The Story of the Game: Largely Roster Intact Hokies Take the Field
The fundamental truth is that modern college football management is going to dealing with the Transfer Portal, both in and out of the roster. That court mandated element has changed bowl season almost as much as the increase of the number of bowls available, and the resulting decrease in the relative quality of the teams showing up in the bowls to play.
In the case of the 2023 Military Bowl, Virginia Tech went from a probable slight underdog or pick ‘em candidate to a 10.5-point favorite. The revitalized and invigorated Hokies return almost their entire roster for the game in Annapolis, MD. Tulane, however, faces a near organizational disaster by losing nearly everyone important to its roster, including its head coach (along with several assistants) and starting quarterback to “new opportunities”.
That makes this game really difficult to scope out because not a whole lot of the season’s statistics are going to make much sense, and who shows to play is not completely well known.
Tulane’s head coach Willie Fritz took the 2023 coaching carousel off ramp to head to Houston. The December 3rd surprise was a rude shock to a program that had major success in 2023 with an 11-1 regular American Athletic Conference record, but a loss to SMU in the December 2nd conference championship. Needless to say, the announcement of Fritz’s bail the next day might have been a sign as to why the team performed on a very subpar basis for the game. Future ACC team SMU garnered an upset, and a convincing standard football score football game at 26-14. Since there are few real secrets in locker rooms my surmise is that the team knew of the moves and was not prepared for the game.
Their starting quarterback Kai Horton is in the portal and not expected to play. Neither starting star linebacker Corey Platt, Jr. There are others but those key players, minus several coaches and a temporary fill in for the Acting Head Coach role means that the 11-1 (0-1) Green Wave isn’t even close to the same team that was invited to the bowl in the first place.
Though Tulane’s defense is fairly intact, it’s offense has lost much. This is going to present several problems for the Hokies. One of which is their backup QB has decent enough stats (for the Hokies, anyway, because none of the backups have any game experience). This really means that even on a good day with a normal coaching staff, Tulane would be struggling on offense. The double whammy that hit the Hokies in the Pinstripe Bowl, has hammered the Green Wave.
So, the Hokies have to be ready for nearly everything. The team might present more of a threat on offense than anyone knows because there is nothing to gauge against. All defense has to be played from a flat learning curve of the tendencies of the OC for calling certain types of plays in certain situations, not whether or not the players are skilled enough to pull those calls off.
So, before everyone gets all hopped up and thinking that this is going to be a blowout there needs to be a big step to the rear, and a functional reassessment made. Tulane still has some good talent at its other positions. There is no word that their running back is heading for the exits, and Makai Hughes piled up 1290 yards during the 2023 season. That means that he has blocking, and a good bet can be made that Tulane is going to be running the ball down the Hokies’ throats, around the edges, and inside/out if need be. That also means some passing opportunities using play action. Every quarterback can hit a few passes, and no good coach is going to abandon it altogether. The last Belk Bowl against Kentucky is proof of that. Tech ended up beaten in the air when Kentucky’s “quarterback” pulled up and threw the ball. Tech should take that under advisement and be careful to not sell out unless the Hokie offense is firing on all cylinders.
Tulane remains dangerous, but the reality is that it is far less dangerous on December 27th as it was on December 1st.
The Tech Stuff
There is little doubt that the Virginia Tech Hokies of December 27th are largely the same team that trounced the Hoos on December 2nd. No one of any significance has left the team before the bowl, and even some of the transfer an NFL Draft hopefuls will be showing up. Brent Pry is returning an intact and rapidly reviving program to the field for the bowl game.
This means that Kyron Drones, Bhayshul Tuten, the Bad Boyz, and Malachi Thomas are going to be pushing the Tulane defense hard. Don’t look for too much of an offensive change for this game. Tulane’s defense is still competent, and it’s returning enough starters that the Tech offense will have to work, but a 10.5-point spread in favor of the Hokies means that even the odds makers have thrown in the towel for this one. This game we might actually see some of the rest of the offensive toolbox opened up and another fast start to pile up momentum and points tried.
The Tech defense is frankly going to have a field day if it plays a heavy run stopping box and doesn’t let the Tulane rookie QB breath much. The 46.5 O/U for the game along with that 10.5-point spread means that analysts think that Tech’s going to repeat the UVA experience. There isn’t too much militating against that feeling, at the moment.
There is a potential route brewing, and that’s the most dangerous factor for the Hokies. Overconfidence, mistakes, and sloppy play will be what factors the Hokies will have to work to overcome. As we said, Tulane is still dangerous, and a loosie-goosey attitude is going to present problems. Tech needs to show up fired up for what will be a largely home crowd, focused, and with quiet confidence.
This game might just be a solid bowl win in a rescued season in preparation for a much better 2024.
Time for Your Final Say of the 2023 Football Season
What happens in the 2023 Military Bowl?
This poll is closed
Tech comes out fired up and ready to play anyone. Tulane is flat, its offense shaky, and its defense on the field all the time. Hokies blow the doors off beat the spread, and win running away, bet the over.
It’s an early game fencing match with the Hokie offense a bit off kilter and the defense slightly flummoxed by wildcards. Eventually the Hokies pull away enough to cover but bet the under.
It turns into a low-grade wrestling match that the Hokies win by a score, but neither team manages to light the offensive afterburner. Bet the under.
Tulane surprises the Hokies and plays a competent offense and solid defense. They manage to nip Tech at the end of the game with a defensive score.
That’s it for the Football previews for 2023!
We will be switching off to 100% basketball coverage for both men’s and women’s games starting this weekend. Stay tuned for lots of pictures, game summaries, and the buildup to March.