Tulsa v. Virginia Tech
Independence Stadium — Shreveport, LA
December 26, 2015 — 5:45 pm Eastern (ESPN)
Why You Should Watch
The Independence Bowl is the 11th oldest bowl in the FBS postseason calendar, predating 70 percent of the other games you have a chance to watch during December and January. If you haven’t already gorged yourself on early football games, this is one historic contest you won’t want to miss. Celebrating its 40th anniversary of continuous operation, the bowl welcomes one of the two inaugural participants from the Bicentennial edition of 1976. They will have the honor of trying to keep a legendary coach from ending his career with a victory. This game comes ready-made with a lot of interesting storylines, and serves as a great warm-up for the final game of the evening.
What Each Team Brings to the Table
Tulsa Golden Hurricane
Back in 1976, the Golden Hurricane lost the first edition of this bowl game by four points against McNeese State in the era before the split between I-A and I-AA. Tulsa needed a victory at Tulane on the final weekend of November just to get to six wins and earn this bowl bid, and that was due in large part to an otherworldly offense being paired with an abysmal defense. Philip Montgomery restored Tulsa’s high-flying reputation, after ranking 90th or lower the past few seasons in scoring offense. But that was countered by a defensive unit that could stop almost nothing, ranking in the bottom 10 nationally in points against at nearly 39 points allowed per game. Dane Evans will have his hands full against a tough Virginia Tech defense, but if the veteran quarterback can find time and space the Golden Hurricane could put some serious pressure on the Hokies.
Virginia Tech Hokies
Once again, Virginia Tech had little offense to complement one of the nation’s stronger defenses. The Hokies lost starting quarterback Michael Brewer to a broken collarbone in the season opener, but he came back during the second half of the season to once again lead the offense. It didn’t seem to make much difference, though, whether it was Brewer or backup Brenden Motley behind the center. Tech had a mediocre passing offense and an even worse time running the ball, meaning they were once again heavily dependent on defensive coordinator Bud Foster to scheme their way out of close contests. There will be some sentimentality, as longtime head coach Frank Beamer coaches his final game before retirement after nearly three decades leading his alma mater. The emotions will be strong on the Hokies sideline as the players strive to send their leader out on a fairy tale note in his final bowl game.
What is Likely to Happen
The Hokies come to Louisiana as a massive 13.5-point favorite to win in the eyes of Vegas. That number might be a little high, as the Golden Hurricane are likely going to be able to find some space to score during the course of the game. Tulsa’s pass-heavy offense is going to be challenged early and often by an aggressive, opportunistic Virginia Tech defense. If the Golden Hurricane had better offensive balance to exploit the Hokies’ deficiencies against the run game, the outcome might be different in Shreveport. Instead, Michael Brewer will manage to make enough plays against a horrendous Hurricane defense to send off Beamer victoriously into retirement… but probably not to beat that spread. One of these 6-6 teams is going to walk away with a losing season, and that team is likely to be from the AAC rather than the ACC.
Virginia Tech 24, Tulsa 21
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