Virginia Tech Hokies (8-4) vs. Kentucky Wildcats (7-5)
- Game Time: Noon EST on December 31st
- Location: Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina
- TV Channel: Today’s game can be seen on ESPN
- Announcers: Beth Mowins, Anthony Becht, and Rocky Boiman will call the action.
- Radio: Tom Leach and Jeff Piecoro will have the UK radio network call on 630 AM, 98.1 FM in Lexington, and on the UK Sports Network.
- Online radio: TuneIn broadcast or UKAthletics.com.
- Online Stream: WatchESPN
- Odds: Virginia Tech is a 3-point favorite heading into the game. ESPN FPI gives the Wildcats a 57.6% chance of winning.
- Replay: WatchESPN and SEC Network (check local listings).
- Rosters: UK | VT
- Weather Report
- Live Stats
- Predictions: TeamRankings has the Hokies winning 25-22, while numberFire went with a 24-20 win for Virginia Tech.
Let's ring in a Happy Blue (and Chrome Dome) Year in Charlotte. @BelkBowl Gameday Swag presented by The Summit at Fritz Farm. pic.twitter.com/64Hx5CZdqI— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) December 30, 2019
This season has been an absolute roller coaster for Kentucky Football.
After starting the season hot, Terry Wilson went down to injury. Sawyer looked like a Heisman candidate for three quarters, and then he got hurt. After stumbling through two more SEC losses, Mark Stoops, Eddie Gran, and the rest of the coaching staff completely redesigned the offense around Lynn Bowden to go 5-2 for the rest of the season.
Lynn Bowden has achieved the rare feat of becoming a legend while he still plays at Kentucky. He put the entire offense on his back and led the team in rushing with 1,235 yards and receiving with 348 yards. He accounted for 14 touchdowns across the board. And, down the stretch of the season, he made big play after big play to give the Wildcats their fourth consecutive winning season. His toughness this year has been borderline super-human, and the rest of the team has followed his example.
Kentucky is going to need another super performance going into the Belk Bowl where they will meet the Virginia Tech Hokies. Virginia Tech is 8-4 on the season with about as many impressive victories as Kentucky, but their best game came in a 21-20 loss to Notre Dame.
Not unlike the Wildcats, the Hokies have improved greatly throughout the year and finally started to figure out their identity the last couple games of the season. Before ending the year with a loss to the Virginia Cavaliers, Tech had three consecutive good wins over Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, and Pittsburgh.
The Hokies have a fairly balanced offense, averaging 217 passing yards and 173 rushing yards per game. But there was a noticeable shift in both efficiency and production when Hendon Hooker took over at quarterback in mid-October. While not necessarily a running quarterback, he is mobile and can pick up yards on the ground when needed. He has completed over 62% of his passes on the season and has thrown 11 touchdown passes to only two interceptions.
The leading rusher for Virginia Tech is junior Deshawn McClease. He has put up 717 yards on the season, but he only has one 100 yard game on the season against a Power 5 team (Duke). He is a work horse, though, with 166 carries on the season, more than anyone on Kentucky’s roster.
Defensively, the Hokies are ranking 28th in the country in rushing defense. While that does look concerning on the surface, it is important to note that they did not exactly have a schedule filled with rushing juggernauts. On the other hand, they rank 96th in the country in passing defense. So we can expect a few wrinkles from Eddie Gran and company to keep the Hokies guessing.
Winning an eighth game would be a huge accomplishment for this team. That surpasses many predictions made about the Wildcats before the season started. Then when you factor in all of the injuries, especially to the quarterback position, this may be one of the most impressive college football stories of the season.
Will this magical run end with a victory in the Belk Bowl? Or will Bud Foster and the Virginia Tech Hokies spoil Lynn Bowden’s finale in Foster’s coaching farewell? Kickoff is at noon on Tuesday. Plan accordingly.