Virginia Tech is headed to Charlotte. The Hokies (8-4, 5-3) were selected for the Belk Bowl on Sunday afternoon, where they’ll face Kentucky (7-5, 3-5) out of the SEC. The Wildcats are headed to their fourth consecutive bowl game under Mark Stoops, while the Hokies are set to make their 27th consecutive bowl appearance, which is the longest active streak in the NCAA.
Kentucky’s SEC victories came over Arkansas (24-20), Missouri (29-7) and Vanderbilt (38-14). Those three teams combined to go 4-20 in conference play this season. However, they closed the season strong by smashing in-state rival Louisville 45-13. The Wildcats’ other victories came against Toledo (38-24), Eastern Michigan (38-17) and Tennessee-Martin (50-7).
Kentucky’s major national rankings are as follows…
Total Offense: No. 80
Total Defense: No. 19
Scoring Offense: No. 85
Scoring Defense: No. 12
In short, they are a team that has been very good on the defensive side of the ball, though they’ve struggled offensively. They are No. 48 nationally in turnovers forced with 18, and No. 67 in turnovers lost, which also stands at 18.
However, Kentucky’s offense changed drastically after the first five games of the season. They moved wide receiver Lynn Bowden to quarterback and ran a run-heavy offense. In their most recent win over Louisville, they threw just two passes while rushing for 517 yards. Over his last two games, Bowden is just 2-of-8 passing, but he’s carried the ball 33 times for 413 yards and six touchdowns. He has over 1,200 rushing yards on the season.
The Wildcats are 5-2 since making that quarterback change, and after Bryce Perkins had success against the Hokies on the ground, Bud Foster could have a difficult matchup on his hands in his final game as Virginia Tech’s defensive coordinator.
Virginia Tech defeated Arkansas 35-24 in the 2016 Belk Bowl.
The 2019 Belk Bowl will be held on Tuesday, December 31 in Bank of America Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for noon, and the game will be televised by ESPN.