The Tulsa Golden Hurricane is just less than a week away from opening the 2013 football season at Bowling Green. The defending Conference USA champions will get things started in a special Thursday-night tilt on ESPNU on Aug. 29.
2012 was a magical year for coach Bill Blankenship's squad. The Golden Hurricane tied a school record with 11 wins including a 7-1 conference record and finished with more wins than in-state rivals OU and OSU for only the third time in 30 years. Tulsa finished the season strong, topping Central Florida in the C-USA championship and Iowa State to claim the Liberty Bowl title. TU will look to use that momentum to start the 2013 season strong starting Thursday night.
Here is the breakdown of Tulsa's second-half schedule, including the likelihood of a TU victory in each of the final six matchups.
The five-point "winnability" scale:
1: Very unlikely
2: Won't be favored, but certainly possible
3: Very winnable, but will need "A" game
4: Should take care of business
5: Put it in the bag
If you missed part one, check it out here:
Week 8 (Bye Week)
Week 9 (Oct. 26) @Tulane
All-time record against 8-1
Most people won't remember much action from last year's matchup, and for good reason. TU's huge win was marred by the vicious injury to Tulane's Devon Walker just prior to halftime.
The first 30 minutes of that contest was one of the most lopsided halves I've ever witnessed. Tulsa led 35-3 but it may as well have been 500-3. Tulsa managed 31 first downs in that contest to Tulane's 11. TU outgained the Green Wave 651-177 in total yardage and held Tulane to seven rushing yards.
It was boys against men.
Will that change this season? Not likely.
The Green Wave lost their top two quarterbacks and their leading rusher from last season ran for zero touchdowns. Zero.
Week 10 (Nov. 2) vs. UTSA
All-time record against: 0-0
The Roadrunners won eight games last year in their first FBS season, which sounds really good when you consider that it was also just their second season fielding a football team at all.
But then you take a close look at their schedule and realize just about anybody can win eight games with the right schedule. Their best win in 2012 came against 4-8 Texas State, who was also in their first year of FBS ball.
The other wins came against bottom-of-the-barrel FBS teams, FCS squads and D-II opponents.
Because of the depleted ranks of Conference USA, the Roadrunners might have a shot to win 4 or 5 games, but one of those will not be in Tulsa.
Week 11 (Nov. 9) @East Carolina
All-time record against: 5-5
Tulsa didn't see East Carolina last season, avoiding the Pirates in the regular season and narrowly missing them in the conference championship game. ECU finished 7-1 in C-USA play but lost the tiebreaker to UCF, who of course fell to TU in the title bout.
With UCF departing to the new AAC, East Carolina becomes the overwhelming favorite to take the East division crown in 2013.
For the Golden Hurricane, this trip to Greenville could easily be a title-game preview, just as Central Florida's trip to Tulsa was last season. And just like last season, it might also determine the location of the championship game.
A cross-country trip to play a quality opponent in a raucous environment isn't exactly a welcoming thought. The Pirates return 17 of 24 starters and like Tulsa, will look to leave Conference USA with one last championship.
This will easily be the Tulsa's toughest C-USA match of the season, as well as likely the most important.
Week 12 (Nov. 14) vs. Marshall
All-time record against: 4-0
The Thundering Herd offense was spectacular in 2012, leading the nation in passing yards per game (365.1) and ranking seventh in points per game (40.9.)
Marshall returns record-setting quarterback Rakeem Cato, their top four rushers and their No. 1 receiver, Tommy Shuler. Gator Hoskins also returns, who only caught 35 balls last season but 10 went for touchdowns.
It's hard to believe a team could put up those offensive numbers and only finish 5-7, but Marshall found a way. A big reason for that is the Herd's 123rd-ranked defense that gave up more than 40 points on seven occasions.
Now think about this: they only return four starters from that defense, so getting worse is actually a real possibility.
Marshall poured on 572 yards of offense against TU in last season's 45-38 loss, including outgaining the Hurricane 391-90 through the air. The Herd hung around in that contest in large part due to their 3rd-down efficiency, converting on 13-19 attempts. Tulsa needs to find a way to limit the damage and get off the field this time around.
The Herd has lost 17 of its past 22 road games dating back to 2009, a trend that won't easily be reversed at Chapman Stadium.
Week 13 (Nov. 23) @Louisiana Tech
All-time record against: 2-7
The second-to-last game of the regular season comes against former WAC foe Louisiana Tech.
The Bulldogs had a special season in 2012, starting the season 9-1, and if not for an epic 59-57 loss to Texas A&M, it would have been 10-0. Unfortunately for Tech, it was all downhill from there.
They lost the final two games of the season, then it got even worse. Coach Sonny Dykes left for Cal and 18 of 24 starters departed. New head man Skip Holtz will have an uphill climb as he works with an offense with just two returning starters.
Holtz will likely rebuild this team quickly, but it won't happen this year. However, a pretty cushy schedule likely means the Bulldogs will be in the hunt for bowl contention and in need of a late-season win. Anything is possible, but it still isn't likely.
Week 14 (Nov. 30) vs. North Texas
All-time record against: 18-6
The Mean Green hasn't had a winning season since 2004 but there could be some light at the end of the tunnel. UNT returns 17 starters and will play a very maneuverable schedule, so at least there's some hope.
One game they will not win however is at Tulsa on the Golden Hurricane's senior day. That will be a loss.