We are previewing the 2016 Golden Hurricane season game-by-game. This is part 1, which looks at the first three games of the season.
- Game 1: San Jose State – Saturday, September 3rd. H.A. Chapman Stadium.
Last year: San Jose State finished the regular season 5-7, with a 4-4 record in the MWC. The Spartans were one of three 5-7 teams that were selected to play in a bowl game despite their losing record. SJSU took advantage of the opportunity and defeated Georgia State in the AutoNation Cure Bowl.
Best players: The Spartans had 3 players named to the MWC preseason all-conference team: TE Billy Freeman, LB Christian Tago, and punter Michael Carrizosa. After losing last year’s leading rusher to the NFL draft, and their best WR due to academic reasons, the Spartans passing offense will center around TE Billy Freeman. Freeman was a first team all-conference pick in 2015.
Preview: Tulsa has had thrilling wins in their season openers the past 2 seasons, and haven’t lost their home-opener since 2005. If the Golden Hurricane is going to keep it going in 2016, the offense will need to be clicking early (unlike last season). San Jose State’s scoring defense was solid last season, and their pass defense was excellent. They return 9 starters from last year’s unit, so they could be just as good this season. Historically, the offense takes a few games to get going, while the defense is fired up to hit people on week 1. The key in this game will be Dane & Keevan versus the Spartan’s top 10 pass defense. San Jose State will have to replace two of their best offensive playmakers, and although they do return their QB Kenny Potter, that is a lot of firepower to replenish offensively. The Spartans offense is not good enough to simply outscore TU like Oklahoma, Memphis, and Virginia Tech did last season. Although Billy Freeman is extremely talented, I think he is a better matchup for Tulsa’s linebackers and secondary than a WR like Isiah Ford.
Prediction: This will be an exciting game, I am confident of that. The buildup to this game will be so great, and it would be an enormous letdown if the Golden Hurricane were to lose. The Spartans are tough, but I like the matchups. Tulsa’s pass offense versus San Jose’s pass defense is strength versus strength, and I have a feeling that Dane will be on his game early. Also, if the Spartans run defense doesn’t improve, Brewer is going to gash them. As long as Tulsa takes care of the ball, they will put up close to 40 points, I don’t see the rebuilding Spartans offense putting up that many. Tulsa 42-32 (1-0)
- Game 2: Ohio State – Saturday September 10th. Ohio Stadium.
Last year: Ohio State finished with a 12- 1 record and defeated Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl. The Buckeyes had 12 players drafted.
Best Players: It all starts with QB J.T. Barrett. The junior is one of only 3 offensive starters to return from last year’s squad. Barrett is an intelligent veteran who can beat the defense with both his arms and his feet. Last season he completed 65% of his passes, and surpassed the century mark in rushing three times. The defensive leader for the buckeyes will be LB Raekwon McMillan. He is the only returning linebacker on the buckeye defense, and as a junior he will need to be the defensive leader. Raekwon is projected as an early round pick in the 2017 draft.
Preview: Whew boy. This will be a fun one. Let me give you all the reasons why you should believe Tulsa has a chance to pull the upset. First, the timing could not be any better. The week after Tulsa plays Ohio State, the Buckeyes travel to Norman for a game versus the Sooners. Tulsa is a major “look-ahead” opponent, which will play in TU’s favor. Secondly, Ohio State only returns 3 starters offensively, and just 4 defensively. Although they are sure to be extremely talented, the kinks will not be worked out by the second game. Thirdly, J.T. Barrett is not a prolific passer, as shown by Ohio State’s 100th ranked passing attack from a season ago. The Buckeyes can’t drop-back and pick apart defenses, Urban Meyer offense’s have always been built on running the football, I trust our front 7 more than our secondary. Lastly, we saw last season in the OU game that Coach Montgomery can make this team play without fear, and he has an ability to coach belief into players. After the OU game, the players thought that they honestly could’ve pulled off the upset, and I’m not sure that isn’t true! The team will be hungry to make a huge splash on the national stage in this game.
Prediction: Okay.. time to stop sipping the Hurricane Kool-Aid and return to reality. Urban Meyer is one of the best coaches in NCAA history, he will pay close attention to the Golden Hurricane, and he’ll work diligently to make sure the players are prepared and focused by September 10th. Also, Barrett may not be prolific throwing the football, but he is a dynamic runner. And uhh, Bill Young doesn’t have a great history with covering dual-threat QBs, that is sure to be a problem. I have no doubt that Tulsa will be competitive in this game, but in the end Ohio State is just so much more talented than the Hurricane. Urban Meyer and The Shoe will carry them to victory. Ohio State 55-35 (1-1)
- Game 3: North Carolina A&T. H.A. Chapman Stadium.
Last year: The Aggies finished the year with a record of 10-2. NC A&T played Alcorn St. in the inaugural Celebration Bowl, and won a crazy game 41-34. That victory crowned them HBCU (Historically Black College and University) National Champions.
2015 Statistics: (Because NC A&T is a FCS team, they don’t have rankings for their stats.)
Best Players: Sr RB Tarik Cohen (pictured above) got national attention when he rushed for 295 yards and 3 touchdowns in the Celebration Bowl, watch the filthy highlights here. Cohen is a 3-year starter for the Aggies. He has been a 1,000 yard rusher every season, and has over 4,000 for his career! The guy is extremely fast, has tremendous vision, and definitely has “home-run” ability. Cohen is a legit NFL prospecct for next year’s draft. Watch for the Golden Hurricane defense to keen in on him. Punt Returner Khris Gardin is also an explosive asset for the Aggies. He was named first-team punt returner in the STATS FCS All-American team.
Preview: Cohen really does scare me. I could easily see him stroll into Tulsa, put up 200 yards, and have his highlights shown on Sportscenter all night long. I’m actually looking forward to this game, I remember watching the Celebration Bowl last year and being thoroughly entertained by Cohen. Besides Cohen, the Aggies don’t have much that scares me. Last season they played one FBS school, North Carolina, and lost 53-14. It isn’t like they are a powerhouse at the FCS level either. Winning the Celebration bowl did not mean they were crowned FCS National Champions, just HBCU National Champions. They open up the season ranked 25th in the preseason FCS rankings, the first time in 12 years they’ve been in the top-25 before the season starts.
Prediction: Guys, NC A&T is going to put up some yards on us, Cohen is too explosive and last season our defense just had too many holes. However, the Aggies’ defense is the worst that Tulsa will play all year, and I expect the Golden Hurricane to put up even bigger numbers. The Aggies are respectable on the FCS level, but they are not a juggernaut like North Dakota State, Sam Houston State, or Richmond (the FCS schools who have upset FBS teams in the past). With where Tulsa is at as a program, this should (must) be an easy victory. Tulsa 63-38 (2-1)
Alright that is it for part 1! I’ll be back in a couple days for Fresno State, SMU, and Houston.