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TU Football: Season Schedule Breakdown (Part 2)

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Here's part two of the TU football season preview. For a description of the preview and to read part one, click the link just below.

TU Football: Season Schedule Breakdown (Part 1)

Week 8 (Oct. 18) vs. South Florida

All-time record against: 0-0

This will be the inaugural matchup between Tulsa and South Florida. Like Temple, South Florida was an abysmal 2-10 last season and probably won't be a lot better this year.

The Bulls only return four defensive starters from their 74th-ranked unit last season, but there is some hope offensively. USF brings back four o-line starters along with quarterback Matt White. And after finishing third-to-last nationally in total offense in 2013, there's nowhere for the Bulls to go but up.

To further put their ineptitude in perspective: USF has just one win in its past 22 games over a team not named UConn. Oy.

This is a must-win home game for Tulsa. If the Hurricane can't win this one, it could be a long season.

Week 9 (BYE WEEK)

Week 10 (Oct. 31, Friday) @Memphis

All-time record against: 10-14

Coming off a disappointing 3-9 campaign, the Memphis Tigers are hungry for the taste of success. Memphis hasn't had a winning season since going 7-6 in 2007 and is an embarrassing 12-48 in its past 60 games (five full seasons).

The Tigers already have a feel for the AAC after completing their inaugural season in 2013 – but with a 1-7 conference record, it wasn't a good feeling. There is good news, though. Memphis returns 16 starters (7 offense, 8 defense, kicker) including quarterback Paxton Lynch, running back Brandon Hayes and the entire defensive line.

Could this be the year that the Tigers finally get back into bowl contention? It's certainly possible, but like Tulsa, it's going to take a lot of internal improvement from key players.

Week 11 (Nov. 8) vs. SMU

All-time record against: 7-13

The Mustangs finished a hard-luck 5-7 last season but probably deserved a bowl trip. Three of those losses were to Texas Tech, Texas A&M and TCU, while two more came in nail-biters to national contenders UCF and Cincinnati.

Nevertheless, SMU missed the postseason for the first time since 2008 and is certainly looking to get back on the horse this year. But that'll be tough considering the Mustangs lost quarterback Garrett Gilbert along with their top two receivers and No. 1 running back.

SMU does return six defensive starters including the entire line, so there's hope on that side of the ball. And if the Mustangs want back in a bowl game, it'll have to be the defense that carries ‘em.

With a quick glance at their schedule, it's likely that the Mustangs will make their visit to Chapman Stadium in desperate need of a win. Within their first six games, SMU must play Texas A&M, TCU, Cincinnati, at Baylor and at East Carolina. So by the time the horses ride into Tulsa, there's a real chance they'll be 2-5 or worse.

This should be a tight contest between two old C-USA rivals.

Week 12 (Nov. 14, Friday) @UCF

All-time record against: 5-2

The last time the Golden Hurricane saw Central Florida, it was Tulsa's 33-27 overtime win in the 2012 Conference USA title game. TU beat UCF twice (both in Tulsa) that season by a total of eight points; victories that vaulted the Hurricane to perhaps the program's finest season ever.

But the two teams went in opposite directions last year, with the Hurricane's noted struggles and UCF taking its turn on the “best-season-ever” ride. Led by superstar QB Blake Bortles, the Knights capped a 12-1 season with a shocking 52-42 win over high-powered Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl.

Bortles' 3,581 yards and 24 touchdowns helped him become the No. 3 pick in the NFL Draft. Replacing that value is likely impossible by next season, but sophomore Justin Holman is reportedly the favorite for the right to try.

As great as Bortles was, he's not the only star the Knights lost. Running back Storm Johnson took his 1,400 total yards and 17 touchdowns to the NFL and won't be easy to replace. However, sophomore William Stanback might have the skill to take over the duties. Stanback collected 629 total yards and seven touchdowns last season in a reserve role.

In addition, the Knights return eight defensive starters, including the entire secondary. So if you're looking for UCF to take a major step back, don't get your hopes up. 12-1 is unrealistic, but 10-3 certainly isn't.

This will be one of the Hurricane's toughest challenges of the season. The Knights will be eager to get Tulsa in their house and get revenge for 2012.

Week 13 (Nov. 22) @Houston

All-time record against: 18-20

The Cougars had a solid 8-5 campaign in 2013, beating the teams they shoulda beat and losing to the superior opponents.

Houston returns quarterback John O'Korn, running backs Ryan Jackson and Kenneth Farrow along with leading receiver Deontay Greenberry. The Cougs also bring back seven defensive starters. There's certainly enough ammunition for Houston to make a run at the AAC title.

The last time Tulsa saw Houston was in that lopsided 41-7 blowout in 2012. The Cougars barely showed up to that contest and looked defeated throughout. There's no doubt that coach Tony Levine will remind his team of that game during the team's weekly meetings.

This is another tough one for TU. In fact, the Golden Hurricane's final four games of the 2014 slate are very difficult. SMU, UCF, Houston and ECU all in a row is a tough road for just about anybody, so it emphasizes the importance of winning games early in the season.

Speaking of ECU…

Week 14 (Nov. 28, Friday) vs. East Carolina

All-time record against: 5-6

TU closes the 2014 regular season against another former C-USA power, the East Carolina Pirates.

ECU is one of the nation's most consistent programs, regardless of conference. Coach Ruffin McNeill has taken over what Skip Holtz started and evolved the Pirates into one of the top mid-major programs in America.

One great thing about ECU is a unique lack of fear. These guys are unafraid to play anyone, anywhere. After they open the season against NC Central, the Pirates play South Carolina, Virginia Tech and UNC in three consecutive weeks. That is straight brutal, yet there's a pretty good chance they'll win at least one of those.

ECU is coming off of a 10-3 season that included a 37-20 shellacking of Ohio in the Beef ‘O' Brady's Bowl. The Pirates return six offensive starters, including QB Shane Carden. Carden evolved into a monster last season, throwing for 4,139 yards and 33 touchdowns. As long as he's the captain of the ship, the Pirates will have a fighting chance.

McNeill's biggest problem will be replacing defensive production. ECU lost seven defensive starters from its 49th-ranked unit from a year ago. If the new guys can gel quickly, the Pirates will likely set sail for another 8+ win season.

Despite playing in the same conference, ECU hasn't played a game in Tulsa since 2009, where things didn't go well for TU. That 44-17 beatdown was tight entering the fourth quarter before the Pirates showed no quarter, running off 21 unanswered to end the game.

Yet another daunting challenge for TU. The good news is that the game is at Chapman, not the always-rowdy Dowdy-Ficklen in Greenville.

Second half predicted record: 2-4

Final season predicted record: 6-6


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