Tulsa (6–6) vs. Virginia Tech (6–6)
Dec. 26, 5:45 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Reason to watch
After 29 seasons, 352 games, and three Big East and four ACC championships, legendary Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer will finally step away after this game. The Independence Bowl is far from the BCS bowl appearances that were once commonplace for Virginia Tech, but everyone in Hokieland wants to see Beamer go out with one more win.
The game itself is a battle of opposing styles. As expected with a Beamer-coached team, Virginia Tech is solid on defense, ranking 31st in total yards allowed and allowing just 24.2 points per game. The Hokies offense has struggled, though, ranking 97th in the country in total yards. Tulsa, on the other hand, ranks 11th in passing yards per game (329.8) and 26th in points (35.9). The Golden Hurricane defense has been virtually nonexistent all season, giving up 38.6 points per game, ninth worse in the FBS.
Keep an eye on: Virginia Tech wide receiver Isaiah Ford
Ford has been the most dominate receiver in the Atlantic Coast Conference this season, leading the league in receiving yards (937) and touchdowns (10). Just under 44% of the touchdown passes Virginia Tech quarterbacks Michael Brewer and Brendan Motley have thrown this year have landed in the hands of Ford. If the Hokies keep up with Tulsa’s scoring and come away with a win, expect Ford to be a big part of it.
In a way, Ford is playing this game not just for the Hokies, but for the pride of passing attacks throughout the ACC. If Ford fails to pick up the 63 yards needed to hit the 1,000-yard mark on the season, the ACC is at serious risk of not producing a 1,000-yard receiver for the first time since 2005. Pittsburgh receiver Tyler Boyd currently ranks second in the conference with 873 receiving yards.
Did you know…?
Beamer has been the head coach at Virginia Tech since 1987 and is by far the longest tenured head coach in the FBS. His 236 wins with the Hokies are the sixth most all-time at the FBS level. His overall win total of 278, including his time at Murray State, is 15th most for a college football coach at any level.
Tulsa is 9–10 all-time in bowl games and has posted a winning record (5–3) in postseason play since 2003. Before playing in the ’03 Humanitarian Bowl, the Golden Hurricane had not appeared in a bowl game since 1991—a 28–17 win over San Diego State in the Freedom Bowl. Tulsa has won three of its last four bowl games, most recently beating Iowa State 31–17 in the 2012 Liberty Bowl.
Virginia Tech has the momentum coming into this one after an emotional 23–20 win over rival Virginia in the final week of the regular season. The Hokies defense has kept the team in just about every game this season—Virginia Tech has only lost by more than seven points twice this year.
Tulsa and quarterback Dane Evans will sling the ball around and definitely put up some points, but it will be hard for the Golden Hurricane to break a defense that kept the Hokies close against a very good North Carolina team a few weeks ago. In the end, Virginia Tech will do enough to usher Beamer out on a high note.