Virginia Tech vs. Kentucky, 12/29/19 Belk Bowl Predictions & Preview

Tanya Simon
December 31, 2019

6 Victories without a loss for Virginia Tech in games played in North Carolina under the direction of coach Justin Fuente. United Kingdom has the fifth-worst passing offense in the country (117.1 yards per game).

5 Teams have held their opponents to fewer than 30 points in every game in 2019 entering the bowl season, including Kentucky. The Wildcats are now 7-5 on the season, 9-3 against the spread and 6-6 with the over/under total. On Nov. 23, the Wildcats ran for 462 yards in a 50-7 victory over UT Martin to break the school single-game record that had stood since September 15, 1951, when Kentucky had 446 rushing yards in a 72-13 victory over Tennessee Tech. Asim Rose averages 63.8 yards per game, Kavosiey Smoke averages 50.8 and Chris Rodriguez averages 42.9.

Kentucky: The 2019 season was an affirmation year for Mark Stoops' program.

Virginia Tech: WR Damon Hazelton Jr. possesses good speed on the outside and is the team's leading receiver with 30 catches for 506 yards and seven touchdowns.

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"I don't know if he's gotten enough credit on the national level for the transition from receiver to quarterback", Fuente said. Starting QB Hendon Hooker is 87 of 140 (62.1%) for 1,445 yards with 11 TDs, two picks, and 16 sacks. The Wildcats haven't had a streak this long since they went 45 games without an opponent reaching 35 points between a 37-16 loss to Kansas on September 18, 1976, to a 36-30 loss to IN on September 20, 1980.

Thanks (probably) to a stingy Kentucky defense that allows just 18.4 points per game, the opening total of 47.5 in this game was the lowest on the Tuesday bowl slate. Virginia Tech has had 22 TD passes this season.

Farley is sidelined with a back injury and his status for the game is unclear. This should be a defensive battle that gets decided in the fourth quarter. In 2016, the Hokies rallied from a 24-point deficit to beat Arkansas 35-24 behind a 24-point third quarter. "Kentucky's M.O. has not been to throw it, hopefully, we can control the run game a bit and make them do that". The Hokies aren't terribly explosive, so I think points are going to be hard to come by for them as well. The Hokies allowed Virginia QB Bryce Perkins to rack up 475 yards of offense in their final regular season. He was announced as Murray State's head coach earlier this month and will take over with the Racers after Tuesday's game. This seems to contradict a mismatch in Kentucky's favor outlined above - the quarterback run game - but in terms of overall rush defense, Tech has been strong.

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