Cincinnati v. Virginia Tech
Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium — Annapolis, MD
December 27, 2014 — 1:00 pm Eastern (ESPN)
Why You Should Watch
The early game from Annapolis will get you warmed up for a full slate of Saturday games. It’s a random bowl game live from a military academy’s home field, the second season the game has been played in Maryland’s capital after moving from RFK Stadium in the nation’s capital. It’s also the second of three showdowns in the acronym battle between the AAC and the ACC, with the Group of Five league taking on its Power Five counterpart in favorable matchups throughout the bowl season. You only have two more Saturdays this season that feature college football action, so you might as well take full advantage and make a day of it.
What Each Team Brings to the Table
Cincinnati won a share of the AAC title thanks to a seven-game winning streak once they hit conference play. A scheduling quirk kept the Bearcats from opening their season until Week 3, but once they got past a tough three-game swoon that included road losses to Ohio State and Miami and an unfriendly visit from Memphis the team eased into winning ways. Oft-traveled quarterback Gunner Kiel was the key figure in a passing attack that averaged more than 300 yards per game, and backup Munchie Legaux threw for nearly 600 more yards in limited duty. Mike Boone and Rodriguez Moore provided enough balance on the ground to keep defenses honest, and the Bearcats averaged more than five touchdowns per game. Tommy Tuberville’s defense wasn’t otherworldly, but it kept opponents to fewer than 27 points per game — which was good enough to put Cincinnati in position for its sixth season of double-digit victories in the past eight years.
The 2014 season started with so much promise for the Hokies yet nearly ended in disaster. They opened the season with a strong showing against FCS James Madison and followed it up with an upset of College Football Playoff-bound Ohio State in the Horseshoe. They promptly fell to East Carolina and Georgia Tech, and regression was in the cards after a hot start. Bud Foster’s defense was strong as usual, the top-20 unit allowing only 20.4 points per game. But no tailback finished the year with even 500 yards rushing, and quarterback Michael Brewer threw 14 interceptions to go with his 17 touchdowns. The defense had to be good for Virginia Tech to even reach bowl eligibility, especially after the ignominious result of bombing out in a 6-3 double-overtime defeat to 3-9 Wake Forest in the penultimate game of the season. Only a 24-20 victory to retain the Commonwealth Cup against Virginia got the Hokies to six wins.
What is Likely to Happen
The game features strength versus strength and weakness versus weakness, with Cincinnati’s high-powered offense fixing to test the Hokies’ defense and Virginia Tech’s anemic offense potentially able to move the ball against the Bearcats’ front seven. They had three common opponents, going 1-2 against the trio. (Both teams lost to Miami, Cincinnati defeated East Carolina but fell to Ohio State, and Virginia Tech knocked off the Buckeyes but was knocked back by the Pirates.) Gunner Kiel should be able to find enough holes in the Tech secondary to get the Bearcats in scoring positions, while Michael Brewer is going to have a much tougher time against a team that generates more turnovers than his own defense. Look for the mid-major to pull away in the second half of this contest, getting vengeance for last year’s loss to another ACC team.
Cincinnati 31, Virginia Tech 20