 all-time against the Cincinnati after losing their last meeting 27-24 in 2012.
Cincinnati brings the offense to the Military Bowl. Quarterback Gunner Kiel threw for 3,010 yards and 30 touchdowns in 2014. The Bearcats passing attack ranks 13th in the nation while the offense is 26th in scoring and averages 6.2 yards per play. Cincinnati has a two-headed monster at running back. Freshman Mike Boone leads the Bearcats in rushing yards (601) while Rodriguez Moore carried the ball a team leading 134 times. Head Coach Tommy Tuberville’s offense has outscored opponents by more than 20 points per game during their current winning streak. The Bearcats’ defense is a different story however ranking 66th in scoring and 92nd in yards per play.
Once again head coach Frank Beamer has the Hokies playing stout defense. Virginia Tech ranks 18th in scoring defense and 22nd in yards per play. Cornerback Kendall Fuller had 50 tackles and a conference-leading 14 pass breakups. Offensively the Hokies struggle. Virginia Tech is ranked 98th in scoring, 96th in rushing and 71st in passing. Quarterback Michael Brewer threw for 2,598 yards and 17 touchdowns but added 14 interceptions.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 23 – Cincinnati 20
This is a classic strength versus strength contest. The matchup of the Cincinnati offense versus the Virginia Tech defense should decide this year’s Military Bowl. Kiel brings the Bearcats offense to Annapolis with a chip on his shoulder after being snubbed by the AAC post season awards. However, Virginia Tech should be able to slow Kiel and the Bearcats offense down. The Hokies gave up just 11 passing touchdowns allowing under 170 yards through the air per game. Brewer and the Virginia Tech defense will be enough to nip the Bearcats in the end.