The Blue Collar Breakdown: Rutgers

On Friday evening, the Hokies will take on the University of Rutgers Scarlet Knights for the chance to redeem a disappointing season and finish with a victory in the Russell Athletic Bowl.  Orlando, Florida and the Russell Athletic Bowl is definitely not where anyone (coaches, players, fans) expected to be spending the Bowl Season, but if you look at it objectively, the Hokies are lucky to be here.  If not for postseason bans for both UNC and the University of Miami, the Hokies bowl draw would likely be much worse.  Virginia Tech has some really disappointing losses this season, especially against Pitt, Cincinnati and Miami.  I don’t care how you try to spin it, those losses look bad and it’s very rare and lucky that a team with six losses gets to find itself in a bowl matchup with a team that went 9-3 and almost won their BCS conference.

In fact, I have “ghosted” the Scarlet Knights message boards this past week and spoken to a few of their fans and I have been surprised and somewhat horrified to find out that most of the Rutgers fanbase (those who will speak up anyway) is disappointed to be playing the 6-6 Hokies in the bowl game.  Go back and read that sentence again and let it sink in.  The Rutgers Scarlet Knights fans, whose team has lost 11 consecutive games to Virginia Tech, are disappointed to be playing such a weak opponent in their bowl game.  From their perspective, they were one play away from finishing the season 10-2 with a Big East conference championship and playing in a BCS bowl game.  BCS game notwithstanding, they played well, won 9 games and were rewarded with a high caliber bowl game (perhaps the best bowl game in the program’s history) only to have to face a 6-6 team from a watered down conference who had to win its last two games to even qualify.  And yet, somehow, Rutgers finds themselves a 2.5 point underdog in this competition.

How is that possible?  How can it be that Vegas oddsmakers have the Hokies favored in this game?  The Rutgers fans that I have spoken to and those who participate in their message forums certainly seem like a confident group.  After all, the Scarlet Knights had one of the best seasons in the history of the program and the Hokies are having their worst season since 1992.  Still, the Hokies must have a pretty sizable talent gap over Rutgers in order for Vegas to have the Hokies installed as favorites, right?  Let’s take a look.

VT and Rutgers: Overall Talent Comparison