Before then, we need some more info on the Hokies. Who better to get info from than the people who know the team best? John and Josh Schneider of SB Nation’s Gobbler Country were kind enough to take some time out of their day to answer my questions about OSU’s opponent in the Camping World Bowl.
CRFF: First off, tell me overall how you think your season went.
GC - Josh: Oh, it's pretty much what I expected. The key games of the year were going to be home vs. Clemson, at FedEx Field vs. WVU, and away at Miami and Georgia Tech, and I figured the Hokies were going to go 1-3. Why? Inexperience. Outside of Cam Phillips, Yosuah Nijman, Eric Gallo, and Wyatt Teller, we'd be replacing pretty much everyone on offense. (I don't count Travon McMillian because Fuente rotates running backs too much to really get a sense of 'experience'.) I figured Jackson, as a redshirt freshman, would be alright to good against the plethora of poor defenses and bad against the decent to good ones. Turns out that was fairly accurate. I think that the defense has been pretty consistent the past two years- overall very decent but with a startling tendency to give up the big play. This led to a 9-3 season which was pretty much exactly in line with preseason projections. Good, promising in the future, but still somewhat disappointing in some ways. The disappointment came with how we ended up getting there with blowing through the early part of the season and our offense almost crumbling into nothingness as injuries, inexperience, and ineffectiveness really started to set in.
CRFF: Tell me what you think about the matchup in the Camping World Bowl.
GC - John: I'd have preferred that we were faced off against a more balanced team. Big XII football is all about slinging it around and running it for big points and fast scores; but with no discernible defense involved. Our early season experience with West Virginia was good, and we generated enough points to beat them, but our Coal Country rivals are not the classic Big XII team. We had a shootout with Tulsa back a few years ago, but that was when we had an Air Raid experienced QB with Michael Brewer and most of those offensive weapons who are gone now. It's a difficult game to predict.
CRFF: Mason Rudolph, James Washington and the Oklahoma State offense is one of the most feared in the nation. However, VT has a heralded defense of its own. Can the Hokies shut down arguably the most lethal combo in college football, along with all the other weapons?
GC - John: The short answer is "Yes". The long answer involves some explanation of "Can" and "Will". That also means launching into guesses as to whether Bud Foster intends to attack or defend. Frankly, with the Cowboys' offensive capabilities, if he "defends" he's going to lose. That means varying looks, gunning for the QB from all directions, containing the run, and not allowing the quarterback to get the ball out to anyone. Tech's big weakness this season has been the single explosive play ruining an otherwise stout defensive stand. Can Foster's defenses get enough critical stops? I think that they can, but it's not even close to a guarantee. The key to stopping your offense is to have your QB running around like Beaker screaming with his hair on fire, and throwing the ball into the stands in a panic. Given your offense's level of skill and talent, that's a thin reed to hang on to.
CRFF: It was announced last week that Hokie leading receiver Cam Phillips would be out of the game due to surgery on a sports hernia. How does the VT offense recover from losing one of its most important pieces?
GC - Josh: It's going to be difficult at best. With an offense that was already misfiring, now our best player is out? It's going to be a lot of trying to wig-wag Sean Savoy open and a lot of Eric Kumah on third down. Honestly it's better as a jump-start to next year when Cam is going to be gone anyway and they'll have to figure it out, but going against the Oklahoma State offense, the athletic and experience class difference will be laid pretty bare. Hopefully they'll be able to play and adjust against a statistically quite blah Oklahoma State defense, but that's yet to be seen.
CRFF: The Camping World Bowl Twitter account has dubbed the game “The #HokiePokey Bowl”. What do you think of the name?
GC - John: Never been to a game at Lane Stadium before this season, have you? The powers that be ditched the activity, but up until mid season this year, between the 3rd and 4th quarters, the entire Tuba Section of both Virginia Tech marching bands (something like 25 to 30) would line up on the goal line of the North End Zone and the entire stadium would do the Hokey Pokey. Lots of over serious people thought it was dumb, but the little kids and the oldsters thought it great fun. Maybe it's a sign that the tradition needs to come back.
CRFF: What is one specific match-up that you will be looking for on Thursday afternoon?
GC - John: What I think is going to be the key match-up for the game. The battle between the Virginia Tech Defensive line, and Linebackers plus whatever Whip/Rover offside blitzer Bud Foster dials up against the Oklahoma State Offensive line. Bud and the boys win that war, we win the game, it's that simple.
GC- Josh: The easy answer is the cornerback rotation against Washington and Rudolph, but I'm much more interested to see if Fuente can get Jackson going again against the Oklahoma State defense. If this offense can't stay on the field and potentially score against Oklahoma State in a shootout, they're just going to be downed by a barrage of points. If Jackson has a poor game, I can see the competition for quarterback really be opened up this spring.
CRFF: Prediction time: The Cowboys are 4.5-point favorites and the over/under is set at 63. Give me your predictions for the game.
GC - Josh: Much to my chagrin, take the over and the 'Boys. I don't currently have much confidence in the offense to perform, even against the OSU defense. 45-24 OSU.
GC - John: I honestly don't have one. I am not a big bowl-game prediction person. The numbers and balance works out that the spread and over under look to be reasonable. IF Tech's defense can dominate the offensive line and keep Rudolph on his butt or running around uselessly... even our tepid offense has a chance to score points. IF we don't, it could be very long evening. It's sort of ironic that Justin Fuente, Air Raid/RPO Big XII-style offensive coach that he is and an Oklahoma native to go with it is trying to be a home-state team with an ACC-style team in transition. It'll be fun for someone, that's all that I can say.
Thanks again to the Schneiders for helping me out and getting some insight on the Hokies.