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Independence Bowl Preview and Prediction: Tulsa vs. Virginia Tech

Author:
Frank Beamer

Frank Beamer

The 2015 Camping World Independence Bowl will mark the end of Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer's legendary career. You'd think it would be safe to say he's seen it all, but Beamer has never coached against Tulsa. Speaking of legends, the last time Tulsa and Virginia Tech met was in 1978, when the two teams were coached by John Cooper and Bill Dooley respectively. Tulsa leads the all-time series 3-1.

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This year's matchup will be highlighted by a battle between Tulsa's elite passing attack and Virginia Tech's stingy pass defense. Additionally, these teams will be giving it their all in a game that will mean a winning season for the victors -- something that should not be underestimated from a motivational standpoint. The end result will be a highly competitive football game to quench your football thirst on the day after Christmas.

Tulsa vs. Virginia Tech (Shreveport, La.)

Kickoff: 5:45 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV: ESPN

Spread: Virginia Tech -13.5

1. Dave Evans vs. The Virginia Tech secondary

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The Golden Hurricane live and die by the pass, so being effective through the air early is key. Evans will look to target Keyarris Garrett — his favorite wide receiver and a physical freak — as often as he can. Look for the Hokies to pay extra attention to Garrett, as they don't have a guy who can cover him all day alone. If the Tulsa line can give Evans time, he can take enough shots against the Hokie defensive backs to have them playing on their heels, possibly turning the game into a shootout.

2. Keyarris Garrett

The afformentioned Tulsa target is a nightmare for college corners to cover. This is a guy who will emerge as a threat to be the steal of the 2016 NFL Draft during the upcoming Scouting Combine/pro day season. The 6-foot-4, 221-pound senior has turned in six games of 100 or more yards in 2015, including two where he eclipsed the 200-yard mark. His best game was in a losing effort against Memphis, where he hauled in 14 passes for 268 yards and three scores. If nothing else, the game serves as a chance for you to scout this potential future star for your fantasy team.

3. Virginia Tech's defensive line

The Hokies were supposed to field one of the nation's more formidable defensive fronts — subsequently yielding one of the more effective pass rushes in the country. That hasn't been the case so far this season, as they've only logged 21 sacks in 2015. With knowing what makes Tulsa tick, combined with a couple of weeks to prepare for a single opponent, it's very likely that coordinator Bud Foster is able to dial up a scheme and motivate his talented defensive line to play to its full potential — wreaking havoc in the Tulsa backfield from the first snap. The first series will set the tone, and if the Hokies are in Evans' face early, that's a good sign for Virginia Tech in terms of dictating the tempo.

Final Analysis

At the end of the day, these two teams with matching records have played very different schedules against very different opponents. The ACC was very underrated and competitive in 2015. The Hokies were never blown out of any game — including a matchup with Ohio State to start the year. This is still a very disciplined team, coached by one of the best college football has ever seen. They'll be prepared for the Tulsa passing attack and motivated to carry Frank Beamer off the field as a winner one last time. On the flip side, Tulsa's defense is going to have a tough time with Virginia Tech's physicality on offense, as the Golden Hurricane are used to playing teams that like to spread it out and air it out. Look for a throwback Beamer game, with the Hokies pounding the ball at Tulsa and invading the pocket on defense with a variety of exotic blitz packages.

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Prediction: Virginia Tech 35, Tulsa 16

— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.

(Keyarris Garrett photo courtesy of The University of Tulsa)