Independence Bowl Preview and Prediction

Frank’s last game. Frank Beamer is an institution at Virginia Tech. I think sometimes it’s easy to overlook Frank’s longevity and consistency at Virginia Tech. It’s remarkable, especially in this era of college football. 29 years. 23 straight bowl games. 7 conference championship. 5 division titles. That’s a hall of fame resume and Frank did it with as much class as anyone who has ever coached. He will be missed and today should be a celebration of what Frank has accomplished.

Now on to the game, Tulsa is one of the weakest teams to qualify for a bowl this year. The stats bear this out. Their defense is ranked 125th in the country. For your reference, there are only 128 teams in FBS. They have the 120th ranked rushing defense and 110th ranked passing defense. They allow 38.6 points per game this year. The teams that Tulsa beat on their way to 6 wins won a combined 17 games this year.

So you might be asking, any reason to be concerned going into this game? Well, Tulsa is ranked 14th in the nation in total offense and 11th in the nation in passing offense. Most of this was compiled against a very weak schedule but this team can move the ball nonetheless. Watch out for Keyarris Garrett who is Tulsa’s big playmaker at the wide receiver position. If the Hokies can’t cover him, he could have a big day.

One thing that Tulsa does well on defense is get into the backfield. They are ranked 41st in the nation in tackles for loss. The Hokies needs to stay ahead of the chains and not let themselves get into 3rd and long. That’s where Tulsa thrives on defense.

Keys to the Game for the Hokies:

  1. Stop the Run
  2. Cover Kayarris Garrett
  3. Protect Michael Brewer

Vegas says that the Hokies are the biggest favorite of the college bowl season with most outlets showing the Hokies as a 13.5 point favorite. On paper, it seems fair based on what both teams have accomplished this season.  The most comparable team to Tulsa that the Hokies have played this year is Purdue. The Hokies beat Purdue 51-24. I think the Hokies should have a big day as long as they show up ready to play. If they don’t, Tulsa’s offense is potent enough to make them pay early. Since this is Frank Beamer’s last game, I see the Hokies show up with a fire and put a 1993 Independence Bowl-style beating on the Golden Hurricane.  The Hokies should send Frank Beamer out a winner and we all get to see him on his player’s shoulders one last time.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 38, Tulsa 24

UVA Preview and Prediction

This is a must win. Can you imagine Mike London’s team ending Frank Beamer’s last season with a loss and snapping the bowl streak? Neither can I. But realistically, it could happen.

The Hoos are a middling team, as they have been for the past decade or so. They’ve been surprisingly tough at home. They’ve taken Notre Dame, Pitt, Miami and Louisville to the final whistle. This doesn’t appear to be a UVA team that you can put away early.

On offense, UVA is effective in the passing game. They are ranked 45th in the nation in passing offense and move the ball pretty well thru the air. With a banged up Brandon Facyson, that could be something to watch for.

When VT has the football, they are going up against a defense that hasn’t been particularly impressive. By the numbers, it’s a struggling offense against a struggling defense. The Hokies will need a big day from Travon McMillian in order to move the ball consistently.

If there is one area where the Hokies should have an advantage, it is on special teams. Even though it may not seem like it, the Hokies have been very efficient on special teams this year and in a close game like this, it could play to the Hokies advantage. Watch for this particularly on punt and kick returns.

The stats show the Hokies as a slight favorite in this matchup. If you’re looking from a talent standpoint, the Hokies should have a moderate talent advantage over the Hoos. If the Hokies play as well as they did against UNC, they should win by two scores. Ultimately, I think it’ll be a close game just like last year’s game was. Whoever makes the biggest mistake or the worst mistake will lose. Hopefully, the Hokies find a way to win and make it twelve straight and send Beamer to his 23rd bowl game.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 24, UVA 17

North Carolina Preview and Prediction

This game is a mismatch. Not much in this matchup favors the Hokies. North Carolina is firing on all cylinders and are winners of nine straight. It’s hard to see a way that the Hokies can win this game.

