2009 Chick-Fil-A Bowl Odds and Predictions
by Jay Horne - 12/29/2009
No. 13 Virginia Tech Hokies (9-3) vs. Tennessee Volunteers (7-5)
Date: Dec. 31
Location: Georgia Dome Atlanta
Spread: Virginia Tech -6.5, 49.5 total
The Chick-Fil-A Bowl, formerly the Peach Bowl, has long been one of the most prestigious postseason bowl games in college football. For the 18th consecutive meeting, the Georgia Dome will host a battle between ACC and SEC schools. This year’s clash will feature the No. 13 Virginia Tech Hokies, second in the ACC Coastal, and the Tennessee Volunteers, who finished third in the SEC East. The SEC holds a four-game winning streak in Chick-Fil-A Bowl history, but the Volunteers are just 1-3 throughout their previous four trips to Atlanta in the bowl game’s 41 years of existence.
Virginia Tech will be making its fourth appearance in Chick-Fil-A Bowl history with its only victory coming back in 1986 with a 25-24 win over North Carolina State. However, the Hokies are among the best the ACC has to offer and will be looking to make a statement against the conference that has dominated the ACC in recent years. Tennessee got off to a sluggish start this season, but surged to win four of their last five games in Coach Lane Kiffin’s first year. The Volunteers will now attempt to grab their biggest win of the year against the highly-ranked Hokies when the two teams collide in what will be the 12th straight sellout in Chick-Fil-A Bowl history.
Ever since Tennessee ended the season with a 30-24 overtime victory over Kentucky, the Volunteers have received a ton of attention for all the wrong reasons. Coach Lane Kiffin and the University of Tennessee have been part of an on-going NCAA investigation concerning illegal recruiting practices. Accusations have surfaced that Kiffin and the Volunteers football team knowingly used “hostesses” to help lure high school recruits into committing to the University. Whether the claims are true or not, the NCAA investigation has piled a ton of negative publicity on the Volunteers program. In fact, a few of the current Volunteers recruiting commitments have backed out of their pledges and are re-evaluating their current statuses.
The Volunteers must use the bowl game to get the focus back on the playing field. Considering the amount of negative attention around the team, the Volunteers cannot afford a bad performance. A loss to the Hokies could result in a few recruits backing out of their commitments to choose other schools. Also, Kiffin had the Volunteers faithful believing they were on the fast track back to the top of the SEC. A loss with some potential NCAA violations could have many wondering if the program truly is headed in the right direction. However, winning football games is the solution to everything. If Tennessee can grab a respectable victory over Virginia Tech, it gets the focus back on to the football field. Furthermore, Kiffin can continue to build Tennessee back into the national power it once was.
For the Hokies, this was the year they were supposed to walk through the ACC and even possibly contend for a National Championship. Virginia Tech captured an ACC Championship in 2008 and had nearly everyone back, which was the reason for the high expectations. However, the Hokies were immediately knocked off by SEC powerhouse Alabama in the opener. The loss ended all hopes of any National Championship-type year. The Hokies then suffered two back-to-back losses through the middle of the year that ultimately prevented them from having a shot at the ACC Championship this season. The Hokies now attempt to take down one of the SEC villains that kept them from the breakout season they had expected. Another win not only extracts some revenge on the SEC, but also gives the Hokies their sixth straight 10-win season.
Virginia Tech emerged as one of the top rushing teams in the country this season despite losing star running back Darren Evans before the season even started. Instead, rookie Ryan Williams exploded in the Hokies offense to rush for 1,538 yards and 19 touchdowns. Williams ranked sixth individually in college football this season for rushing and the Hokies finished 15th in rushing offense, averaging 206 yards per game. Tyrod Taylor can also be a dangerous running threat when he decides to tuck the ball away with his tremendous speed from the quarterback position. It will be interesting to see if the Tennessee defense can bring the speed SEC defenses are known for and stifle the Hokies running game.
The Volunteers secondary is among the best in the nation, led by All-American Safety Eric Berry. The Tennessee pass defense ranked 10th in the country holding teams to 165 yards per game. Therefore, Taylor will expectantly have a difficult time throwing the football. Tennessee has given up 142 yards per game on the ground, which barely ranks inside the Top 50 in college football. However, the Volunteers nearly knocked off both Alabama and Florida, who are among the top rushing teams in the country. If the Volunteers can play strong up front again, the Hokies are going to have a tough time moving the football. Every determining factor in this game points to the Hokies rushing offense against the Volunteers defensive front. The winner of that battle will win the game.
Another player of valued importance to watch is Tennessee QB Jonathan Crompton. Crompton has experienced a roller coaster of a ride through his career in Knoxville. He started the season throwing seven interceptions in his first three games, which is a trend all too common for Volunteers fans. However, down the stretch the Volunteers senior performed better than most would have expected, throwing 12 touchdowns and just two interceptions in his final five games of the year. Which quarterback will step on the field in Atlanta? Will we see the shaky and hesitant quarterback that started the season; or will it be the calm and collected leader we saw during the second half of the season? The Hokies also own one of the top pass defenses in the country so the Volunteers will need Crompton to be at his best.
Line Value and Chick-Fil-A Bowl Odds
Virginia Tech opened as 4.5-point favorites over the Volunteers, but that has consistently grown to the 6.5 mark the Hokies currently own. However, even with the line movements the betting public is still undecided with early betting action nearly being split evenly at 50/50. The total for the contest opened at 50.5 before dropping a point and leveling out at its current mark of 49.5
Chick-Fil-A Bowl Predictions
The game should be a great battle between one of the top teams from the ACC and just a middle-tier team from the SEC. However, the Hokies have lost four of their last five games in the postseason. Not only did Tennessee end the season well, but they played extremely well against power running teams like Virginia Tech. As long as Crompton does not throw multiple interceptions, the Volunteers should be a safe bet. Take Tennessee +6.
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