The 2014 Military Bowl might not feature one of the service academies (again), but it does feature two solid teams in the Virginia Tech Hokies (6-6) and Cincinnati Bearcats (9-3). So, what to watch for and who wins?
This game will clearly be decided by the matchup between the stingy Hokie defense and the electric Bearcat offense. I don’t expect to see anything but ugliness when a terrible Hokie offense goes against an even worse Bearcat defense.
When VT does have the ball, QB Michael Brewer and company need to limit turnovers, of which they’re -6 on the year, a total reversal of the halcyon ‘Beamerball’ days. The Hokie offense is averaging just 368 total yards of offense per game (97th nationally), broken down to 143 rushing yards per game (96th) and 225 in passing (70th), all of which has produced an average of 23 points per game (98th).
Luckily for the Hokies the Bearcat defense is very bad. They’re giving up 448 yards per game (102nd), divided between 182 rushing yards (82nd) and 266 passing yards (111th), all while giving up 27 points per game (66th). When Cincy has the ball, I expect a heck of a matchup. They’re averaging 458 yards per game (29th), broken up between 158 on the ground (71st) and 300 through the air (13th) while producing 35 ppg (26th).
The Hokie defense isn’t as historically elite as in years past, but it’s still darn solid nonetheless, giving up 332 yards per game (16th), broken up between 145 on the ground (40th) and 187 through the air (14th), while giving up 20 pp. (17th).
Cincy QB Gunner Kiel has been impressive all year long (60% completion, 3,010 yards, 30/10), especially after a rocky 2-3 start to the season. When he’s been sidelined for various reasons, backup Munchie Legeaux has been nearly as impressive, and it’s always hard to beat a team that has multiple QB’s who can win a game.
As far as how the season has gone for both teams and their resume’s, Cincy doesn’t really have a ‘signature’ win this year (is it a 54-46 win over an 8-4 ECU squad?), and does have three hideous losses on their resume, but we must remember they’re still riding a 7-game winning streak right now. VT on the other hand, has a colossal signature win over now-#4 Ohio State, in Columbus no less, but have been Jekyll and Hyde since then, looking good one week (17-16 win over #21 Duke) and terrible the very next (6-3 loss to an awful 3-9 Wake Forest team).
So who wins? Brewer and the Hokies should be able to pass the ball effectively, which will open up the run game, which in turn keeps the explosive Cincy offense on the sideline. Hokies star CB Kendall Fuller plays like the star he is and helps slow down the vaunted Cincy aerial attack. I like Tech in this one, ending the Bearcat win streak.
Final Score Prediction: Virginia Tech 24, Cincinnati 21.