Tulsa had a fantastic 2010, posting a 10-3 SU mark while going 9-4 ATS. The Golden Hurricane concluded its season with a memorable beatdown of Hawaii by a score of 62-35 in a game in which Tulsa was a 10-point ‘dog.
With 18 returning starters, including 10 on the prolific offense, this could be a special season for the Golden Hurricane. For that to happen, however, Bill Blankenship will have to prove his mettle as a head coach. The former Tulsa quarterback is a legendary coach on the Oklahoma high school gridiron, but he has never been a head coach or coordinator on the collegiate level. His performance will be a key to Tulsa’s season.
Senior quarterback G.J. Kinne will be the key to the offense, as he led the team in both passing (3,650 yards, 31 td) and rushing (561 yards, 7 td) in 2010. Barring injury, Kinne should finish his senior season in second place on Tulsa’s career passing leaders list.
The Golden Hurricane will continue to employ a running back committee in 2011. Trey Watts (197 yards, 1 td), Ja’Terian Douglas (335 yards, 3 td), Alex Singleton (391 yards, 9 td), and Willie Carter (162 yards) will split carries for Tulsa. Wide receiver Damaris Johnson must also be mentioned with this group, as he rushed for 560 yards and 7 td last season (with a whopping 10.2 ypc).
Johnson (872 yards, 4 td) was 2010’s leading receiver. The senior will be joined by sophomore Thomas Roberson (367 yards, 2 td) and junior Ricky Johnson (351 yards, 1 td) in the starting lineup. Halfback Willie Carter had 299 receiving yards and 5 td. Adding depth to the group will be Genesis Cole (205 yards) and redshirt freshman Conner Floyd.
The offensive line is loaded with all five starters from last season returning. The unit also has depth with four quality backups, including former Oklahoma Sooner Kody Cooke. This group should open holes for backs and keep Kinne upright during Conference USA play.
Offense was not a problem for the Golden Hurricane in 2010. The defense, however, was another story, allowing 30.3 ppg. For Tulsa to take a step forward, this group must improve. Coaches plan to shift the defensive gameplan to a base 4-3, so a few players will be learning new positions.
The defensive line returns five major contributors, led by second team All-CUSA end Tyrunn Walker. (5 ½ sacks). Cory Dorris made 46 tackles last season, including 4 ½ for a loss.
The linebackers are let by Tulsa leading tackler Curnelius Arnick (115 tackles) and sack leader Shawn Jackson (8 ½ sacks). They will be joined by DeAundre Brown, 2009’s leading tackler, who took a redshirt season last year.
The secondary will be led by super-sophomore Marco Nelson and junior Dexter McCoil (6 int each). They will need to be very good to support average corners such as John Flanders and former UCLA Bruin Lowell Rose.
Tulsa should be a power in Conference USA this year. They have an explosive and experienced offense combined with a defense that should be slightly better in 2011. The Golden Hurricane, however, will be hard-pressed to match its 10-3 mark from last season. In the month of September, Tulsa visits Oklahoma and Boise State. The Golden Hurricane also hosts Oklahoma State (in a game that may have a triple-digit total). All three contests are likely losses.
Conference USA season will be more successful, with major games looming at Central Florida on November 3 and against Houston at home to close out the regular season on November 26. The UCF game will be on a Thursday night following a homecoming game against SMU, a factor that work in the Knights’ favor.
Tulsa looks like a 7-5 or 8-4 regular season team. I see the Golden Hurricane getting edged out of a spot in the C-USA Championship game by Houston in the last week of the season.
The Golden Hurricane is +385 to win the Western Division of Conference USA according to the college football odds at The Greek sportsbook, behind Houston at -175 and SMU at +250. Tulsa is +800 to win the championship game. I would advise staying away from the Golden Hurricane in futures wagering or only placing a small wager on Tulsa to win the Western Division, as +385 is decent value for a team with 18 returning starters.