2017 Camping World Bowl Preview: Virginia Tech vs. Oklahoma State

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If you’re a fan of a high-powered offense versus a vaunted defense then you’re in for a treat. The 2017 Camping World Bowl features the nation’s third highest scoring offense in the #19 Oklahoma State Cowboys (9-3, 6-2 Big 12) facing off against the #22 Virginia Tech Hokies‘ (9-3, 5-3 ACC) fifth-ranked defense in points allowed.

While both teams didn’t expect to end up in a pre-January bowl before the season, a victory propels the winner to 10 wins on the season.

Kickoff: Thursday, December 28 at 5:15 p.m. ET
Location: Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Oklahoma State -4

Strength vs. Strength

In an intriguing showdown, Oklahoma State and Virginia Tech bring contrasting styles to Orlando.

Oklahoma State’s Offense

Oklahoma State has the nation’s most potent passing attack, averaging a gaudy 392.3 passing yards per game. They also rank second in total yards per game with 576 and third in points per game with 46.3.

In their 12 games played this year, the Cowboys scored over 50 points in half of them. To put it in perspective, #3 Georgia only scored 50+ points in one game this season.

Led by senior quarterback and Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award winner Mason Rudolph, who passed for over 4,500 yards with 35 TDs, Oklahoma State will look to exploit a Hokies defense that hasn’t faced much competition this season. Virginia Tech has only played against two top 40 offenses all year in West Virginia and Clemson.

When Rudolph drops back to pass, his favorite target is senior and Biletnikoff Award winner James Washington. Prior to the bowl season, Washington led the nation in receiving yards with 1,423 along with 69 receptions and 12 TDs.

Although Rudolph and Washington are the Cowboys top weapons, receiver Marcell Ateman and running back Justice Hill have quietly had productive seasons. On the year, Ateman has 54 catches for 1,049 receiving yards and eight TDs; while Hill has 245 carries for 1,347 rushing yards and 14 TDs.

Oklahoma State complements their prolific passing game with a rushing attack that averages 183.3 rushing yards per game. The tandem of Hill and J.D. King combined for over 1,800 rushing yards and nearly 20 TDs this season.

As the Cowboys will pass early and often, a solid ground game will keep Virginia Tech’s defense honest.

The Oklahoma State offense represents the biggest challenge Virginia Tech’s defense will face this year. If the Cowboys can play with tempo and stay on schedule, Virginia Tech will be in for a long day.

Virginia Tech’s Defense

Virginia Tech has one of the nation’s stingiest defenses. They boast the fifth-ranked scoring defense in the FBS, allowing just 13.5 points per game, and hold opponents to 305.3 total yards per game, best for 12th in the country.

In their 12 games played this year, the Hokies have pitched three shutouts. That is the most by a Virginia Tech team since 2006.

Led by junior linebacker Tremaine Edmunds and senior cornerback duo Greg Stroman and Brandon Facyson, the Hokies will have their hands full trying to slow down the Cowboys high-flying offense.

Edmunds leads the Hokies with 101 tackles, 14 of those for loss, along with five and a half sacks, one interception, three pass deflections, and one fumble recovery this year.

Stroman was statistically the best cornerback this season according to Pro Football Focus. He allowed just nine receptions on 41 targets, which is the lowest catch percentage (22%) allowed amongst FBS cornerbacks.

Facyson wasn’t as dominant as Stroman but held his own. He has 16 tackles and five pass deflections on the season indicating that teams shied away from targeting him as well.

As the Big 12 conference isn’t known for playing much defense, the Hokies defense is a major step up in competition for the Oklahoma State offense. The Cowboys come into the game having played seven defenses ranked in the bottom half of the FBS.

With Bud Foster coordinating the defense, Virginia Tech will be ready to play. Year in and year out, the Hokies defense is the team’s identity and this year is no different.

Virginia Tech will pressure Rudolph all game forcing him to make quick decisions. With a strong secondary and a tackling machine at linebacker, the Hokies have the personnel to stifle Oklahoma State’s dynamic attack.

Playing Complementary Football

Virginia Tech’s Offense

Virginia Tech’s offense for much of the season was a solid unit, winning seven out of eight games through the end of October.

Led by redshirt freshman quarterback Josh Jackson, who threw for 2,743 yards and 19 TDs, the Hokies offense averages over 28 points and 400 yards per game.

However, once November hit, defenses figured out Virginia Tech’s attack which prevented them from reaching the ACC title game.

The ground game is mostly a committee with five players having 60+ carries on the season. Travon McMillian, the Hokies leading rusher, will sit out the bowl as he’s planning to transfer.

Sophomore Deshawn McClease, junior Steven Peoples, and freshman Jalen Holston will split carries with McMillian unavailable.

As for the passing attack, Jackson will be without the services of senior wide receiver Cam Phillips. Phillips underwent sports hernia surgery and will miss the game as a result. He was Virginia Tech’s best receiver, leading them in receptions (71), receiving yards (964), and TDs (seven).

Freshman Sean Savoy and sophomore Eric Kumah will now be Jackson’s top targets through the air. Both will have to step up if the Hokies want to win.

Virginia Tech’s offense needs to take advantage of a suspect Cowboys defense to keep the game from becoming a shootout. If it does, the Hokies don’t have the firepower to match up as they’ve only scored 50+ points twice this season.

Oklahoma State’s Defense

Oklahoma State’s defense is average at best. They rank near the bottom in total yards (73rd), passing yards (120th), and points (86th) allowed per game. Their rush defense, though, is 27th in the country giving up just 131.8 rushing yards per game.

As the Cowboys are led by their offense, the defense is susceptible to giving up big plays and a ton of points. In four of their last five games, Oklahoma State’s defense allowed point totals of 39, 62, 42, and 40.

With the Hokies top rusher and receiver out for the game, the Cowboys defense can frustrate Virginia Tech’s offense. The new starters in place for the Hokies are a cause for concern due to their inexperience in big games, which Oklahoma State hopes to benefit from.

The Cowboys defense doesn’t have a standout player, but rather rely on all eleven defenders to contribute.

Their best players on defense this season are senior safety Tre Flowers and senior defensive tackle DeQuinton Osbourne.

Flowers has 68 tackles, with one tackle for loss, two interceptions, eight pass deflections, and one forced fumble; while Osbourne has 39 tackles, with 11 tackles for loss, five and a half sacks, and one fumble recovery.

If Oklahoma State’s defense can limit big plays and keep Virginia Tech’s offense from making frequent house calls, then the Cowboys will come out on top.

Prediction

In the first Camping World Bowl, Oklahoma State and Virginia Tech provide an exciting matchup.

With Virginia Tech missing their two main offensive weapons, it’ll be tough to replace their production in this game. The Hokies defense hasn’t seen an offense like Oklahoma State’s all season. They’ll struggle to stop the Cowboys offensive assault.

Look for Oklahoma State’s offense to continue putting up video game numbers en route to their fourth consecutive 10-win season.

Oklahoma State 34, Virginia Tech 17

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Stone lives in Ontario, Canada and is currently a student at Bishop's University in Quebec. He writes for Last Word on College Football, The Fight Buzz, The Campus Newspaper, The Brawling, and CanadaFootballChat.com. He can also be heard talking about sports on TheHuddle radio show and is active on social media. Stone's a fan of Alabama football and basketball along with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Portland Trail Blazers. He can be reached via Twitter and Instagram @Stone_InSpace

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