New Year’s Even afternoon (2:00 pm ET) bowling continues with the Sun Bowl from El Paso, TX featuring the Virginia Tech Hokies (8-4) of the ACC taking on the 17th ranked UCLA Bruins (9-3) of the Pac-12. Virginia Tech won their regular season finale over in-state rival Virginia 16-6, but lost 3 of their last 5 games to end the season. UCLA rolled to a 35-14 over cross-town rival USC in their regular season finale, and the Bruins finished strong winning 4 of their final 5 games. The two teams are polar opposites, with the Hokies possessing one of the best defenses in the country, while UCLA has one of the most explosive offensive units in the nation.
Virginia Tech ranks 98th among FBS teams in total offense with 359.1 yards per game and 95th in scoring offense with an average of 23.4 points per game. Quarterback Logan Thomas has had a disappointing season with 2,861 yards passing, 16 TDs and 13 INTs. Running back Trey Edmunds leads the team in rushing with 675 yards and 10 TDs, and receiver Willie Byrn is Thomas’ main target with 49 receptions for 635 yards and 2 TDs. The Hokies defense has been a huge bright spot ranking 4th nationally in total defense with 269.6 YPG allowed and 8th in scoring defense with 17.4 PPG allowed. Linebacker Jack Tyler, a 2nd team All-ACC selection, led the team with 93 tackles and had 4 sacks.
UCLA ranks 37th among FBS teams in total offense with 448.2 yards per game and 23rd in scoring offense with an average of 36.5 points per game. Sophomore dual-threat quarterback Brett Hundley has thrown for 2,845 yards with 22 TDs and 9 INTs this season while also leading the team in rushing with 587 yards and 9 TDs. Running back Paul Perkins (570 rushing yards, 5 TDs) and freshman two-way sensation Myles Jack (267 yards) 7 TDs have also been key components of the Bruins running game. Wide receiver Shaq Evans, a transfer from Notre Dame, leads the team with 43 receptions for 617 yards and 8 TDs. The Bruin defense ranks 56th nationally in total defense with 392.8 YPG allowed and 39th in scoring defense with 24.1 PPG allowed led by linebacker Anthony Barr who was the Lott Impact Defensive Player of the Year with 10 sacks, 5 forced fumbles and 4 fumble recoveries among other highlights.
Virginia Tech vs. UCLA Spread, Line and Betting Odds:
Virginia Tech Hokies +7
@ UCLA Bruins -7
Over 47.5 (-110)
Under 47.5 (-110)
Virginia Tech vs UCLA Pick
UCLA is making its 4th appearance in the Sun Bowl, and have a 3-3 record ATS in their last 6 bowl games. Virginia Tech is 6-1-1 ATS in their last 8 bowl games. UCLA has had 7 of their last 10 bowl games come in UNDER the total. The underdog is 6-1 ATS in the last 7 Sun Bowl games.
The line looks to be a tempting play in favor of the Hokies with a defense that has limited 5 of its 12 opponents to 10 points or less and the strong trend favoring underdogs in this bowl game. The anemic Virginia Tech offense and the wildly inconsistent play of Logan Thomas make that a very risky play however, and the call here is to avoid playing the line. The play here is going to be the under, with a tong defense, Virginia Tech will be able to dictate the pace of the game and keep UCLA’s dynamic offense in check enough to make this a low-scoring game. The trend in favor of the UNDER is also strong in this game, and the call here is to bet the UNDER.