North Carolina is a great rushing team with an even better running quarterback. Better hope that the Hokies have somehow figured out a way to contain a running quarterback otherwise Marquise Williams could run for 200 yards. There are plenty of playmakers to worry about on the UNC offense. This group is firing on all cylinders. No one has come close to stopping them in the last two games.

The defense is beatable but will require dedication to running the football. This is not a team that you can easily beat through the air. A consistent running game will control the clock and keep the UNC offense off the field. That is a good formula to beat these guys.

If you’re looking for reasons to be hopeful, UNC has only played two true road games this season. TWO! And both of them went down to the last possession. A seven point win against Georgia Tech and a seven point win against Pitt. Since then they’ve blasted Duke at home by 35 and Miami at home by 38.

My sense is that UNC is a team that thrives at home and may be feeling a bit too good about themselves going into a difficult road game at Virginia Tech. This should be the best crowd the Hokies have seen since the Ohio State game and should be at full throat from start to finish. On paper, the Tarheels are a much better team. These games aren’t played on paper and the Hokies should have the emotional edge. I’m not picking against Frank Beamer in his last home game. Go Hokies!

Prediction: Virginia Tech 34, UNC 28

Georgia Tech Preview and Prediction

Do it for Frank. The Hokies have a terrible habit of playing flat coming out of a bye week. I really hope this is a different type of bye week with Coach Beamer announcing his retirement 10 days ago. My hope is that we will see a team reinvigorated to win two out of the next three and get Beamer to his 23rd consecutive bowl game and see him off on a high note.

This is certainly a winnable game. This one reminds me of the game against Boston College. Georgia Tech is flawed team. This explains why they are 3-6 overall and 1-5 in conference. They have a respectable offense but not the high powered attack we’re used to from them. But certainly still enough firepower to put some points on the board. This is a team you have to outscore. If you can’t counter their scores, you could find yourself in a difficult position.

I mentioned that this a flawed team and their flaw comes on the defensive side of the ball. This was a bad defensive team to begin with and now they are missing two of their top three defensive tackles. Couple that with inexperience at the linebacker position and you find a team that struggles to stop the run. If the Hokies can stick to the run, we should see a big game from Travon McMillian. Georgia Tech has experienced and talented players in the secondary, so you want to try to run the ball against them. I think we should see the Hokies put up some points this week. They should have the matchup advantage when they have the ball.

I wish I had a read on how this team was going to react to Coach Beamer announcing his retirement. Honestly, we just don’t know. I’m sure the players were just as shocked as we all were when the announcement became known. My guess and hope is that they use it as a rallying cry. I truly feel like this team has been close to putting it all together all year. Hopefully, this is what the need to string together a couple of complete performances. Let’s see if they get off to a good start on this critical three game stretch. I’d love to see Coach Beamer get one last bowl game.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 31, Georgia Tech 24

Boston College Preview and Prediction

If you like crisp offensive football, don’t tune in on Saturday. This one is going to be ugly. Like Wake Forest 2014 ugly. Boston College has one of the worst offenses in FBS but they also have one of the best defenses. This is going to be a game where neither offense will be able to do much and the game will be decided by field position and turnovers.

If there was ever an offense that was going to make the Virginia Tech defense look good, this is it. The BC offense lacks talent at the skill positions and there really isn’t a player that scares you.  The only player that I’d be concerned about is Jeff Smith as a running QB. The Hokies have had a ton of trouble stopping running QBs this year and you know that the BC coaches have seen enough film to know to use Smith as a weapon.

As good as the BC offense is going to make the Hokies defense look, their defense is going to lay waste to our offense. I’m concerned about Michael Brewer and his surgically repaired collarbone. The Hokies haven’t seen a defense like this since Ohio State and this defense might even be better than Ohio State’s. This is a game where the Hokies offense needs to be patient and show balance. If the Hokies get behind early and have to throw often against this aggressive defense, look out. The best you can hope for is that the defense sets up the offense with good field position and the Hokies offense can put some points on the board.

