Tulsa Golden Hurricane vs. Virginia Tech Hokies, Saturday Dec.26, 5:45 p.m ET
It's sad when an era ends like this. Frank Beamer has been coaching Virginia Tech since 1987. He won his conference seven times and was National Coach of the Year in 1999. After all he has done, and all the respect he has earned over the years, he deserves to go out in something other than a bad bowl game that people will most likely watch only because their turkey hangover and exhaustion from shopping has made them incapable of doing anything but lying on the couch. It's not the best spot for Beamer, but then if he wanted significantly better for his final days then he needed to average more than seven wins over his final four seasons, I guess. Ultimately, college football is about the games you win now, not what you have done in the distant past.
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Independence Bowl Betting Storylines
The coaching drama in this one isn't limited to Virginia Tech. Tulsa Offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert has been at the heart of a bizarre story, too. He was offered the same position at Texas but initially turned it down because he was rightfully concerned about the job stability of Charlie Strong and the direction of the program. Typically, a school would move on to the next person on their list. Texas, though, instead chose to send their school president, athletic director and another coach to Gilbert's home to make him change his mind. It reeks of desperation, but it works. Gilbert is headed to Texas, and he's bringing co-offensive coordinator Matt Mattox with him as offensive line coach. This all went down just two weeks before this game, so it will be a huge distraction for the Tulsa program.
You can't overstate the importance of their offense to them - they are Top 15 nationally in yards and passing yards and top 25 in scoring. Offense is incredibly important to them since they essentially don't play defense - they are ranked 120th or worse in most key statistical categories nationally. This is a one-dimensional team with a total crisis in leadership at the helm of that one dimension. Far from ideal. It could be worse, though - it was just a year ago that Tulsa nabbed Gilbert and Mattox as a package from Bowling Green, so it's not like the duo had a long history with the program or had recruited the whole offense or anything.
The passing strength of Tulsa sets up the only truly interesting element of this game. Virginia Tech has been mostly totally forgettable this year, but the one thing they have done well is defend against the pass - they rank in the Top 10 nationally in that regard. When strength runs up against strength in a game - especially when the teams are short of other strengths - you often have fireworks, and those fireworks typically determine the outcome of the game. How you see this showdown turning out, then, will likely determine how you bet the game. In particular, Virginia Tech will have to find a way to deal with Keyarris Garrett, the senior receiver who averaged an impressive 16.5 yards per catch on 88 grabs this year - a total of 1,451 receiving yards, which is second best on all of FBS. Of interesting note, though, he only scored in five games this year, and Tulsa lost four of those games.
Independence Bowl Odds and Betting Trends
The line opened with Virginia Tech favored by two touchdowns, and that has since fallen slightly to 13.5. A slight majority of action has been on Tulsa, so it is unlikely that the line will swing much more form where it is. The total sits at 61.5.
The Hokies have gone "under" the total in their last four games and six of their last seven played on grass. Tulsa, which won impressively last time out to become bowl eligible, has not done well with momentum - they are 0-4 ATS in their last four following an ATS win.
Tulsa vs. Virginia Tech Independence Bowl Expert Picks & Predictions
This would have been a much easier game to deal with in my eyes before the Gilbert and Mattox distraction. Still, though, I have no real problem taking Tulsa at this price. Neither team is great, but Tulsa is going to be aggressive when it comes to testing the Virginia tech secondary through the air. They should be able to find some success - they have some nice pieces to work with. If they do then the Hokies could struggle to stay way ahead - even against a defense this bad. There seems to be a sense that the Hokies will be playing for their coach in his final day. The seniors on this team have known nothing but mediocrity under a once-great coach, though, so that motivation won't be all it could be. Tulsa could easily not win the game, but they are going to be capable of at least keeping it close, and that's all that matters here. The Golden Hurricane offer value against the spread.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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