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SQ Camping World Bowl Preview

Orlando Sentinel

In a battle between an elite offense verses elite defense, which will prevail?

Virginia Tech and Oklahoma State will head to Orlando for the 2017 Camping World Bowl. The Cowboys finished third in the Big 12 at 9-3, and the Hokies also finished 9-3 and third in the ACC. However, these two have gotten there in entirely different ways, with Oklahoma State showing off an elite offense and Virginia Tech possessing one of the nation’s best defenses. In a classic battle of offense versus defense, which unit will come out on top?

The Camping World Bowl will be played on Dec. 28 at 5:15 pm EST on ESPN

Headlines Heading Into The Game

1. First Bowl Game Between Ranked Teams- Despite 14 Power 5 teams competing before the kickoff of the Camping World Bowl, this will be the first between two top-25 teams. The Hokies rank 22nd while the Cowboys come in at 19th. Neither team is playing in the bowl that they hoped for, but finishing the year with 10 wins is a nice consolation prize.  

2. Hokies’ Offense Without Stars- Virginia Tech is not known for its offense, so losing two star players before the bowl game is crushing. Starting running back Travon McMillan has decided to transfer from Tech and will not participate in the bowl game. The rushing attack wasn’t there for the Hokies, but McMillan led the way with 439 rushing yards on 104 carries. Taking his place in the backfield will be Deshawn McClease who finished the season with 406 yards on 90 carries and three touchdowns.

Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente asked about playing Oklahoma State without leading receiver Cam Phillips and leading rusher Travon McMillian, “I don’t know that it changes the game plan.”

— Andrea Adelson (@aadelsonESPN) December 26, 2017

Senior Cam Phillips is an even bigger loss for Tech. Phillips is the career-receiving leader with 236 receptions and 3,027 yards. He will miss the game against Oklahoma State with a sports hernia, which he’s been dealing with all season long. Phillips has 71 receptions, 964 yards, and seven touchdowns to lead the team by a wide margin. Freshman Sean Savoy will take over number one receiver duties after ranking second on the team with 39 catches for 454 yards and four touchdowns. 

3. Mason Rudolph’s final NFL audition- Mason Rudolph has had a storied career in Stillwater. With one game still to go, he’s already the Cowboy’s career-leading passer in yards (13,267) and touchdowns (90). In 2017, Rudolph has had his best season with 4,553 yards, 35 touchdowns, and only nine interceptions. 

Despite his record career with Oklahoma State, many draft experts don’t have Rudolph very high. Draft guru Mel Kiper has the Cowboy standout as his sixth-ranked QB prospect behind UCLA’s Josh Rosen, USC’s Sam Darnold, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, Louisville’s Lamar Jackson, and Wyoming’s Josh Allen. The Hokies’ defense will be the best Rudolph has seen all season, and his last chance to prove to the scouts exactly what he can offer at the next level.

Mason Rudolph, OK State: NFL Draft Scouting Report @Rudolph2Mason

NFL Mocks Crew (@NFLMocks) December 22, 2017

Key Stats

2 - The ACC isn’t really known as an offensively-driven conference. Only five of the 14 teams are ranked in the top-50 in terms of total yards. Out of those five, Virginia Tech has only faced one, Clemson. In total, Virginia Tech has gone up against two teams from the top-20 in offense, Clemson and West Virginia. The Hokie defense has only given up 3,663 total yards, but Oklahoma State is a different beast. The Cowboys are third in total yards (6,908) and third in points per game with 46.3. Oklahoma State hasn’t faced a defense as good as Tech, but the Hokies haven’t faced an offense nearly as good as the Cowboys’.  

400.3- Oklahoma State’s offensive dominance is very well documented. However, its defense leaves a lot to be desired. The Cowboys give up 400.3 yards per game which is 73rd in the country. A sub-par defense isn’t rare in the Big 12, but the Hokies could look at this as a way to stick around with Oklahoma State’s juggernaut offense. Opportunity will be there for a young Hokie offense, they just need to take advantage of it. 

28.8- With a true freshman QB and a young receiving core, the Hokies have had their issues on offense. This year they have scored only 28.8 points per game which is tied for 63rd in the country. That number is bolstered by two games where they scored 64 and 59 points. Take those games away and Virginia Tech only averages 22.2 points per game. Oklahoma State’s defense isn’t a strong one, but if the Hokies have any shot at winning they must keep pace with Rudolph and the rest of the Cowboy offense. 