This is a difficult game to pick. Both teams need this win in a big way as they are both looking to qualify for a bowl game. I’m going to go with BC to win because I think their defense against the Hokies offense is a mismatch and should be enough to pull out the victory. It’s good that this game is on Halloween because it is going to be ugly enough to terrify any college football fan.

Prediction: Boston College 16, Virginia Tech 9

Duke Preview and Prediction

The Hokies have to win this game if they hope to make a bowl this season. A loss would put the Hokies at 3-5 and would mean they would have to finish 3-1 in order to make a bowl. They do not want to put themselves in that position. On paper, this is a game where the Hokies are favored and if they play like they are capable of, they should win this game.

Duke’s offense is even more anemic than the Hokies’ offense. They rely on the running game and a running quarterback (uh oh). Even with the youth in the secondary, the Hokies should be able to limit the Blue Devils’ passing game. The key to this game will be limiting QB Thomas Sirks’ rushing yards and limiting the Duke RBs from getting involved in the passing game. As long as the Hokies’ defense can play disciplined defensive football in these two areas they should be able to limit Duke offensively.

In theory, the Hokies should move the ball better with Michael Brewer behind center but there are a couple of things about this matchup that concern me. Michael Brewer isn’t particularly mobile and Duke likes to show a lot of blitzes and coverages. Michael Brewer needs to be able to recognize the blitzes and get the ball out of his hands quickly. We cannot have a sack fest like we saw against Pitt.

The Hokies would be well served to lean on their running game. They need to feed the ball to Travon McMillian early and often. If he is rushing for 7+ YPC, don’t take the ball out of his hands. The Miami game would’ve gone much differently, if the coaching staff had kept giving Travon the ball.  This will help Michael Brewer and open up the play action passing game. Michael Brewer cannot be successful if he has to drop back on every down against an aggressive Duke defense.

This will be a tough challenge for the Hokies but it is a game that they can win. Let’s hope the team hasn’t packed it in. If they can play smart and disciplined football, they stand a good chance to win this game. This is a game where the defense will have to stand tall in order for the Hokies to win.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 17, Duke 10

Duke Q&A with Mike Kline from DukeFootballBlog.com

You can follow Mike Kline on Twitter at @MikeKlineDSB and read his blog at DukeFootballBlog.com.

What are your thoughts on your team so far?

So far I’ve been pretty pleased with Duke’s season, though that loss to Northwestern seems less and less impressive as the Wildcats have fallen off the last few weeks. This is the best defense I’ve seen in Durham probably ever. The defense is fast and aggressive and much better than advertised. The offense is, however, not and have struggled against Power 5 conference teams. Quarterback Thomas Sirk has struggled with accuracy on the deep ball and decision making and the running game has been sporadic. There are weapons there just not consistent.

What are your expectations going into the Virginia Tech game?

I expect a close if not ugly game that could come down to a possession or two either way. In short similar to last years game. It will be a battle.

Do you still see Lane Stadium as a “tough place to play”?

Lane Stadium is one of the best venues in the ACC. I’ve been there and the atmosphere and tradition is second to none in the conference. It is still a big time advantage for the Hokies against most team.

At this point, how do you see the Coastal division shaking out? Which team do you think will end up winning the division?

Right now as much as I’d like to pick Duke I think the Blue Devils lose a game or two along the way and I think this game could be one of them. I feel like, as much as I hate to say it, that North Carolina and Pitt have been the class of the Coastal to date. That could change in a weeks time, as per the usual in the Coastal. I think the division comes down to those three Duke, Pitt, and Carolina. Whoever has the strongest finish wins.

What is your prediction for the game?

Like I said earlier, I expect a very close game, probably low scoring. I think if Duke can muster enough offense they will win the game with their solid defense, if Virginia Tech can keep the Duke offense in check and get some opportunistic play on offense or special teams they could squeak out with the victory. If I have to make a prediction I’ll go homer and say Duke wins 17-10, but wouldn’t be shocked if the score were the other way around. This game feels like a push to me.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,810 other followers

%d bloggers like this: