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Belk Bowl Gobbler Country Staff Picks

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The last game of the season, and the Gobbler Country crew offers some insight

NCAA Football: Arkansas at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Jay Johnson

Currently the ESPN Football Power Index Matchup Predictor states that the No. 22 Virginia Tech Hokies have a 66.7% chance to defeat their Belk Bowl opponent, the Arkansas Razorbacks. The Fighting Gobblers are seven point favorites, and finished their regular season as the 2016 ACC Coastal Champions with a 9-4 overall record. Arkansas did not win their conference division and carry a 7-5 season mark. It is easy to argue that Arkansas is better than the record indicates. The Razorbacks faced a much tougher schedule than Virginia Tech, and four of their five losses came against then ranked teams (TA&M, Bama, Auburn, and LSU). They also collected wins over three ranked teams, including the SEC East Division Champion Florida Gators. Granted not all those teams finished the regular season in the rankings, but my point is that ARK faced stout competition. The Razorbacks also have a grown man at running back in Rawleigh Williams III. Williams has 1326 yards over 233 carries for an average of 5.7 yards per carry. He has a long run of 72 yards and scored 12 times. Junior QB, Austin Allen, is also no slouch with numbers comparable to Jerod Evans. Allen is 227 – 370 (61.4%), 3152 yards, 8.52 yards per pass, 23 TDs, and only 12 INTs. Virginia Tech has more yards on the ground, 2404 – 2099, but has run over 100 times more, 594 – 483. The Hokies running game has struggled, at times, during 2016. The ground game is extremely dependent on Jerod Evans, who leads the Hokies with 759 yards over 182 carries, which are both team highs for 2016. Both Virginia Tech and Arkansas are playing for respect, and have much to gain with a win over a non-conference, power five, bowl opponent. The 2016 performance of Arkansas seems to show a tale of two teams. If the squad that was obliterated by the Auburn Tigers, 56-3, shows up the Hokies will have an opportunity to dominate the game. I am more of the opinion that the team that unseated the eventual SEC East champion Florida Gators, 31-10, will be present. One of the keys for the Hokies will be marginalizing the contributions of Rawleigh Williams III and the Arkansas ground attack, forcing the Razorbacks to be one dimensional. The Hokies need to establish their own running attack, hopefully not depending on Evans, to keep drives a live. If VT is unable to do either of those then it could be a long Belk Bowl for the Hokies. I think the Fighting Gobblers return to the ten-win club, defeating the Arkansas Razorback, 34-24.

John Schneider

This game is a natch pick if you are married to paper, computers, and models. Hokies win all the way! Right? Well no... this season Tech has been known for playing down to opponents. Fuente and Corps need to break through that problem. If the Hokies can get over their tendency to slouch into games in which they are favored then they should have this one in the bank. It's a matter of who has the energy and desire to put on a final show. I really think that the Hokies have learned their lesson. 42 - 23 Hokies

Roy Hatfield

I think the Hokies are better than the Hogs in just about every position group. That doesn’t matter in bowl games. The Virginia Tech Hokies might be a bit disappointed being in Charlotte, while the Razorbacks seem thrilled. It will be hard for Fuente to get a huge effort from his club, and last I checked, Arkansas still plays in the S.E.C..Expect some tough running between the tackles from #WPS. Sorry seniors, Arkansas 38 Virginia Tech 24.

Bryan Manning

Virginia Tech has been a tough team to predict at times this season. Just when you think the Hokies get on a roll, they allow an opposing quarterback to rush for over 100 yards and lose unexpectedly. Austin Allen isn't going to rush for 100 yards against the Hokies, but the Razorbacks have a pair of running backs capable of putting together a monster game on the ground.

Bud Foster will be ready.

Foster will send everything at Allen and while Arkansas will have a solid game on the ground, it won't be enough against the Hokies. Jerod Evans will pass for over 250 yards and three scores as Isaiah Ford and Bucky Hodges both get into the end zone on what could be their last game as a Hokie.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 34, Arkansas 24

Jawhar Ali

Arkansas comes into this game as a seven point underdog, per Bovada. I can see the game ending up that close, but I feel very good about the Hokies chances to get that glorious 10th win. This all boils down to Virginia Tech's ability to stop Arkansas' power running game. In their wins, Arkansas averages 235 rushing yards per game. Rawleigh Williams is a big back that can generate a lot of yards after contact, something the Hokies have struggled against this season (see: Pittsburgh). The offensive line has three big maulers, so it will certainly be a battle up front. Arkansas then uses play-action off of that with deep drops to generate big plays through the air with Allen. So it all starts up front. I think Woody Baron, Ken Ekanem, and Vinny Mihota can get enough penetration to disrupt things. I'm also taking a leap of faith in Motuapuaka to shed blocks, diagnose plays, and get to the spot in time. Offensively, the Hokies should be able to get things going early. I can see Jerod Evans' legs once again being a difference maker against an athletic defense. Isaiah Ford and Bucky Hodges (in what may be their final games as Hokies) should be able to take advantage of Arkansas' secondary.

37-27 Hokies.