Here are three keys to watch for Virginia Tech against Rutgers in today’s Russell Athletic Bowl (5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN):
1. Win the turnover battle. The Hokies lost the ball four times in their loss to Pitt, and turned it over three times in their loss to Cincinnati. It’s no wonder Virginia Tech is 0-2 against the Big East so far this season. Five of those seven turnovers were interceptions by quarterback Logan Thomas. That won’t fly against a Rutgers defense ranked No. 25 in the country in pass efficiency defense. The Scarlet Knights have picked off 16 passes this year. Linebacker Khaseem Greene, the two-time Big East Defensive Player of the Year, led the league with 125 tackles and six forced fumbles. Greene also had 5.5 sacks and two interceptions.
2. Establish the run. The Hokies’ rushing offense has struggled all season to replace David Wilson, and the staff has tried repeatedly to whittle down the running-back rotation, but none of the backs has truly separated himself. To help take some pressure off of Thomas, J.C. Coleman and Martin Scales must continue to build upon the success they had in the later part of the regular season. Cincy’s strength is its defense, so it will be a challenge for the Hokies to sustain drives.
3. Pressure quarterback Gary Nova. Bud Foster’s defense is tied for No. 20 in the country in quarterback sacks, but Rutgers is No. 4 in the country in sacks allowed. The Scarlet Knights have allowed only eight sacks all season (compared to 21 by the Hokies). Rutgers' offense is hardly prolific, and Nova really struggled in back-to-back losses to Pitt and Louisville to end the regular season. If Foster’s group can fluster him into similar mistakes and disrupt the passing game, the Hokies could get their first Big East victory of the season.