In collaboration with M!KEDROPSPORTS
Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman
Cincinnati Bearcats (10-2) vs Virginia Tech Hokies (6-6)
Date/Time: Monday, December 31 at Noon ET
Location: Navy Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Maryland
Originated: 2008 (2010 as Military)
Previous bowl name: EagleBank Bowl (2008-2009)
History of Conferences: ACC teams are 4-3 while AAC teams are 2-2 (all 4 AAC games have come against ACC teams)
Last year’s game: Navy beat Virginia 49-7
Cincinnati bowl history
This will be Cincinnati’s first bowl game since 2015. They are in fact seeking their first win since Travis Kelce’s game-winning touchdown in the 2012 Belk Bowl vs Duke. This is Cincinnati’s second Military Bowl – they last played here in 2014 against Virginia Tech (more below). Their last bowl game in 2015 was a 42-7 defeat in the Hawaii Bowl against San Diego State.
The coach of that last win in 2012 was Steve Stripling, who was named interim head coach before the game replacing outgoing coach Butch Jones. Stripling returned to Cincinnati as DL coach in 2018. Perhaps he is the missing/lucky piece to turn around their lack of recent bowl success?
Virginia Tech bowl history
The Hokies now have the longest active bowl appearance streak at 26 years. They lost last year’s Camping World Bowl to Oklahoma State, but prior to that, had won three of their last four bowl games. 1992 was the last time the Hokies did not make a bowl game, making for an incredible run. They are just 13-19 all-time in bowl games though. The Military Bowl will be the Hokies third bowl game under coach Justin Fuente (who is previously 1-1 with VT).
This is the 12th meeting all-time between these schools. It’s the fifth meeting since 2006 along with the third bowl meeting since 2009 (fourth bowl game all-time).
In 2014, Virginia Tech beat Cincinnati 33-17 in this same Military Bowl game. The Hokies also beat Cincinnati in the Orange Bowl, winning 20-7 in 2009. The first meeting between the schools came in the 1947 Sun Bowl, a game Cincinnati won 18-6.
Cincinnati won the last regular season matchup in 2012, which was a neutral site “home game” for Cincinnati in Landover, Maryland.
Players to Watch
Cincinnati: Michael Warren, RB
Virginia Tech: Ryan Willis, QB
Cincinnati went 10-2, 6-2 in AAC play, a remarkable turnaround coming off of back-to-back 4-8 seasons. Both losses came on the road to, unbeaten UCF and an always tough to play Temple. The Bearcats completed their sixth 10 win season since 2007. They have a chance to win 11 games for the first time since 2009. Additionally, they have won at least nine games eight times in 11 years.
In Luke Fickell’s second season as head coach, the Bearcats had the third youngest roster in FBS. They began this season 6-0, which included an opening week win against UCLA in Los Angeles. The Bearcats were led offensively by a redshirt freshman quarterback, Desmond Ridder, and sophomore running back Michael Warren.
Ridder completed 62 percent of his passes, averaging 7.7 yards per pass and threw just five interceptions (on 304 pass attempts). Also, Ridder threw for 19 touchdowns and ran for five more.
The offense scored 37.6 points per game. Warren and a few other RBs (Tavion Thomas, Charles McClelland) helped lead Cincinnati to the 16th ranked rushing offense. Warren was tied for fifth in rushing TDs with 17 (two more than Doak Walker Award winner, Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor).
But it was the defense that dominated this season. The Bearcats ranked seventh in total yards allowed, sixth in rushing yards allowed, seventh in points per game allowed (16.1), as well as fifth in total points allowed, tied with Alabama.
The Hokies barely got here. A four game losing streak between November-December put the Hokies at 4-6. The Hokies beat Virginia for the 15th straight year, in a dramatic finish and knocked off Marshall in a make up game due to postponed games earlier in the year, to finish 6-6.
Virginia Tech lost a weird true road game to Old Dominion in September (who finished 4-8). They also were blown out in a Saturday night primetime game against Notre Dame at Lane Stadium. During their four game losing streak, they lost to Georgia Tech by 21, Boston College by 10, Pittsburgh by 30, and Miami by 24.
It’s always good for Group of Five teams to get their shot at the “Power Five”, but for Cincinnati they must be sick of playing Virginia Tech. Virginia Tech has haunted Cincinnati for years and this as as good of a shot as the Bearcats have ever had.