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TU Football: Season Schedule Breakdown (Part 1)

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TULSA -

We're less than three weeks away from college football's opening weekend, so what better time to take a look at the Golden Hurricane's 2014 schedule.

Tulsa will look to rebound from its disappointing 2013 campaign, where the defending Conference USA champions won just three games and were frequently routed. TU returns a healthy portion of its players and is out to prove that last season was simply a fluke.

In order to do that, the Hurricane will have to navigate their way through a brand-new league. Tulsa enters the American Athletic Conference, which consists of many former C-USA members and will be a step up in competition.

Today, we'll look at the first half of Tulsa's schedule. The second-half preview will be released on Tuesday.

Week 1 (Aug. 28, Thursday) vs. Tulane

All-time record against: 8-2

The Golden Hurricane opens their campaign for redemption against former Conference-USA foe Tulane. The Green Wave also made the move from C-USA to the AAC this offseason in search of a more stable conference.

Despite Tulsa's all-time success against Tulane, the Green Wave has the series' most recent win. Tulane climbed out of a 7-0 deficit to take a 14-7 victory last season, further adding to the Golden Hurricane's disastrous campaign.

But this is a new year and a new conference, and for Tulane, it might not go quite as well. The Wave lost its top quarterback (Nick Montana), running back (Orleans Darkwa) and wide receiver (Ryan Grant) from last season. In addition, Tulane will only return five defensive starters.

Prior to last season's 7-6 finish, Tulane hadn't registered a winning season since 2002 – that's two years before Friends went off the air.

There will be a lot riding on this one. Revenge from last season, a Thursday-night season-opener on national television, not to mention TU's first-ever AAC contest.

It's like they say, you can't go undefeated unless you win the first one.

Week 2 (Sept. 6) vs. Oklahoma

All-time record against: 7-18-1

Brace yourselves…this could get ugly.

Tulsa will play one of the highest-profile home games in program history against arguably the national title favorites. This Oklahoma team is nothing to mess with. The Sooners return most of their Sugar-Bowl-championship roster from last season, including nine members of an imposing defensive unit.

Offensively, sophomore quarterback Trevor Knight returns behind a veteran offensive line and with a load of playmakers around him.

Tulsa will need a near-perfect performance in order to even hang around in this game. OU will be on a mission for a perfect season and it's unlikely they will lose focus against the Hurricane.

Week 3 (Sept. 13) @Florida Atlantic

All-time record against: 0-0

At first glance, this game looks like one of the more winnable on TU's schedule – but don't sleep on Florida Atlantic.

The Owls haven't had a winning season since 2007 but improved to 6-6 last year. And after opening the season with road trips to Nebraska and Alabama, it's safe to say that they'll be desperate for a win in their home opener.

The Owls are led by duel-threat quarterback Jaquez Johnson. The 6-foot-1 junior tossed 12 touchdowns with eight picks last season while also leading the team with 767 rushing yards and 10 scores. Containing Johnson will be the key for the Golden Hurricane defense.

FAU's defense returns six starters and will look to improve on their 79th-ranked defense from a season ago.

If Tulsa wants to get back to a bowl game, this really needs to be a win. The Owls aren't bad, but now that TU is in the American Conference, there aren't many cupcakes on the schedule.

Week 4 (BYE WEEK)

Week 5 (Sept. 27) vs. Texas State

All-time record against: 1-0

Tulsa will play Texas State in its third home game in four weeks. Hailing from the Sun Belt, the Bobcats won six games in 2013 in just their second season as an FBS program.

Quarterback Tyler Jones returns from a hand injury, but running backs Robert Lowe and Chris Nutall should shoulder the load offensively. Texas State lost its top two wide receivers and returns a veteran offensive line, so expect to see a healthy ground attack.

The Bobcats will have to search for some answers defensively. Texas State ranked 71st overall in points allowed last season and returns only four starters from that unit, so it's unknown whether the Bobcats will be able to get consistent stops.

This is another game where the Hurricane needs to secure a win. Home games against mediocre opponents are must-wins for bowl-hopeful programs.

Week 6 (Oct. 4) @Colorado State

All-time record against: 5-3

TU wraps up its home-and-home series with the Rams with a trip to Fort Collins in early October. These two met just last season in Tulsa, where the Hurricane outscored Colorado State 13-0 in the fourth to sneak out with a 30-27 victory at Chapman Stadium.

That loss dropped CSU to 0-2, but the Rams turned the ship around quickly. Colorado State rallied for an 8-6 campaign that included a bowl win over Washington State, so in retrospect, it was likely TU's banner victory for the year.

The Rams return quarterback Garrett Grayson along with seven defensive starters, so there's plenty to be excited about. But if you're a glass-half-empty kind of person, CSU also appears to have some massive holes.

Running back Kapri Bibbs, who scampered for 1,741 yards and a whopping 31 touchdowns last season, took off for the NFL. Bibbs' backup, Donnell Alexander, also left the program. Alexander's departure came as a surprise and it left the Rams without much of anything in the backfield. In addition to a lack of backs, CSU must also replace four starters on the offensive line.

This'll be a tough trip for the Golden Hurricane. Colorado State is a solid team with what should be a terrific defense. A win here would feel like a steal for TU.

Week 7 (Oct. 11) @ Temple

All-time record against: 2-0

Tulsa is playing in Philadelphia…against Temple…in a conference game. This is the point in the season where you know you're not in Kansas anymore.

It'll take until TU's sixth game to play against an unfamiliar AAC opponent. The Temple Owls certainly fit that bill and could make things difficult for the Hurricane.

The Owls have a lot of questions on the offensive side. Quarterback P.J. Walker is back and so is leading rusher Kenneth Harper – but that's about it. Their top two receivers are gone along with four offensive linemen. It could take some time for this offense to develop.

Things are similarly questionable on the other side of the ball. Temple returns its entire linebacking core but will use new faces everywhere else defensively. And then there's the special teams, where the only kicker on the Owls' roster, Jim Cooper, missed all three of his attempts last season. Needless to say, try and force Temple into field-goal attempts.

Temple struggled to a 2-10 record last season and it's hard to see the Owls all-of-the-sudden becoming good. This is a winnable game for Tulsa.

First half predicted record: 4-2

 

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