Virginia Tech endured its worst season in two decades this year, struggling to win two straight games in order to get back to a bowl. Rutgers, after getting themselves into the BCS Rankings’ top 15, lost three of three of their final five contests, and fell backwards into a four-way tie for the Big East title. Which team’s recent trend will continue?
Bowl Game: Russell Athletic Bowl
Location: Orlando, Fla.
First Year: 1990 (Blockbuster Bowl)
2012 Participants: Virginia Tech Hokies (6-6) vs. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (9-3)
Last Meeting: Virginia Tech over Rutgers, 48-22 (2003)
Virginia Tech (previous bowl game: 23-20 loss to Michigan in 2012 Allstate Sugar Bowl)
Before the season started, experts felt that Virginia Tech, while certainly adjusting to a ton of new faces on the O-line and in the backfield, could still succeed behind QB Logan Thomas and a staunch defense. Instead, the team tumbled to the brink of bowl ineligibility with a defense that was frequently put in poor field position, mostly be an offense that struggled mightily. Still, the team was top-40 nationally in passing and rushing yards per game, as well as points allowed per game (23.9). So that leaves this one up to the offense more than anything else. Thomas, who put on quite a performance in 2011, has regressed significantly in 2012, but has continuously been relied upon to carry this team by himself. While there’s no point in creating excuses for the junior passer, it’s hard to otherwise figure the increase in sacks and interceptions from one year to the next. The key for Tech in this one will be mixing it up — involving a running game that was middle-of-the-road at its best, and completely inefficient at worst. Rutgers’ defense found itself most effective this season when facing one-dimensional teams. If the Hokies allow them to generate too much pressure on Thomas, it’s sure to result in more costly turnovers. While Thomas’s mobility can also be an asset, it’s just too much pressure for him to be the only effective offensive player.