Tulsa Football Predictions
Tulsa was a much better team than their 8-5 record may lead you to believe. The Golden Hurricanes had one of the hardest non-conference schedules in the nation. In their first four games, they faced the likes of No. 1Oklahoma, No. 8 Oklahoma State and No. 4Boise State. To no surprise, they lost all three of those games. Tulsa would quickly turn their season around, as they would win seven straight before losing to No. 8 Houston in the season finale and BYU in the Armed Forces Bowl.
Overall it was a pretty impressive run for first-year head coach Bill Blankership. While the Golden Hurricanes have to replace one of the schools all-time greats at quarterback in G.J. Kinne, they are definitely a team to keep your eye on in Conference USA. Blankership has 13 starters coming back with all kinds of talent on both sides of the ball. Let’s take a closer look at exactly what the Golden Hurricanes have to work with in 2012.
In Kinne’s final season with the Golden Hurricanes he threw for 3,090 yards with 28 touchdowns to just 12 interceptions. He finished up his career at Tulsa with 9,472 passing yards, the second most in school history. Replacing a quarterback of that talent is never easy, especially for a non-BCS program. However, there is reason to be excited about the 2012 season. Cody Green transferred from Nebraska after his freshman season with the expectation of taking over for Kinne this year. Green started five games for the Cornhuskers in 2009, throwing for 657 yards (5 TDs) and rushing for another 257 yards.
Green will have plenty of talent to work with in the passing game, as the Golden Hurricanes figure to have one of the best receiving corps in the conference. They get back their top two threats in Willie Carter (61 catches, 858 yards, 7 TDs) and Bryan Burnham (54 catches, 850 yards, 9 TDs) along with starter Jordon James (31 catches, 391 yards). Adding even more depth to the mix is sophomore Thomas Robinson (medical red-shirt last year), who started 9 games and caught 30 passes for 367 yards and two touchdowns as a true freshman in 2010.
Another thing that has me thinking Green will step in and put up big numbers in 2012, is the fact that the Golden Hurricanes will once again feature one of the conferences top rushing attacks. Out of all the running backs in the conference, Tulsa featured two of the top five in total rushing yards on the season. Ja’Terian Douglas had a team-high 883 yards (No. 4) with four touchdowns and Trey Watts was right behind him with 881 (No. 5) yards and three scores. Add in Alex Singleton’s 279 yards and the Golden Hurricanes top three combined for over 2,000 yards.
Other than quarterback, the only other concern on this side of the ball is on the offensive line. Tulsa has to replace 1st Team All-C-USA left guard Clint Anderson, 3rd Team All-C-USA left tackle Tyler Holmes, and starting right tackle Matt Romine. However, I don’t think we will see a significant drop in production. They get back starting center Trent Dupy and right guard Stetson Burnett. They are also very excited about the potential of sophomore left guard Jake Alexander and Brian DeShane started the final two at right tackle last season.
The Golden Hurricanes aren’t known for their ability to stop the other team from scoring. They have allowed at least 27 ppg the last five seasons. With that said, the run defense was as good as its been in 20 years. The Golden Hurricanes allowed just 128 ypg on 3.3 ypc. While they lose one of the premier defensive ends in the conference in Tyrunn Walker (41 tackles, 8 sacks, 13.5 tackles for loss), they could be even stronger in 2012. The Golden Hurricanes have three starters back up front, including two of the top players in the conference in senior defensive tackle Derrick Jackson and senior defensive end Cory Dorris.
The strength of the defensive line should help ease the loss of starting middle linebacker Curnellius Arnick, who led the entire conference with 159 tackles in 2011. There is still plenty of talent at this position, especially if CANE linebacker DeAundre Brown can return to his old form. Brown earned 1st Team All-C-USA honors with a team-high 109 tackles in 2009. Brown had to use a red-shirt in 2010 and was never really healthy last year. He would form a pretty solid combo on the outside with Shawn Jackson, who was second on the team with 101 tackles (4.5 sacks, 11 tackles for loss) last year.
What really has me thinking the Golden Hurricanes could feature one of their best defenses in years, is a secondary that is absolutely loaded with talent. Tulsa gets back 2nd Team All-C-USA safety Dexter McCoil (84 tackles, 6 INTs), who is just one interception away from setting the all-time school record. On top of that they return talented free safety Marco Nelson (73 tackles) and corner Lowell Rose. Six of the top eight are back in all and this could end up being the best secondary in the conference.
Conference USA Prediction – 1st West Division
I think Tulsa is the real deal and they are my clear-cut favorites to win the West and take home the Conference Championship Game. While they have to go on the road to face both Houston and SMU and draw UCF out of the East at home, I like their chances of winning each of those games. With a much easier start to the season (non-conference games against Iowa St, Nicholls St and Fresno St), there’s a decent chance the Golden Hurricanes will be 8-0 when they travel to Fayetteville to take on Arkansas. The only concern I have, is there three toughest conference games (mentioned above) all come in a row after that showdown with the Razorbacks.
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