Tulsa Golden Hurricane (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS) vs. Oklahoma Sooners (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS, 8:00 p.m. EST, College Football Week 1, Saturday, September 3, 2011, Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, Norman, Oklahoma
by Scotty L of Predictem.com
Betting Odds: Tulsa Golden Hurricane +21.5/Oklahoma Sooners -21.5
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At first glance, this appears to a typical warm-up opener for Oklahomaa team at the top of every preseason poll. Oklahoma has all the guns, with the experience to succeed getting over the hump where they may have failed for the past few seasons. The abundant optimism for Sooners is understandable, but can the upstart Golden Hurricane throw a wrench into the plan?
It wont be easy, even for a team like Tulsa, which has a lot of wind in it’s sails. Sooners head coach Bob Stoops has a lot of tools, including a pair of viable Heisman candidates in quarterback Landry Jones and WR Ryan Broyles. They lost RB DeMarco Murray, but one gets the feeling that position will be well filled, with Oklahoma always getting the best recruits.
QB Jones led the nation with 405 completions. He threw for 35 touchdowns and 4289 yards, for an off-the-charts 146.31 QB rating. Broyles caught an amazing 131 balls. He always seems open and attracts a lot of attention from opposing defenses. Enter WR Kenny Stills. With 61 catches last season and Broyles reputation in full-bloom, look for him to bring in a lot of passes during the 2011 campaign.
The Sooners defense returns 6 starters and 13 players who at least had a start last year. They took some big hits on this side of the ball, especially with the injury to LB Travis Lewisarguably their best defensive player. More troubling, however, was the heartbreaking passing of MLB Austin Box, who was a leader on that squad. The loss of Box obviously extends beyond the importance of football, but it should also give the defense something around which to rally. When talking about his defense, Stoops stresses how its depth will be the saving grace. Its hard to argue with that.
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Tulsa has some upside. They came outside of themselves last season. The Golden Hurricane has had some good teams before, but would always hit a wall, especially when facing bigger-name opponents. Last season, the wheels never came off. After a rough start, the Golden Hurricane rallied, winning 7 games in a row to finish off at 10-3. They may have had their best win as a program in beating Notre Dame. Their 27-point bowl win against Hawaii on their field underlined the improvement of this team.
Likely, as a result of a good season, coach Todd Graham left to become the head coach of Pittsburgh. Assistant coach Bill Blankenship takes over and it remains to see if he will have the same mojo as his predecessor. Tulsa is fortunate to see the return of their standout quarterback G.J. Kinne (275-460, 3650, 31-10) and top playmaker Damaris Johnson. They are both multi-dimensional threats, with Kinne able to run well (561 yards and 7 touchdowns in 2010). Johnson averaged 10 yards per carry, while catching 57 balls for good measure. The Golden Hurricane return 10 starters on offense, while bringing back 8 players on D. With that type of continuity and positive momentum, they are a team worth watching.
They surely could have used an easier opening-week game. The Sooners are loaded and seem poised to have a breakout season. The timing just seems too impeccable. Their biggest conference rivals are perhaps down this season, there is no Big 12 title game, and the experience is there. They should be able to soldier through the tough games more resiliently, particularly against the better teams on the road. Extra seasoning has a way of helping young teams fight through those tough moments that they were too green to handle before.
Scotty Ls Pick to Cover the Point Spread: When it seems too easyit usually isnt. How many times do we call an obvious blowout, only to look at the ticker and see the #1 team down 21-7 in the 2nd quarter? It happens a lot, and when youre laying 20+ points, it can hurt. But even last year, the Sooners high-wire offense didnt click right away, as the team wasnt fully clicking and QB Jones throwing too many picks.
Against woeful Utah State in their 10 opener, mistakes led to a paltry 7-point wina major failure for a 34-point favorite. Dont expect that bad of a performance here, but Tulsa is also a ton better than Utah State. Look for the Sooners to win, but to not start clicking until late in the 3rd quarter, allowing Tulsa to sort of hang in there for a while. Tulsa is 5-0 ATS in their last 5 road games and 4-0 ATS in their last 4 games both as a dog and road dog. Take the Tulsa Golden Hurricane plus 21.5 points.