Belk Bowl Game Preview
Arkansas Razorback vs Virginia Tech Hokies
This is the first time the Hokies and Razorbacks have met on the gridiron, and this matchup in the Belk Bowl game could feature plenty of fireworks (Enter Contest). Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen was arguably the SEC’s best player on offense through the first half of the season. However, the junior suffered a knee injury suffered against Auburn and tossed six interceptions over his final five games. With a month to get healthy, Allen should be near full strength, which is good news for an Arkansas attack that also features running back Rawleigh Williams and talented tight end Jeremy Sprinkle. The Razorbacks need a big game from Allen and Williams to win this one, especially considering the problems on defense stopping mobile quarterbacks in 2016.
Virginia Tech quarterback Jerod Evans passed for 3,309 yards and 27 scores in his first year on campus and also led the team with 759 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. Arkansas ranks 10th in the SEC in scoring defense and is giving up just over 200 yards (209.3) on the ground per game. The Hokies are led by first-year coach Justin Fuente, but rest assured they are a tough matchup for the Razorbacks.
ABOUT ARKANSAS (7-5, 3-5 SEC)
The Razorbacks have won their last three bowl games, but they will likely need Austin Allen to play like he did in the first half of the season if they are going to extend their streak. Allen’s first five games featured 12 passing TDs, a rushing score and only two interceptions. His last seven games saw him throw 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, including multiple picks in a disappointing loss to Missouri to end the regular season.
In one sense, the Razorbacks are a balanced team as they score 30.8 points on average and they also give up 30.8 points per contest. Rawleigh Williams III ran for at least 117 yards seven times this season and totaled 322 yards and five rushing scores in the last two games. Arkansas will be facing the Hokies for the first time in school history.
ABOUT VIRGINIA TECH (9-4, 6-2 ACC)
The Hokies got big production in the ACC title game from the usual suspects. Quarterback Jerod Evans had one passing TD, two rushing TDs, while Travon McMillian collected two rushing scores and Cam Phillips grabbed 12 catches, 92 yards and a TD. Evans enters the postseason with 27 touchdown strikes and seven interceptions, not to mention 10 rushing scores, while McMillian has added six TDs on the ground and another three through the air. Phillips (70 catches, 868 yards) forms a dangerous tandem with Isaiah Ford (73 receptions, 1,038 yards) for the Hokies, who are seeking their fourth bowl victory in the last five seasons.
The Hokies are appearing in their 24th straight bowl game, but of course it will be the first for Fuente, who helped his team surpass expectations after Frank Beamer failed to exceed eight wins in any of the last four seasons.