2019 Belk Bowl

Deshawn McClease (33) celebrates with teammates Hendon Hooker (2) and Tayvion Robinson (83) at Bank of America Stadium, Dec. 31, 2019.

The Virginia Tech Hokies (3-2, 3-2) will travel to Kentucky this Saturday to face off against the Louisville Cardinals (2-4, 1-4). Virginia Tech is looking to get back on track after what was a disappointing loss last week against Wake Forest. In last Saturday’s matchup, the Hokies could not get what has been a potent offense this season going, and they ended up losing to the Demon Deacons, 23-16. Another loss against an unranked Louisville team could really ruin any momentum Virginia Tech had early on this fall.

The Cardinals are seemingly all offense. If it can get everything flowing, this Louisville team can be extremely explosive despite its record. It has had four 400-yard games and scored 30 points three times this season, and that all starts and ends with running back Javian Hawkins. Hawkins is now second in the Power Five in rushing yards, passing Hokie running back Khalil Herbert, after rushing for 174 yards and three touchdowns last week against Florida State. If the Hokies let him get going, or allow big plays through the air from wide receiver Tutu Atwell, it will be a tough day in Louisville.

As for the Louisville defense, there isn’t much to write home about. Early on this season, the defense had some real struggles, giving up 47 and 46 points to Miami and Georgia Tech respectively. Recently, though, the group seems to be coming together, only allowing a total of 28 points over its last two games. The man to watch for the Cardinals will be linebacker Monty Montgomery, as he has four sacks on the season and forced three fumbles last year.

On defense, for the second consecutive week, the Hokies will have to focus on stopping the run and making tackles. If they miss tackles against Hawkins, he’ll make them pay by finding the end zone. The goal should be to put quarterback Malik Cunningham in bad positions on third down and force mistakes.

On the other side of the ball, the Hokies need to get Herbert back on track. If they can run the ball and keep Hendon Hooker from making mistakes, the Louisville defense won’t be too hard to score on.

Ultimately, the game will be a battle in the trenches between two potent running games. I predict that the team who ends up running the ball more will win the battle. If either team has to depend on the pass, it will struggle.

Score Prediction: Louisville 38, Virginia Tech 30

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