2017 Camping World Bowl Expert Picks & Predictions: Virginia Tech vs. Oklahoma State
Virginia Tech Hokies vs. Oklahoma State Cowboys, Thursday Dec. 28, 5:15 p.m. ET
These two nine-win teams head to Orlando right after Christmas for what is an intriguing, if not ideal, matchup. Oklahoma State just has to be glad that this isn't a home game. The team's three losses all came at home - against TCU, Oklahoma and, incredibly, Kansas State. Stillwater just wasn't the advantage that it should be, I guess. And the Cowboys have another thing going for them here besides the location. Mike Gundy flirted with going to Tennessee - as did 85 other coaches - but he renewed his commitment to Oklahoma State for the long term. That was all taken care of early enough that it shouldn't be any kind of a distraction here.
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Camping World Bowl Betting Storylines
Both of these teams have something unfortunate in common. They both showed their limits this year by losing to the two best teams that each played - TCU and Oklahoma for Oklahoma State, and Clemson and Miami for Virginia Tech. They both have things they do very well - Oklahoma State is third nationally in points scored, and Virginia Tech is fifth in the country in points allowed - but neither was up to the challenge of facing elite teams. In that sense, at least, it's a good matchup.
Obviously, the big storyline here is the battle of strengths. Oklahoma State scored 46.2 points per game. Virginia Tech allowed just 13.5 per outing. Obviously, both teams can't play their ideal game in this one. The trick for handicappers is to figure out which is better positioned to shine. In each of the three Virginia Tech losses the team allowed at least four touchdowns, so they can be scored upon. Oklahoma State, meanwhile, still scored 41 points on average in their three losses, and they scored less than 31 points only once - that bizarre 13-10 overtime win against Texas. The Cowboys are a dynamic and explosive offense. Virginia Tech has two big issues - they haven't seen anything like this, and if and when the game becomes a shootout they don't have the offense to keep up. The Hokies are going to have to slow this game down/ move the chains - slowly - and find a way to get some stops on defense or they are going to be in real trouble here.
The coaching matchup here is an interesting one. Mike Gundy has been a coach of one sort or another for 28 years, and 23 of those have been at Oklahoma State - where he was also a quarterback. He is Oklahoma State, and he knows only one way of doing things. He is consistent with his system, and it has worked reasonably well for him. He's only 50, but in so many ways he feels like a throwback to the old days when guys coached teams for life. Justin Fuente is younger at 41, and he is much more of a modern coach - he played at two schools and has coached at four more. Gundy very easily could be a Cowboy for life. Fuente will move on again and again. But both are talented, and it will be a showdown - with an edge to Fuente from where I sit.
Camping World Bowl Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with Oklahoma State favored by just short of a touchdown at 6.5. That number has been falling since, with the Cowboys now favored by only four . Three-quarters of bets have been on Oklahoma State, so the sharp action is clearly heavily on the Hokies. The total opened at 62 and has climbed slightly to 63 in early betting action.
The Hokies are 6-1 ATS in their last seven nonconference games and 8-3 ATS in their last 11 December games. They are a bizarrely impressive 23-11 ATS in games played on Thursdays. They have gone "under" the total in each of their last six against teams with winning records. The Cowboys have covered their spread in their last five nonconference games, and are 5-2 ATS in their last seven on a neutral field. They are, however, just 1-4 ATS in their last five against teams with winning records.
Virginia Tech vs. Oklahoma State Camping World Bowl Expert Picks & Predictions
I am frustrated by the Cowboys - they never feel to do as well as they should given the talent they have and the system they play. And I really think a lot of Fuente and his program here. But I can't overthink this one. The Cowboys are going to be able to score a lot of points, and I don't trust this Hokies team to match them offensively or slow them down defensively. With the spread where it is, the Cowboys are the only choice. Oklahoma State against the spread.
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