POSTED ON DECEMBER 21, 2011:
Locked and Loaded
Hey, Tulsa! Are you ready to go bowling?
Bowl season could go down as one of the best in recent memory. Several outstanding matchups are in place. One of the non-glamorous games might wind up being the most action packed.
Sure we are biased but chances are the University of Tulsa versus Brigham Young game will electrify the masses. Hyperbole? Perhaps, but as a bunch of not-so-wise men routinely repeat, that is why they play the game.
The Golden Hurricane (8-4) landed in an ideal situation. The opponent is a known commodity for T-Town fans. The Dallas location is doable from a travel perspective. In other words, there is a lot to like about the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl taking place at 11am on Dec. 30.
"We're excited to be going to the Dallas/Fort Worth area," said Blankenship. "I think it gives us an opportunity to engage our fan base and the timing couldn't be better. Fans will have time to celebrate a little holiday time and then finish that up with a Friday morning Bowl game."
Local travel entities are offering up nice packages that include a TU hoops game in the area. Back to football.
Every bowl game has a title sponsor and subsequently a theme. All five military branches are prominently featured throughout the game and broadcast on ESPN. This fits in with the patriotic nature of Tulsa.
If you had to choose an opponent for TU, BYU would probably crack the top-five options for realists.
Brigham Young brings a large audience due to their religious affiliations. This leads to additional eyes on the field.
"There are very few teams in the country that have a richer tradition than BYU," said TU Head Coach Bill Blankenship. "They're known coast-to-coast. BYU is a tremendously successful program for a long time."
The two squads have some recent history. BYU won a 2006 meeting by a score of 49-24 in Provo. Tulsa exacted revenged a year later in a 55-47 bonanza.
"I certainly remember the game," said BYU Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall of the 2007 contest. "We had no idea what we were defending quite frankly. That was one of the most explosive offensive schemes we'd ever seen."
Bowl game scrooges always bash these non-BCS tilts. That is a pretty simplistic approach humans learn at a young age. Make fun of that which you do not understand. "Ha, ha bowl games stink and there are too many of them." You've heard the drivel a million times.
Here is the glass half full approach. Both teams teeter on the edge of the top-25. Whichever university can come out victorious likely secures a top-25 ranking in the season ending poll.
A top-25 ranking does not mean a whole lot to OU, OSU or Arkansas, but for TU it could be the difference in a recruit's decision on signing day or even get Coach Blankenship's staff in a living room.
Practice, practice, practice. The players do not love it, but coaches sure do. It is an unfair advantage really. Bowl bound teams (winners) get extra practice while non-bowl bound teams (losers) go home for the winter.
Hopefully practice focuses on the defensive backs. BYU runs a similar offense to Tulsa. The Cougars rank 46 in the nation in passing while the Golden Hurricane ranks 41.
TU's rushing attack is more prolific thanks to the contributions of quarterback G.J. Kinne. TU holds a slight advantage in scoring offense, but that is offset by BYU's superior defensive statistics.
Vegas bookmakers set the line at -2.5 in favor of BYU. Take that for what it is worth.
Back in 2006 the Golden Hurricane participated in the same bowl game down in Dallas/Fort Worth. This will be BYU's first trip. Advantage Hurricane.
"The fact that BYU and Tulsa used to be in the same conference, the Western Athletic Conference, we certainly are no strangers to BYU and vice versa," said Blankenship. "We played a very exciting game at home in 2007 with an offensive shootout that a lot of people still talk about. I think BYU is certainly an opponent that people will get excited about with what can happen on the field between these two teams."
BYU quarterback Riley Nelson missed much of the season due to injury. He has returned with vengeance. He hopes to add his name to the list of great Cougar signal callers over the years.
The list includes Steve Young, Jim McMahon, Ty Detmer and Marc Wilson. Ok, so Marc Wilson is a stretch but he does have Super Bowl rings.
When broadcasters or media-types list common opponents it means they have run out of material. So let's skip the fact that BYU and TU defeated the University of Central Florida by an identical 24-17 score this year. We will also not mention that TU did so on the road while BYU played the Knights in Provo. Advantage Hurricane.
The Golden Hurricane is riding a three-game bowl winning streak. TU is averaging 56.6 points in victories over Bowling Green, Ball State and Hawaii. Advantage Hurricane.
A victory over the Cougars will likely be met with a polite golf clap. That is unfortunate. A win would be a huge feather in the cap of the new coaching staff.
Will it mean the same as the win against Notre Dame a season ago? Probably not. However, this BYU team is a much better team than those Fighting Irish proved to be.
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