CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Arkansas and Virginia Tech meet at 5:30 p.m. ET Thursday in the Belk Bowl.
That you already knew.
Here’s what you didn’t know: Arkansas will win.
(OK, so we don’t actually know that. The Hokies are a touchdown favorite and have an offense seemingly tailor-made to give the Hogs fits. But for the purposes of this article, Arkansas will win.)
The win will be the Razorbacks’ third consecutive bowl victory — a first in program history — and give Arkansas momentum heading into the final stretch of recruiting season and then the 2017 season.
Here’s how Arkansas pulls it off:
The 3-4 defensive switch works
Arkansas plans to move to a 3-4 base defense for the 2017 season, but is expected to get a head start on that transition in the Belk Bowl. In this scenario, the switch works swimmingly, with the Hogs finding a way to slow Virginia Tech quarterback Jerod Evans just enough to pull off a victory.
We’ll throw in a late, game-sealing turnover for good measure.
Austin Allen throws for 300 yards
That doesn’t mean Arkansas’ offense won’t need to score, though. And in order for the Hogs to score enough to win, quarterback Austin Allen will need a big day.
He throws for 325 yards and 3 touchdowns — and doesn’t turn the ball over — in this hypothetical win. The lack of turnovers is especially important; Allen threw at least one interception in six of the Hogs’ last seven games.
… And Arkansas’ OL keeps him protected
Virginia Tech was 10th in the ACC in sacks per game, so there is the potential for Arkansas’ much-maligned offensive line to end the 2016 season on a positive note.
Allen was sacked 28 times during the regular season, but in our above scenario against the Hokies he isn’t sacked once.
Williams and Whaley combine for 200
As the regular season wore on, uber-talented true freshman running back Devwah Whaley became more and more involved in the offense. Williams remains the No. 1 guy — he did lead the SEC in rushing yardage, after all — but if both players are heavily involved against Virginia Tech, expect an Arkansas victory.
I’ll say Williams rushes for 140 yards and Whaley adds 60 on the ground in a winning effort.
McFain nails a clutch field goal
Senior kicker Adam McFain took over placekicking duties in early October and while he isn’t been perfect, he represents an upgrade at the position.
The Hogs’ hypothetical victory as laid out here will include a clutch, fourth-quarter field goal from McFain that is from at least 45 yards.