The worst season Virginia Tech football has endured in 20 years will end in Orlando. The Hokies will face Rutgers in the Russell Athletic Bowl on Dec. 28, bowl organizers announced Sunday night.
It will be Virginia Tech’s 20th-straight year in a bowl game, the third-longest streak in the country, and this represents the program’s first appearance in the game formally known as the Champs Sports Bowl.
Rutgers finished the 2012 season with a 9-3 record, missing out on a chance to secure the Big East’s automatic bid to a Bowl Championship Series bowl game when it lost to No. 22 Louisville, 20-17, Thursday night. It was the Scarlet Knights’ third loss in five games after beginning the season with seven straight wins.
The Hokies, meanwhile, are hoping to avoid their first losing season since 1992 and gain a measure of redemption after going 0-2 against Big East foes during nonconference play in September. Virginia Tech lost at Pittsburgh, 35-17, in the third week of the season and then saw Cincinnati escape with a last-minute victory at FedEx Field two weeks later.
Rutgers beat Cincinnati, 10-3, last month, but lost handily to Pittsburgh, 27-6, the following week.
The Hokies faced the Scarlet Knights every year between 1992 and 2003 when both were members of the Big East, with Virginia Tech winning the last 11 meetings. The Hokies scored 30 or more points in every one of those games, but it appears the Russell Athletic Bowl could be a defensive struggle.
Under first-year Coach Kyle Flood, the Scarlet Knights are led by a powerful defense that held opponents to just 14.3 points per game, the fourth-lowest average in the entire country. Rutgers was particularly stout against the run and allowed just 105 rushing yards per game Linebacker Khaseem Greene is an all-American candidate who finished with 125 tackles and 5.5 sacks this season.
Rutgers did have an 1,000-yard rusher in junior Jawan Jamison, but finished ranked 102nd in the country in total offense (341.1 yards per game) and 96th in scoring offense (22.4 points per game).