Key Players

James Washington and Marcell Ateman, WRs, Oklahoma State- Rudolph is obviously the face of the Cowboys, but he may not even be their best offensive player. That title goes to senior receiver James Washington. He’s third the country in receiving yards (1,423) and seventh in receiving touchdowns with 12. Washington also leads the nation in receiving average among wideouts with 35+ receptions at 20.6. He’s a big and fast receiver that should hear his name called early in the 2018 NFL Draft but first, he’ll battle a very good Hokie secondary. 

The Cowboys have four receivers with 40+ receptions and Marcell Ateman is right behind Washington in terms of production. The senior wideout is second on the team with 54 receptions, 1,049 yards, and eight touchdowns. Atemen doesn’t garner the national attention like Washington, but he is just as dangerous and gives Rudolph yet another target to rely on. The Cowboys easily have the best wide receiver group in the country with Washington and Ateman leading the pack. 

Josh Jackson, QBVirginia Tech- I was tempted to put defensive coordinator Bud Foster here due to the increased importance he’ll play in getting the defense ready. But shifting focus on offense is just as important. Freshman Josh Jackson leads the Hokie offense. Without Phillips and McMillan there’s even more pressure on Jackson to perform at a high level. In his first season, Jackson has thrown for 2,743 yards, 19 touchdowns, and eight interceptions. As a dual-threat, he’s also added 274 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.

There were ups and downs, but Virginia Tech QB Josh Jackson performed well in his freshman season

— VTScoop247 (@VTScoop247) December 2, 2017

Despite solid numbers, Jackson ended the year struggling, only picking up 1,012 total yards, six total touchdowns, and four interceptions in the final five games. He might be able to find some success against Oklahoma State’s defense, but it’ll be tough with inexperienced receivers. 

Why Oklahoma State Wins

The Cowboys can win this game by simply letting their offense go out there and sling the ball around. No one is going to stop Rudolph, Washington, and Atemen. Most teams try to focus on the star receiver and force others to step up, but, against Mike Gundy’s squad, that’s a terrible idea because the other three receivers will tear you up. Even with a pass-first system, the Cowboys have a 1,000-yard rusher in Justice Hill. That’s just too many weapons for Virginia Tech to cover.

Inside the Numbers - #okstate vs. Virginia Tech

— Cowboy Football (@CowboyFB) December 27, 2017

Oklahoma State’s defense will get plenty of chances to frustrate the Hokies. With plenty of time to prepare for this game, defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer will more than likely dial up plenty of pressure and make Jackson one-dimensional. Virginia Tech’s offense isn’t even close to the same level as most of the Big 12, so the defense should be prepared. 

Why Virginia Tech Wins

Defense, defense, defense, that is the only way Virginia Tech wins the Camping World Bowl. The offense will have to keep up, but don’t have nearly enough talent to score every possession. That means the defense will have to play their best game of the season to keep Oklahoma State from scoring over and over again. This will give the Hokies’ offense a chance to find their footing and score when they can.

View from the other side. Virginia Tech’s Bud Foster thinks #okstate offense might be best he’s ever faced. #GoPokes

— Gavin Lang (@glang1) December 24, 2017

Foster has assembled another defense filled with NFL-ready talent. Linebackers Tremain Edmunds and Andrew Motuapuaka are the heart and soul of this group with the two combining for 186 tackles, 24.5 tackles for loss, and nine sacks. These two will be the anchor against Oklahoma State, but the secondary will be the ones that win it for Tech. Greg Stroman, Adonis Alexander, and Reggie Floyd have combined for eight interceptions and 16 pass deflections, and will need to play their best game of their careers to slow down this passing attack. 


Simply put, Virginia Tech doesn’t have the offense to keep up. The Hokies might be able to stay in the game early thanks to their defense but if Oklahoma State’s defense finds its groove, it’s over. I think Tech will be within a score heading into halftime, but after that Rudolph and the gang will break the game open and make it a blowout. 

Oklahoma State Wins 38-17

Edited by Emily Berman, Coleman Gray.

What is Mike Gundy's bowl record with Oklahoma State?
Created 12/19/17
  1. 6-5
  2. 9-2
  3. 7-4
  4. 5-6

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