The Cougars are heading to Dallas to take on the Tulsa Golden Hurricane in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl. This is the first meeting between the teams since BYU lost in a shootout to to Tulsa in 2007.
Tulsa is perhaps a better team than their record implies. They do have four losses, but each loss came to a team that was ranked in the top ten at the time: #1 Oklahoma, #8 Oklahoma State, #4 Boise State, and #8 Houston. When those are your four losses, you have to be proud of being 8-4. Aside from that, Tulsa’s 7-1 conference record was good for second in the conference, but that one loss came to Houston, who represented the West division in the title game against SMU (and somehow lost). Tulsa boasts a top-25 offense, rolling up 250 passing yards, 205 rushing yards, and 34 points per game, while their defense only gives up 28 points per game.
Tulsa should be a great measuring stick for the Cougars, who haven’t faced an opponent of this quality since losing to TCU in October. The WAC-heavy November schedule was favorable to BYU, and the Cougars showed a lot of improvement through the course of those games, capping things off with a convincing 41-20 rout of Hawaii at Aloha Stadium. The Cougars have a top-50 offense, with 245 passing yards, 166 rushing yards, and 31 points per game. The defense has been very stingy, giving up only 20 points per game, good for 23rd in the nation.
Keys to the game
Riley Nelson. A good test for the Cougars is also a good test for Riley Nelson. Jake Heaps’ withdrawal from BYU ensured that Tulsa would know which quarterback they would face (though Nelson’s starting role was never in question). Riley’s ability to create on the run and improvise when plays break down is something you can’t prepare for. He’s coming off a record passing game at Hawaii, and I think Riley will have a big day on the ground and through the air.
Receivers. This should be a great game for BYU’s receivers. Look for Hoffman to make at least one miracle one-handed catch. He and Apo should have a big day today, with Falslev, DiLuigi, and others making important contributions.
Defense. The Cougar D will follow Bronco’s typical pattern and try to force Tulsa to be one-dimensional, taking away the run. It will be an interesting test, the Cougar defense against a tough Tulsa run game. BYU’s linebacker group is one of the toughest in the nation, featuring Kyle Van Noy, Brandon Ogletree, and Uona Kaveinga as leading playmakers.
This will be a good game. I think the lower the score stays, the more the game will favor the Cougars. BYU should be able to get it done today. I’m picking BYU 31, Tulsa 21.