A good deal of college football fans look down on smaller bowl games. Their reason for doing so is because said games “don’t matter.” However, just because a bowl game isn’t in the CFP bracket doesn’t mean it’s incapable of being entertaining. One of the smaller bowls that should pique some interest this year is the 2021 New Era Pinstripe Bowl.
The 2021 Pinstripe Bowl will take place on December 29th at 2:15 PM ET in Yankee Stadium. The game includes the Maryland Terrapins and Virginia Tech Hokies. The Big 10/ACC matchup is a revival of what was once a very competitive rivalry. Maryland leads its series with VT 16-15 all-time, only increasing implications. Will the 2021 Pinstripe Bowl see the Terps extend their edge on the Hokies, or will the latter finally settle the score?
Comparing the Contenders
To come to such a conclusion, these two very different teams need to somehow be compared. For starters, Maryland managed to obtain the same record as VT (6-6), despite playing a much tougher slate.
By far, Tech’s strongest foes were Notre Dame and Pittsburgh; there wasn’t much beyond those two. Meanwhile, Maryland had to play: Iowa, Ohio State, Michigan State, and a playoff-caliber Michigan. Quite a steep jump in competition there, yet the Terps tied the Hokies in wins? That’s a very telling first impression.
There needs to be some deeper analysis than a mere schedule comparison, though. Projecting the outcome between two teams that are currently unfamiliar with one another needs some sort of statistical assistance.
Who Has the Offensive Advantage?
In regards to offense, the Terrapins have the advantage in spades.
This season, Maryland has garnered a reputation for putting up the numbers, breaking 20 points on seven different occasions. Quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa deserves a ton of credit for this, as he is no stranger to passing, and passing a lot if given the opportunity.
In total, Tagovailoa and the Terps are averaging just over 438 yards per game. At the same time, they are hitting just over 27 points per game. The offense isn’t exceptional, but it’s certainly better than what Virginia Tech would want to have to contain.
Speaking of the Hokies, their offense isn’t particularly terrible, either. However, it is noticeably less explosive. VT averaged just under 25 points per game over the course of its regular season, which isn’t much lower than Maryland’s average. The Hokies even broke 20 points on more occasions (nine games), which is definitely a plus.
Perhaps the most concerning difference comes in when comparing yardage. Tech averaged just under 370 yards per game; while that isn’t “low,” it’s not touching Maryland’s 438.
It should also be acknowledged that VT hit these averages without playing Clemson, which easily had the best defense in the ACC. So less yardage and points per game, despite playing heavily-weaker defenses? Nothing about that looks good for the Hokies.
What About the Defensive Advantage?
Defensively, the Hokies may have a chance to keep the Pinstripe Bowl more interesting.
On average, Virginia Tech has allowed 386 yards per game, as well as about 23 points per game. That is a lot of yardage to give away on a consistent basis, especially when planning to face an opponent with an objectively-decent offense. The points allowed, however, aren’t that bad.
This is where things for Maryland get a lot dicier than they should be.
While the Terrapins can rack up some yards of their own, they rarely seem afraid to give any away, allowing an average of over 416 yards per matchup. As for the opposing points average, it just might be high enough to give Tech fans some hope for a victory.
In Maryland’s first 12 games this season, the defense has given up an average of over 32 points per game–about 10 points higher than Virginia Tech’s average. Such a staggering figure is definitely a big-enough deal to throw the security of Maryland’s superiority into question. But is it enough to invalidate it?
2021 Pinstripe Bowl Projection
As previously established, This season’s Pinstripe Bowl should be a good one. Statistically, that statement looks even more accurate. Maryland has the superior offense, while VT has the edge on defense. But the stark contrast in schedule difficulty is impossible to ignore. Maryland may have some questionable stats on the defensive side, but playing four teams currently in the CFP committee’s top 15 will certainly cause that.
Both teams may be 6-6 on the season, but Virginia Tech would have to pray for a record that good if it were ever dealt a schedule like Maryland’s. Until further notice, the Terps deserve the benefit of the doubt for that reason alone. The Terrapins should take the Pinstripe Bowl, 34-21.