RUTGERS SCARLET KNIGHTS (9-3)
vs. VIRGINIA TECH HOKIES (6-6)
Russell Athletic Bowl - Orlando, FL
Kickoff: Friday, 5:30 p.m. EDT
Line: Virginia Tech -2, Total: 41
Former Big East rivals meet for the first time in a decade when Rutgers and Virginia Tech square off Friday in Orlando for the Russell Athletic Bowl.
Virginia Tech dominated this series from 1993 to 2003, scoring 30+ points in each of 11 straight wins by a combined score of 511 to 189 (47 to 17 average score). Rutgers has the better record this year though, starting the season 9-1 before dropping the final two games. Virginia Tech needed a two-game win streak to end the year (both ATS losses) with a bowl berth, but still finished 3-9 ATS overall, including 0-6 ATS (1-5 SU) in non-home games.
Can Rutgers saddle Virginia Tech with a losing record for the season? For the answer, download your FREE copy of the StatFox Edge College Bowl Guide for all the StatFox Experts picks for each of the 35 bowls, both Against The Spread and Over/Under.
Rutgers QB Gary Nova has not thrown the football well over the past five games, completing 81-of-147 passes (55%) for 1,063 yards (7.2 YPA), 7 TD and 12 INT. However, Nova has been strong away from home this year, throwing for 397 yards and 5 TD at Arkansas, and tossing 4 TD passes at Temple. Nova relies mostly on three receivers who all rank in the top-20 in yardage in the Big East. Brandon Coleman's 663 yards rank sixth in the conference and he also has 10 TD grabs. Mark Harrison (560 rec. yds, 6 TD) and Tim Wright (438 rec. yds, 2 TD) rank 11th and 19th, respectively, in Big East receiving yards. The rushing workload is given almost entirely to two backs, Jawan Jamison (242 carries) and Savon Huggins (101 carries), as Nova is the only other Rutgers player with more than 10 carries this season. Jamison started the year with five straight games of 110+ rushing yards, but finished with five straight sub-100-yard efforts. He has clearly been affected by an ankle injury, but the long layoff should have him close to 100 percent for this game. The Knights have been sacked just eight times all season (tied for fifth-fewest in FBS). Defensively, Rutgers is incredibly stingy, giving up only 14.3 PPG (5th in nation) and 321 total YPG (14th in FBS). Although the Knights don't pile up the sacks (1.8 per game, 75th in nation), they do rank 19th in the country in Tackles For Loss (7.1 per game). Senior LB Khaseem Greene was named the Big East Defensive Player of the Year with team-best totals in tackles (125), forced fumbles (6) and sacks (5.5).
Logan Thomas is in the midst of a terrible season, ranking 84th in the nation in passing efficiency, a huge drop-off from his 50th ranking in this category in 2011. He's thrown for 2,783 yards on 390 attempts (7.1 YPA) with 17 TD and 14 INT, throwing multiple picks in five different games. Thomas relies mostly on two senior wide receivers, Marcus Davis (891 rec. yds, 8th in ACC) and Corey Fuller (769 rec. yds, 11th in ACC). In last year's 23-20 Sugar Bowl loss to Michigan, Thomas completed 19-of-28 passes for 214 yards, 0 TD and 1 INT, while rushing for 53 yards and 1 TD. He has done a nice job rushing the football this year too with a team-high 528 yards and 9 TD coming in nine different games. Tech's defense has been erratic this year, holding four teams to 17 points or less, but allowing 27+ points in six games. However, the Hokies allow just 345 total YPG (24th in FBS) and put great pressure on the quarterback with an ACC-best 2.7 sacks per game and 7.3 Tackles For Loss per game (14th in FBS).