This year’s Armed Forces Bowl does not feature a service academy, with Army and Navy both failing to become bowl-eligible. Instead, this game features the Brigham Young Cougars against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane.
The game will be played on Dec. 30 at 12 p.m. ET in Dallas, Texas at Gerald Ford Stadium. The game will be televised on ESPN.
Note: Rankings used are from my National Top 25 rankings.
Biggest win: vs Utah State, 27-24, Sept. 30
Worst loss: vs Utah, 10-54, Sept. 17
Do not let the attractive 9-3 record fool you, BYU’s first season as an independent was nothing too impressive. The Cougars played a very weak schedule that ended with only four bowl-eligible teams, and the Cougars only won one of those four games.
For what it is worth against such a weak schedule, the Cougars’ defense ranks 16th nationally in yards allowed per game. Offensively, the Cougars are well-balanced, and rank 40th nationally.
Record: 8-4 (7-1 C-USA)
Biggest win: vs SMU, 38-7, Oct. 29
Worst loss: vs No. 16 Houston, 16-48, Nov. 25
No team in the nation played a tougher non-conference schedule than Tulsa. While the Golden Hurricane only won one of their four non-conference games, the three they lost all came against teams currently ranked in the top 20 nationally (Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Boise State). Their only other loss this season came against Houston, also ranked within the top 20.
Typically, an 8-4 record for a Conference USA team symbolizes a below-average team that would probably have a losing record in a major conference, but considering Tulsa never lost to a team outside of the top 20 in the rankings, that simply may not be true. That said, Tulsa only won two games against bowl-eligible teams, but they deserve alot of credit for scheduling challenging opponents.
Tulsa has a dangerous offense that ranks 23rd nationally in total, rushing and scoring offense (quite a coincidence). However, they have struggled defensively, ranking 89th in yards allowed per game, although once again, they did play two of the nation’s top-three offenses (in yards per game) this season in Oklahoma State and Houston.
Brigham Young LT Matt Reynolds, Senior
NFL Draft Grade: Round 4-5
One of the most important players on the Brigham Young offense over the past few seasons has been their stalwart at left tackle, Matt Reynolds.
Reynolds is an experienced lineman who has been starting for the Cougars since he was a freshman. Reynolds is a very good run blocker and technician. He is not a great athlete but has good footwork.
Reynolds struggles with speed rushers, and is probably not going to be a left tackle in the National Football League. That said, Reynolds’s experience and consistency make him a good Day Three prospect to play right tackle or kick inside to guard. Watch for him to have a strong performance in his final collegiate game.
Tulsa QB G.J. Kinne, Senior
NFL Draft Grade: Round 7-Undrafted
Leading the charge for the Tulsa Golden Hurricane in his final collegiate game will be senior quarterback G.J. Kinne.
Kinne does not have anything spectacular to his game, but he is a smart, efficient passer who runs the Tulsa spread offense well and is a good athlete. Kinne does not project well to the next level, but he is a very good college quarterback.
Kinne’s numbers went down from his junior season, but that may be due in large part to the team’s preseason dismissal of Damaris Johnson. In Johnson’s final game with the Golden Hurricane, he broke the record for most all-purpose yardage in a single game and he was Kinne’s go-to receiver last year. Unfortunately, he was arrested on felony embezzlement charges.
Brigham Young OLB Kyle Van Noy, Sophomore
2013 NFL Draft Grade: Round 6-7
The main playmaker on Brigham Young’s strong defense has been sophomore linebacker Kyle Van Noy.
Van Noy is a rangy, athletic linebacker with good size for the position. He leads the Cougars with 10 tackles for loss and is tied for the team lead in sacks (4) and interceptions (3).
Van Noy is instinctive and has a knack for being a playmaker. The Cougars will be looking for their young defensive standout to make an impact in the Armed Forces Bowl.
Common opponent: UCF
Brigham Young: Home win, 24-17, Sept. 23
Tulsa: Road win, 24-17, Nov. 3
Brigham Young’s passing offense: 46th in nation, 245 yards per game
Tulsa’s passing defense: 117th in nation, 289.3 yards allowed per game
Tulsa’s scoring offense: 23rd in nation, 34.1 points per game
Brigham Young’s scoring defense: 23rd in nation, 20.3 points allowed per game
On paper, the Cougars appear to have the edge in this game. While the Cougars have a defense that should be capable of slowing down Tulsa, the same may not be able to be said about the Golden Hurricane defense.
However, a closer look shows more similarity in these teams. Both teams lack explosive offensive playmakers, with offenses predicated on short passing, between-the-tackles rushing and consistency. Both teams played UCF, and won with the exact same result.
What really stands out between these two teams is while neither has any particularly impressive wins on their resume, Tulsa challenged themselves with a tremendously tough non-conference schedule, playing four teams currently ranked in the top 20.
Tulsa’s tough schedule should have them better prepared for this bowl game, and I expect them to come away from this game with a victory.
Final Score Prediction: Tulsa 37, Brigham Young 23