What it means for TU:
The 23-21 win gives the Golden Hurricane the head-to-head tiebreaker against UCF, therefore guaranteeing the Conference USA title game will be played on home turf. TU will host the championship bout in two weeks, likely against this very same UCF squad. It also turns next Saturday's matchup with SMU into an exhibition game. Regardless of whether TU wins or loses, they've clinched the C-USA West and home field in the title game either way.
What it means for UCF:
The Knights are still in control of their own destiny and a win next week over lowly UAB still clinches their spot in the title game. The wild card for them is East Carolina. If the Pirates win their final two games, UCF will be forced to win next week to get in. If the Pirates falter, UCF would clinch even with a loss.
What I liked:
The Golden Hurricane defense. TU swarmed UCF quarterback Blake Bortles on seemingly every down, registering only four sacks but gathering countless hits. Even on Bortles' second quarter touchdown pass, he was sprinting away from one defender while getting dragged down by another but still made an incredible throw. This defense has gotten better and better as the season has gone on, and in the past three games, (Arkansas, Houston, UCF) they have looked spectacular.
What I didn't like:
Cody Green's lame-duck deep ball just before the half that A.J. Bouye intercepted and returned 77 yards for a touchdown. The ball was underthrown by five yards, but my biggest problem wasn't with Green, it was with the play call. TU had the ball at midfield with a 10-7 lead and under four minutes left in the half. Conventional wisdom would have been to use the remaining time and attempt to score just before the half. Instead, the TU coaching staff called for the bomb. Best-case scenario, TU scores fast and UCF gets the ball again before the half.
Trailing 14-10 in the third, Green hit Keyarris Garrett on a quick out pass, and Garrett took it to the house to give TU the 16-14 lead. The Hurricane needed to find the end zone and re-seize momentum and that's just what they did. This play gave Tulsa the lead it would never relinquish.
It was over when:
Trailing 23-21 with 56 seconds left, Bortles and the Knights needed 15 yards on fourth down to keep their hopes alive, but TU's pressure came through again and Bortles' pass fell incomplete. It was a fitting way to end it for a TU defensive unit that dominated all day.
What's next for TU:
As I mentioned, Tulsa will face SMU next Saturday with nothing to play for but pride. Win or lose, Tulsa will host the C-USA title game in two weeks. Coach Blankenship will have the chance to rest some banged-up players if he so chooses, but something tells me we're going to see a strong Tulsa effort. The players have talked all season about wanting to go unbeaten in conference play, so you can bet whichever guys that will be out there are going to go hard.