The ninth annual Military Bowl will take place on December 31, with the Cincinnati Bearcats favored by five over the Virginia Tech Hokies. The total is set at 53.5 for this game. Navy won last year’s contest, dominating Virginia 49-7, so this should hopefully be a much closer contest.
Virginia Tech enters the game at 6-6 thanks to victories in their final two games, including defeating Marshall 41-20 in their final contest of the season. Cincinnati is 10-2, after beating ECU in their final game by 50 points.
Hokies Turn Tide to Close Out Season
After losing four straight games and nearly finding themselves out of bowl contention with a 4-6 record, Virginia Tech (5-7-0 ATS, 7-4-1 O/U) battled back with a 34-31 overtime victory over Virginia before defeating Marshall by 21 points to give them a 6-6 record. A victory over then No. 19 Florida State started the year, and they would add a 17 point victory over then No. 22 ranked Duke to move to 4-1. However, a loss to No. 3 Notre Dame turned the season, as they would lose to Georgia Tech, then No. 24 Boston College, Pitt, and Miami before getting back into the win column.
The Hokies are averaging 29.8 points per game and 426.9 points per contest. There defenses allowing 30.7 points per game and 436.7 yards of offense per contest. The offense has lost just five fumbles this season, while the defense has recovered 12. That could be a huge factor in this game.
The offense is led by Ryan Willis who has thrown for 2497 yards and 22 touchdowns. Willis has completed 58.0% of his passes and has only eight interceptions this season. Stephen Peoples is the leading ground gainer, averaging 5.1 yards per carry. He has 760 yards rushing and five touchdowns. Damon Hazelton is the leading receiver with 45 catches for 745 yards and eight touchdowns.
Bearcats Look to Return to Top 25
It appears that a 10-2 mark has not impressed those voting in the national rankings, as Cincinnati (7-5 ATS, 5-7-0 O/U) enters the Military Bowl out of the top 25 in both polls. This, despite impressive victories over UCLA, Navy, and USF. In fact, their only losses are a seven-point defeat to Temple in overtime and a loss on November 17 to then No. 11 ranked UCF 38-13.
The defense has been impressive for Cincinnati this season, allowing 16.1 points per contest and only 289.9 yards per game. The offense is producing 34.9 points per game while averaging 458.2 yards per contest. The Bearcats have dominated after the first quarter this season. After edging opponents 100-71 through the first frame, Cincinnati is a +198 over the final three quarters this year.
This is a very well balanced offense. Michael Warren leads the team in rushing with 1181 yards and 17 touchdowns. He is averaging 5.2 yards per carry. Quarterback Desmond Ridder has rushed for 579 yards this season and has been impressive with his arm as well, completing 62.5% of his passes for 2359 yards and 19 touchdowns. He has been intercepted just five times this season. Kahlil Lewis has been his primary target, making 55 catches for 768 yards and nine scores.
2-6 ATS in their last eight games overall.
9-4 ATS in their last 13 games in December.
1-4 ATS in their last five games on field turf.
2-7 ATS in their last nine bowl games.
0-4-1 ATS in their last five games in December.
5-2 ATS in their last seven non-conference games.
The Winner Prediction
Cincinnati started as 7.5 point favorites, but have seen that number reduced to 5.0. It appears that oddsmakers are a bit antsy about the American Athletic Conference powerhouse, but they shouldn’t be. The Bearcats, under the direction of second-year head coach Luke Fickell, have gotten back to a place that they have not been since Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly roamed the sidelines for Cincinnati.
Virginia Tech rallied at the end of the season to become bowl eligible, and the underdog has won the last five meetings between these two teams, but they do not have the firepower to keep up with this Bearcats offense. Look for Cincinnati to roll by the third quarter.
The Pick: Cincinnati Bearcats -5.0 (-110)
These two teams are averaging 55 points per game combined, putting them slightly over the total set for this contest at 53.5. The defenses are allowing slightly under 51 combined, making this a tough call. Both of these teams have gone over in five of their last seven games in December, but we really like that Cincinnati defense. They have gone under in 10 of their last 15 non-conference games, and one cannot argue with just 16.1 points per game allowed.