Editor’s Note: Matt and Carl collaborate once again for a Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl preview for BYU vs. Tulane. This is part 2. Click here for Matt’s BYU preview.
For Tulsa, you could say almost the same thing for BYU. Both teams started the season with top-loaded, tougher schedules. Tulsa began 1-3 and an injured G J Kinne, but won seven in a row before losing to Houston. Both effectually lost their star player-to-be. Damaris Johnson, 2010’s star wide receiver, was summarily dismissed from the team after an undisclosed violation of team rules. BYU’s ‘One Bright Hope’ Jake Heaps, played, but struggled through 5 games and has since transferred to Kansas. Tulsa’s only losses came to a who’s who of college football this year: OkSt, Ok, Boise St and Houston. Their losses, as impressive as they are, reveal that their best win came against SMU.
Scouting the offense: The Tulsa Golden Hurricane has a high octane offense, mainly because of it’s zone-read option attack. The offense averages 31 ppg and can produces points equally well in run and pass. They’re one of only 14 teams nationally to average 200+ in passing and rushing with 289 passing and 210 rushing respectively. There are no superstars on this offensive roster. With Damaris Johnson out, the team wondered who might step up. Instead, each member knows their role and any of them can be called on to produce at any time. Running Backs Ja’Terian Douglas and Trey Watts each average 70 yards a game on the ground, while 5 different receivers have caught at least 25 passes from G J Kinne. Kinne threw only 5 interceptions in the teams 8 victories and is in the top 20 in QB passing efficiency.
Scouting the defense: Much like BYU, facing inferior opponents, Tulsa’s really good. But how much does that actually prove? In Tulsa’s 8 wins, the defense was almost impenetrable, giving up only 287/yards a game. In the 4 losses, it’s almost double that total at 555/yards a game. Led by senior linebacker Curnelius Arnick, the run defense is far better than the pass. Yet for as beatable the pass defense is, Tulsa does have two good secondary players in Dexter McCoil and Milton Howell with 4 interceptions each this season. That comprises half the teams 16 total int’s for the year.
Keys to the game: Let’s call it pick your poison. If Tulsa is to have success, they need to keep the football. By keeping the football, they will need to be balanced. Look for the Golden Hurricane to run many different looks of the same set at the BYU defense. It will make the Cougars less keyed in on run or pass, forcing the defense to be a bit softer. Though it hasn’t happened many times, keeping the Cougar defense on its heels will open the field up to big plays. Defensively, stop the run and keep Riley Nelson contained in the pocket. Unlike many BYU teams of yore, this years Cougars run very well to set up the pass. They run by committee and are happy to do so, so don’t expect the RB’s to get tired. The Golden Hurricane must relegate Riley Nelson to being a pocket passer. He’s not nearly the passing threat Heaps was, but what he lacks in arm strength, he makes up in his wheels. So containing the wheels will make the passing game easier to handle for a defense that has been shredded by good passing teams this year.
Predictions: Carl: I expect to see points on the board early and often. The points will keep the scoreboard warm. Neither of these teams will let off the gas unless up 24+ in the 4th quarter. If this bowl postseason is an indicator of outcomes, expect this one to go down to the wire. If their last meeting was any indicator, this game will come down to the wire. If it comes down to a kick, I like Tulsa way more than BYU. However, I’m thinking a late surge by Tulsa will screech to a halt by a forced turnover by BYU.
Predictions: Matt: Points will be early and often from both teams. Stops by either defense will be at a premium. Come the end of the game, the team with the ball in its possession will have a chance to win the game. If that means BYU drives the field and scores to win or if BYU forces a stop or turnover on that last Tulsa possession, it doesn’t matter. BYU will win.