We are previewing the 2016 season game-by-game. This is part 2 which looks at games 4-6. Read part 1 here.
- Game 4: Fresno State – Saturday, September 24th. Bulldog Stadium.
Last year: Fresno State finished the season with a disappointing 3-9 record, head coach Tim DeRuyter retained his job, however both the offensive and defensive coordinators were replaced.
2015 Statistics: Fresno State was extremely dismal last year, they rank below 100th in the country in every category aside from passing defense.
Best players: The Bulldogs had zero players named first team all-conference, but redshirt freshman QB Chason Virgil was named MWC preseason freshman of the year. Receiver Jamire Jordan will be Virgil’s top target.
Preview: The Bulldogs did not have a lot going for them last season, and when the Golden Hurricane visits on September 24th, the Bulldogs will likely be 1-2. Still, this will certainly be a test for the Tulsa. If Chason Virgil is healthy, he is a dangerous quarterback. He is very athletic, and his strength is extending plays and tucking it to run. As we mentioned previously, Tulsa does not have a great history covering dual-threat QBs. The Bulldogs were decent covering the pass last year, but their weak run defense gives me confidence that Tulsa will have no trouble putting up points if they take care of the ball.
Prediction: The bulldogs are definitely the weaker of the two MWC teams that Tulsa plays this year, but this game scares me more. If Tulsa comes into this week sleepwalking, lazy, and careless with the football, then a desperate Fresno State team can absolutely beat them. The best way for this game to go is the offense putting up 3 touchdowns in the first quarter and never looking back. I have confidence in Dane taking care of the ball, and for that reason I believe TU will come out of Fresno on top. Tulsa 44-24 (3-1)
- Game 5: SMU – Friday, October 7th. H.A. Chapman Stadium.
Last year: Despite Chad Morris’ initial success in their season opener versus Baylor, the Mustangs finished 2-10 with a 1-7 record in the AAC. The Golden Hurricane defeated SMU 40-31 last season in Dallas.
2015 Statistics: Tulsa and SMU have very similar strengths/weaknesses
Best players: I really like their senior QB Matt Davis, but he fell off at the end of last year, completing less than 50% of his passes in 4 of his last 6 games. When he is on his game, he can throw a great deep ball. Running the football is not really his forte, but he does have ellusivenss in the pocket, although he does have a habit of trying to make too much happen. Courtland Sutton was a stud receiver as a freshman last season, and will definitely be Kerwin Thomas’ top priority.
Preview: “The rich get richer”… SMU returns 8 starters from their explosive offense, and “the poor get poorer” they only return 5 from their dismal defense last season. SMU this season will be young, explosive, and mistake prone. The young Mustangs will probably experiment around with their QB, as Matt Davis has not officially been named the starter. Before they play Tulsa, SMU plays TCU, Baylor, and Temple, so I’m not sure they’ll be hot going into this game. That could mean that the experimenting at QB will start in this very game.
Prediction: Just a side note, I love Friday night games for Tulsa. It is the easiest game time for students, we get national coverage, and it leaves Saturday for just enjoying the other college football games. Tulsa and SMU are very similar teams, with up-tempo offenses, and horrid defenses. However, Tulsa is slightly better in ever facet of the game. Again, if Tulsa takes care of the football, they will move up and down this Mustang defense. I also expect the Tulsa defense to be finding their groove by game 5, and this could be a chance for them to really impress. Tulsa 45-24 (4-1).
- Game 6: Houston – Saturday, October 15th. TDECU Stadium.
Last year: Houston was ignited by first year coach Tom Herman. The Cougars won the AAC conference title, and topped off an amazing season with a Peach Bowl victory over Florida State. Houston finished with a 13-1 record, with their only blemish being a weird 20-17 loss to the 6-7 Connecticut Huskies. The Golden Hurricane gave Houston a good challenge last season, but ended up falling 38-24. It was Tulsa’s 3rd lowest point total of the season, but of course that was the game where TU lost Keevan Lucas.
Best players: The Cougars return 8 starters from their top 10 offense, the best of which is senior QB Greg Ward Jr. Last season Ward passed for 2800 yards while completing 67% of his passes. He also gained 1108(!) yards and 21(!) touchdowns on the ground. Oklahoma State transfer Rashaad Samples will also be one to watch, as he replaces Demarcus Ayers at receiver. Defensively, Houston had one player named to USA Today’s preseason all-conference team, LB Steven Taylor.
Preview: In my opinion, Houston is right up there with Ohio State as the toughest opponent on Tulsa’s schedule this season. Defensively, the Cougars lost a lot of talent. But they still have 5 starters returning, and adequate upperclassmen to fill in the 6 spots that were vacated. Offensively, the Cougars have the best QB in the conference, and according to USA Today, the best offensive line in the conference. Tulsa will certainly have a tough task ahead of them, but after only losing by 14 a season ago the players will be eager to gun after the top dog in the conference. Also, Houston has a daunting start to their schedule. Before playing Tulsa, the Cougars have a neutral site game vs OU, and trips to Cincinnati and Navy. It is very possible that even almighty Houston could have 1 or 2 losses when they face the Golden Hurricane. So according to my not so expert predictions, the winner of this game will have a grasp on the AAC West Division.
Prediction: This game is one that I’m really excited for, I’m even considering making the trip down to Houston to watch the game! There is also a good chance that if Houston is still in the top 25, this could be a nationally televised showdown. Seeing through all my excitement, I do not like Tulsa’s chances in this game. I’ve frequently railed on Tulsa’s inability to cover a running quarterback, and my point is made evident by the fact that last season Greg Ward Jr. rushed for his season high 181 yards and 3 touchdowns versus Tulsa. I know that the score was close, but Ward pretty much singlehandedly won that game for the Cougars. I said that SMU was the lesser version of Tulsa, and honestly Tulsa is the lesser version of UH. That is not a knock against Tulsa, Houston is just simply on another level. Ward is a better QB than Dane, Herman is a better coach than Montgomery, and Houston is a better team than Tulsa. That is painful to say, but at this point it is probably true. Houston 52-24 (4-2)