Tulsa -5 Bowling Green
The penultimate bowl game of the season could also end up being one of the most entertaining. While neither of these teams should end the season within spitting distance of the top 10, they do boast their respective charms.
From 1992-2002, a span of 11 seasons, the Tulsa football team won 34 games, lost 88, and tied 1 for a winning percentage of .280. From 2003-2007, a span of 5 seasons, first under Steve Kragthorpe (4 years), and continuing under first-year head coach Todd Graham, the Golden Hurricanes have won 38 games and lost 26 for a winning percentage of .594. In the course of half a decade, Tulsa has gone from one of the worst programs in Division I to one of the best mid-majors. The Hurricanes were certainly led by their hurry up offensive attack this season. The offense, led by senior quarterback Paul Smith, averaged nearly 543 yards per game (tops in the nation). Smith averaged 9.5 yards per pass (2nd in the nation among qualifying quarterbacks), threw 42 touchdown passes (2nd in the nation), and boasted a quarterback rating of 160.29 (7th in the nation). The Golden Hurricanes have a pair of 1000-yard receivers in Trae Johnson (1039) and Brennan Marion (1244). Marrion is a big play waiting to happen. He averages over 30 yards per reception (31.9)!
Tulsa does struggle defensively though. They gave up an average of 469 yards per game (111th in the nation). They were equally bad at stopping the run (allowed 4.61 yards per rush--91st in the nation) and the pass (allowed 7.7 yards per pass--98th in the nation). Tulsa held their opponents under 30 points only 4 times in 13 games. They allowed at least 40 points in almost half (6) of their games.
Bowling Green has been pretty successful in the new decade too. First under Urban Meyer (coach from 2001-2002) and since then under Gregg Brandon, the Falcons have won 55 games and lost only 29. In those 7 seasons, the Falcons have had 6 winning seasons, played in 2 bowl games (soon to be a 3rd on Sunday), and averaged more than 30 points per game 6 times. The Falcons can best be described as a diet version of Tulsa. Their offense is not as prolific (417 yards per game--43rd in the nation) nor as porous on defense (413 yards allowed per game--79th in the nation). After a 4-4 start, the Falcons have reeled off 4 straight wins to become bowl-eligible. However, neither of those 4 victims finished with a winning record (Akron, Eastern Michigan, Buffalo, and Toledo finished with a combined record of 18-30).
After 4 straight no-frills NFL playoff games, take some time to enjoy what should be a very high-scoring game. Both teams will move the ball up and down the field, but Tulsa should be able to outscore the Falcons.
The Pick: Tulsa will cover the 5 point spread.