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December 28, 2012

Rutgers vs Virginia Tech: Who has the edge?

With a healthy Jawan Jamison ready for action, Rutgers (9-3) will take on Virginia Tech (6-6) today in the Russell Athletic Bowl. Which team has the edge? We asked our resident experts!

Bobby Deren

Jason Stamm

The Rutgers offense hasn't been the strength of this year's team. The offensive line has been very good, but points have been tough to come by. Quarterback Gary Nova has had his share of ups and downs but Virginia tech's Logan Thomas has had a bit of a rocky year himself. The Hokie offense still is able to generate more consistent offense and has a slight edge in this one.

Which team has the more potent offense?
Virginia Tech's offense has been anything but potent. Against Duke, the Hokies looked like a juggernaut, but other than that, it's been hard to come by. I know Gary Nova has had his struggles, but Jawan Jamison gives the Scarlet Knights the edge here.

Jawan Jamison. As Jamison goes, so does the Rutgers offense. That was abundantly clear in the final two games as Rutgers dropped its last two contests while Jamison was nursing a a sprained ankle. Jamison claims to be back to 100 percent and his effectiveness could take Rutgers a long way against Virginia Tech.
Who is the Offensive 'X Factor,' and why?
Everything on Virginia Tech's offense centers around Logan Thomas at QB. He'll have to run quite a bit, but he also can't make the mistakes he's made throughout this season. If he can get going through the air, the Hokies' chances improve.
Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights own the nation's No.14 defense and it has been the backbone of this team all season. The unit is at its best when it creates turnovers and has 29 takeaways to its credit through 12 games. The Hokie defense has also been good but hasn't been able to carry the team to victory the way Rutgers has this season. Rutgers is also fifth in the nation in scoring defense, allowing only 14.25 points per game.
Which team has the better defense?
Virginia Tech. The defense is the main reason the Hokies have gotten to this point. That's good and bad. In losses to North Carolina and Pittsburgh, the defense was the problem. But the Hokies seem to have settled down of late and the defense has been a huge reason for the late wins.
The Rutgers defensive line. The unit has struggled to get sacks all season, only producing 11 of the team's 22 total sacks. To keep Virginia Tech Logan Thomas contained, Rutgers will need to find a way to get more production from its offensive level. Defensive tackle Scott Vallone is playing at a very high level but will need some help. Expect a big game in the 51st straight start for Vallone, but he will need some help in the trenches.
Who is the defensive 'X Factor,' and why?
Jack Tyler/Bruce Taylor. These guys have been tackling machines this season. If they can get their normal of about 10 tackles apiece as well as get pressure on Nova, VT is looking good on defense.
Rutgers has excelled in blocking kicks yet again this season with a total of eight on the season. It has been the strength of its special teams while Justin Doerner has struggled in the punting game. Kickoff returns have been few and far between for the Scarlet Knights this season with an overwhelming amount of touchbacks. RU has only returned 21 kickoffs on the year. On the opposite side of things, Rutgers has only 10 touchbacks on 45 kickoffs. Virginia Tech has also had its share of struggles in the punting game but boasts the nation's No.7 punt returner in Kyshoen Jarrett. I'll call this one an even draw.
Who has the edge on special teams?
This one's close. Kicker Cody Journell has had a pair of game-winners at the end of the game, but he's also missed a few as well. AJ Hughes can be a big X-factor at punter, but that's no guarantee. There's some capable guys at returner, but they're not consistent either. I'll say it's a draw.
Rutgers came up short in its season finale when it needed a score in the final two minutes against Louisville. There were instances when the RU offense covered a lot of ground in a hurry this year, but it was a different story with the game on the line. Gary Nova failed to lead RU to what would have been one of its biggest wins in school history. Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas has an NFL-arm and although he may have had a bit of a down season, he could stretch defenses if needed. Thomas has the edge over Nova and in a two-minute situation, Tech has the advantage.
If the game comes down to a final drive, which team drives the length of the field?
It's just hard to say with the VT offense. I think Rutgers is more than capable as are the Hokies. But there's just been so many inconsistencies. It's a hell of a chore to predict which VT team will show up. If I had to go with one or the other, I say Rutgers' offense is more likely to get the job done.

This looks to be a hard-fought defense battle where points may be at a minimum. Rutgers finally has its top offensive weapon back in Jawan Jamison and will lean on the strength of his running. Having a full month to soak in a 3-point loss to Louisville that cost the team a BCS bid, Rutgers will be looking to avenge that bitter defeat. There could be a little rust to start things off but Rutgers will prevail in a close one. Rutgers 20 Virginia Tech 17.
Which team will win?
Neither team's offense is spectacular and both defenses are stellar. Virginia Tech has been to 20 straight bowls now, but each have ended in winning seasons. A loss here would break that streak and this VT team doesn't want to be that team. They're plenty motivated. This one will come down to the end and there will be just enough offense. I think a score on either side, maybe both will come from defense or special teams. But the Hokies will do just enough and I predict will win 27-24.

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