A recently resurgent and feisty Tulsa Golden Hurricanes squad travels down the turnpike to take on preseason poll favorite Oklahoma Sooners as college football kicks off this Saturday.
Tulsa finished their 10-3 season on a high note, toppling Hawaii by 4 touchdowns in their bowl game and landing in the 20-25 range of most polls. They might have done a little too well, however, seeing that coach Todd Graham bolted for Pitt in January after posting an impressive 35-17 record during his three-year tenure.
In 2010, the Sooners rebounded from heartbreakers against Missouri and Texas A&M to defeat in-state rival Oklahoma State in a barnburner, earn a hard-fought Big 12 title against Nebraska and enjoy a leisurely romp of UConn in the Fiesta Bowl.
This matchup of Top 25 teams should have you thinking one thing: offense.
To say that both of these schools can “put points on the board” is an understatement the size of the 85,000-plus capacity stadium the two teams will occupy Sept. 3 in Norman, OK. Both teams finished in the top 15 last season in total yards per game, points per game and passing yards per game.
The two quarterbacks, Landry Jones and G.J. Kinne, combined for almost 7,600 yards and 63 touchdowns through the air last season. Toss in Kinne’s 557 yards and seven more TDs running the ball and the over/under guys in Vegas start to get a little woozy.
Let’s take a look at each side of the ball for the two teams and find the key points that will determine the outcome.
G.J. Kinne leading his team to an impressive win at Nortre Dame last season
Sooner fans need to keep their expectations in check for Week 1 because Tulsa can flat score.
They return 10 starters on one of the top offenses in the country last season. Not just any ole’ starters either.
Look for Texas transfer QB G.J. Kinne to make a run up the mock draft boards during his senior year.
Last season, he threw for 3,650 yards, 31 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions while amassing 557 more yards rushing including an eyebrow-raising 190 yards against Houston in a close win.
Kinne’s top playmaker, Damaris Johnson, hoarded 2,628 all-purpose yards last season to lead the nation… for a second year in a row.
The guy is a matchup nightmare, lining up anywhere on the field to create mismatches for defenses and headaches for defensive coordinators. You can try to double him on defense, but he returns kicks and punts as well.
Johnson is the current leader in career kickoff return yards in the NCAA by a long shot.
Their offensive line has five returning starters that improved a lot last year. Their 44 sacks allowed on Kinne in 2009 improved to only 28 last season.
All-in-all, this is a formidable group that will look to push its high-flying feats of last season to even greater heights. They will romp through their conference like Vikings pillaging a defenseless village but against the talented OU defense things will go very differently.
WR Damaris Johnson is suspended due to off the field legal issues and will miss the game against Oklahoma.
Watch for playmaking DB Marco Nelson
This is where the good new ends for the Golden Hurricanes.
The team is the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of college football as they had one of the worst defenses in all the land last season.
Defensive coordinator Brent Guy will have his hands full this year, let alone against OU, as he tries to improve a side that ranked 111th in the country in total defense a year ago and last… dead last… against the pass.
There are a few bright spots, however, in DB Marco Nelson (All C-USA as a freshman) and tackle machine LB Curnelius Arnick who led the team with 115 tackles and five sacks last season.
This defense will struggle to contain a loaded Sooners offense. They should hold their heads high if they keep them under 40 points. Good luck, fellas.
DeJuan Miller will be the biggest target for Landry Jones this year
Speaking of a loaded Sooner offense, the OU touchdown factory looks to return to business as usual this season.
Heisman candidate QB Landry Jones will have the good kind of problems this year as he tries to decide which immense talent to get the ball to.
The skill positions are packed with... skill, and despite their young age, plenty of experience to go along. The offense returns 12 of the 15 people who touched the ball at any point last season.
Coach Bob Stoops has been stockpiling running backs behind do-it-all back Demarco Murray for three years and now it is their time to shine. Roy Finch was the second leading rusher last season and his change of pace (think Quinton Griffin) will fit in nicely with the committee.
Finch impressed last season with quite a highlight reel, but the top spot on the RB depth chart is shared (it literally says “or”) by sophomores Jonathon Miller and Brandon Williams. The committee format has seldom been used in a Stoops offense and will be an exciting development to follow this year.
The riches only continue to the receivers. The team has seen a frustrating depletion of depth since the Jason White years, but I am glad to announce the wide-out drought is officially over.
Sure handed Norman native Ryan Broyles is on the Biletnikoff short list and with good reason. He will challenge NCAA career marks for receptions, yards and touchdowns this year.
Behind Broyles is an impressive array of young, athletic talent encompassing all roles. At 6’4” and 217 pounds, senior DeJuan Miller is the big, bulky possession guy and is flanked by sophomore speedsters Kenny Stills and Trey Franks.
A stable of impressive freshman will be fighting for catches all season as well.
According to a few recent Twitter posts, it seems WR Kenny Stills will miss the home opener against Tulsa due to a suspension from coach Bob Stoops.
Travis Lewis will be missed early
The depth of the OU defense will be tested early against Tulsa as injury and eligibility issues swarm.
Preseason All-American and three-year leading tackler Travis Lewis will miss the first several games with a broken foot.
DE Ronnell “The Hammer” Lewis has been M.I.A all offseason and NFL-caliber CB Jamell Fleming is working hard to avoid a suspension from Stoops.
Don’t forget the tragic loss of senior MLB Austin Box who passed away over the summer.
It is bad timing to be missing three starters (four counting Box) considering the tidal wave of production they will be facing in Tulsa. The team is stacked at defensive line and linebacker, as usual, but the defensive backfield will be tested big time.
Demontre Hurst has separated himself at cornerback, but the two safety spots and opposite corner are being filled with unproven youngsters.
I doubt Stoops will get a Gatorade bath at the end of this one, but a win is all but assured
OU has handled the high flying Tulsa offense well in the past, stomping them 45-0 two years ago.
Stoops has always done well against other spread attacks, manhandling the Texas Techs and Oklahoma States of the world during his time at OU.
Not to mention the fact that the game is in Norman, where Bob has lost but two games in 12 years.
The game will be closer than everyone thinks (and Sooner fans hope) as Tulsa runs and guns their way through it. The Sooner defense will bend but not break as Oklahoma pulls away in the 4th quarter to win 48-31.
With WR Damaris Johnson out for Tulsa, I'll change my predicted final score to 48-17. His absence KILLS their offense and special teams.
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