Two explosive offenses meet in Dallas at Gerald Ford Stadium for the Bell Helicopter Armed Services Bowl when Brigham Young (9-3) tangles with Tulsa (8-4) on Friday.
This game may very well be a shootout. BYU has averaged 30.6 points per game and 410.8 yards this season, while Tulsa averaged 34.1 points and 454.4 yards.
The Golden Hurricane got their season off to a poor start before flying through Conference USA. Tulsa lost three of their first four, and then proceeded to win seven in a row. Their streak was snapped on the last game of the season when No. 19 Houston trounced the Golden Hurricane, 48-16. All of Tulsa's losses were to teams that were ranked in the top 10 at the time.
Tulsa may have a future NFL quarterback in G.J. Kinne. The fifth-year senior is projected to be a late-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, and has thrown 78 touchdown passes as a three-year starter. If not for a knee injury he sustained against Oklahoma State on Sept. 17, Kinne could have racked up even stronger numbers than the 25 touchdowns and 2,876 yards he amassed in 2011.
Kinne is aided by a pair of running backs who each rushed for over 800 yards, as Ja'Terian Douglas and Trey Watt have been solid this season, and have combined for seven touchdowns.
On the other side of the ball, NFL prospect Curnelius Arnick will be playing the last game of his collegiate career, and will be doing it in his home town. The linebacker, who leads the Golden Hurricane in tackles, grew up just minutes Gerald Ford Stadium. Arnick has a tough task ahead of him when he faces a potent BYU offense.
The Cougars, who have won eight of their last nine, are led by collection of rushers. Five players on the BYU offense rushed for more than 270 yards. BYU could use sophomore running back Michael Alisa, who is questionable for the game due a sprained ankle.
Though the Cougars have a proud tradition of quarterbacks, the passing game has been inconsistent this season due to injuries and the departure of Jake Heaps to Kansas.
However, junior quarterback Riley Nelson, who has a fearless playing style, appears poised to carry the load despite injuries over the past two seasons. Nelson was back in action in the final game of the regular season when he completed 25-of-37 passes for a career-high 363 yards and three touchdowns in a 41-20 win over Hawaii.
BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall has an improved offensive line led by senior Matt Reynolds, who remains one of the best right tackles in the nation.
The Armed Services Bowl should be interesting considering these two programs are well-acquainted with each other.
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 Tulsa head coach Bill Blankenship. I think BYU is certainly an opponent that people will get excited about with what can happen on the field between these two teams.
Both programs are also no stranger to bowl games. The Golden Hurricane has won three straight bowl games, while the Cougars have now gone to seven straight.
LINE: Tulsa is favored by 1.
PREDICTION: This will likely be a shootout, as neither program boasts a particularly strong defense. The key for BYU is Nelson, who must limit his propensity to throw interceptions and connect with his receivers against a weak Tulsa secondary. BYU will also need a big game from their rush defense. TCU will run the ball more often than expected despite their star quarterback's ability to win games through the air. Look for the Golden Hurricane to take a lot of chances, though, as the Cougar defense should step up in a bowl game. In the end, it will probably be BYU that comes out on top, as Nelson has the leadership skills to overcome challenges.
PREDICTED SCORE: BYU over Tulsa, 33-31