Mike Gundy and Justin Fuente have plenty in common. They were both born in Oklahoma. Both were recruited by Oklahoma State. And both had virtually the same assessment of what awaits them in the Camping World Bowl. "An interesting challenge," Gundy said.
Mike Gundy and Justin Fuente have plenty in common. They were both born in Oklahoma. Both were recruited by Oklahoma State. And both had virtually the same assessment of what awaits them in the Camping World Bowl.
"An interesting challenge," Gundy said.
"A tremendous challenge," Fuente said.
Both coaches are right. Gundy and high-octane Oklahoma State (9-3) will face off with Fuente and airtight Virginia Tech (9-3) on Thursday in a bowl matchup that will be an ultimate clash of styles — one of the best offenses in America versus one of the best defenses. The Cowboys score an average of 46.3 points per game; the Hokies give up an average of 13.5.
"This could very well be the best defense that we've competed against," Gundy said of Virginia Tech. "You know, there's different ways to make that opinion. Sometimes you do it on athleticism. Sometimes do you it on scheme. But when you look at what they've accomplished with the group that they have in the end, it comes down to, 'Do you keep them from scoring or not?'"
And with the Hokies, the answer to that is usually yes.
The overwhelming majority of FBS teams this season posted no shutouts; Virginia Tech led the nation with three. The Hokies have given up 162 points in 2017, which is 37 fewer than the Cowboys scored in November alone.
But when Fuente looks at Oklahoma State on film, he doesn't see a whole lot of weakness.
"The thing that stands out about Oklahoma State, I think, are their skill players," Fuente said. "You look at wide receivers, running backs, a big NFL quarterback, push the tempo and, you know, scored points in bunches. That's not to say that they aren't good in the other phases of the game. They are. They're very sound and well prepared and have done a fantastic job."
Here's some of what to know going into the Camping World Bowl:
SCORING POKES: Oklahoma State is the first Big 12 team to have a 4,000-yard passer (Mason Rudolph), a 1,000-yard rusher (Justice Hill) and two 1,000-yard receivers (James Washington and Marcell Ateman). Washington is this season's Biletnikoff Award winner as the nation's top receiver, with 69 catches for 1,423 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns this season. He leads the nation with 17 catches for 30 yards or more, and he needs 68 yards for the school career receiving yards mark.
DEFENSIVE LEADERS: Virginia Tech is fifth in points allowed per game this season, along with second in third-down conversion defense and third in red zone defense. It also helps that the Hokies aren't penalty-prone (4.6 per game as a team for 40 yards) and control the ball (averaging 32 minutes per game on offense). And no one runs it up on the Hokies; they allowed 31 points only once this season, while Oklahoma State scored at least 31 in 11 of its 12 games.
AT STAKE: Both teams are chasing a 10-win season, which would be a school-record third straight for Oklahoma State and the second straight for Virginia Tech — which is also bidding to a bowl game for the fourth consecutive year. Hokies quarterback Josh Jackson could become the first freshman in Blacksburg to win 10 games as a starter since Michael Vick did in 1999.
COMMON OPPONENTS: The teams have two common opponents this season, both going 2-0 against West Virginia and Pitt. Virginia Tech won those two games by a combined 13 points; Oklahoma State won by a combined 49 points.
UNCOMMON OPPONENTS: This is only the third time the programs have faced off. The Hokies and Cowboys split two games in 1971 and 1972, both winning at home.