Tulsa (0-0) at Bowling Green (0-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, August 29, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Doyt Perry Stadium (24,000) -- Bowling Green, Ohio. Television: ESPN U. Home Record: Tulsa 0-0, BGSU 0-0. Away Record: Tulsa 0-0, BGSU 0-0. Neutral Record: Tulsa 0-0, BGSU 0-0. Conference Record: Tulsa 0-0, BGSU 0-0. Series Record: Tulsa leads, 3-0.
GAME NOTES: The defending Conference USA champion Tulsa Golden Hurricane are set to kick off their 2013 season as they visit Doyt Perry for a bout with the Mid-American Conference's Bowling Green Falcons.
Both of these teams are coming off bowl seasons. Coach Dave Clawson led the Falcons to an 8-5 overall record that ended with a loss to San Jose State in the Military Bowl in his fourth year at the helm of the program. Coach Bill Blankenship earned his first conference title as the Golden Hurricane defeated UCF in the C-USA Championship before defeating Iowa State, 31-17, in the Liberty Bowl to finish 11-3.
Tulsa has won all three of the previous meetings between these schools on the gridiron. All three victories came by double-digit margins, although the non- conference rivals have never before met in Bowling Green.
The Golden Hurricane are poised once again to compete for the C-USA title due to a top-notch offense that brings back plenty of talent. The offense that tended to pound away with the run was very successful overall in 2012, producing 457.1 total yards and 34.7 points per contest.
Three of Tulsa's top four rushers return to the fold, including superstar senior Trey Watts. The 5-11, 190-pound tailback tallied 1,108 rushing yards, 343 receiving yards and returned a kickoff for a touchdown last season, while averaging more than six yards per carry.
Senior quarterback Cody Green will return to his starting position under center after an inconsistent junior year. The Golden Hurricane's quarterback had an impressive start to 2012, throwing 11 touchdowns in his first six games. However, he finished the year with only 17 touchdowns to 11 interceptions after throwing a pick in five consecutive games to close out the schedule.
Green has a few quality targets in the aerial attack with Keyarris Garrett (845 yards, 67 receptions), Jordan James (568 yards, 41 receptions) and Thomas Roberson (489 yards, 29 receptions) in the lineup.
The Golden Hurricane's defensive performance was a strong factor in the success last season. They led the C-USA in total defense (347.8) and finished second in scoring defense (23.6 ppg). Reaching those numbers again in 2013 will be difficult with only three of the starters from last season's defense returning.
Senior Shawn Jackson (6-0, 251) and junior Mitchell Osborne (6-2, 210) are going to be the leaders of the defensive unit from the linebacker position. Jackson's 88 total tackles last season make him the team's leading returning tackler and Osborne is expected to build upon a strong campaign that yielded 40 total stops. Defensive coordinator Brent Guy has a leader to rely on in the secondary in senior safety Marco Nelson. The 6-0 defensive back has picked off eight passes in his career and has started since his freshman year.
BGSU also displayed excellence on the defensive side of the ball last season, finishing in the top 10 in the nation in both total defense (296.6 ypg) and scoring defense (16.8 ppg). Replacing the graduated Chris Jones (12.5 sacks) on the defensive line will not be easy because he was such a big factor as a pass rusher, but nine returning starters should provide plenty of stability for defensive coordinator Mike Elko.
Sophomore Gabe Martin was named to the first-team All-MAC in his inaugural campaign as a starting linebacker in 2012. He paced the team with 70 total stops which he accompanied with 8.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks and an interception. The secondary should be able to keep any opposing passing attack in check as it returns all four starters including the team's interception leader, Jude Adjei-Barimah, and senior strong safety Jerry "Boo Boo" Gates.
Due to BGSU's defensive excellence, it had a conservative approach offensively. The Falcons relied heavily on tailback Anthon Samuel, who transferred to FIU in the off-season. Redshirt Travis Greene, who converted from wideout to halfback, will be the team's starter for the opener. Jordan Hopgood, Jamel Martin and Andre Givens give BGSU plenty of depth at the position.
Senior quarterback Matt Schilz has amassed 7,832 yards and 50 touchdowns in his BGSU career, and is currently on a streak of 32 consecutive starts. Sophomore scrambler Matt Johnson may be called upon if Schilz fails to improve his decision making (39 career INTs).
Chris Gallon (720 yards, 6 TDs, 54 receptions) and Shaun Joplin (639 yards, 4 TDs, 40 receptions) were the two most frequent targets in the passing game for the team in 2012 and are expected to be even better with an extra year of experience. Senior tight end Alex Bayer (410 yards, three TDs) also got into the mix in the passing game.
Both of these teams were very efficient last season. The Falcons struggled against non-conference opposition, but they are a much better team at home. The Golden Hurricane are going to have to rely on their inexperienced offensive line against a very tough defense. This one should stay pretty close unless either quarterback has a breakout performance.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Tulsa 24, Bowling Green 21
08/28 10:42:30 ET