The second half of the season should be significantly more challenging than the first half. After opening up with UTEP, Rice and a bye week, the Hurricane finishes the season with four very challenging games.
Here is the game-by-game opponent breakdown of TU's second half.
In case you missed the first half preview, here it is.
Week 7: (Oct. 11) UTEP
Tulsa's mid-season stretch of mediocre opponents continues on a Thursday night against the UTEP Miners. Similar to UAB, Marshall and Tulane, it's been a while since UTEP has had a winning season, 2005 to be exact.
The Miners have one of the toughest roads in C-USA in 2012. They open the season against Oklahoma, and play road games against Ole Miss, Wisconsin, an always-rowdy East Carolina, Tulsa, Houston and Southern Miss. A winless road record seems like a real possibility for the Miners.
After enduring a 57-28 beatdown at home last season against the Hurricane, (they trailed by 35 after three quarters) UTEP will be out for revenge in 2012. Unlike Marshall though, they probably won't have the horses to give TU a good fight.
Tulsa owns a 12-8 all-time record against the Miners, including having won two in a row. A Thursday night primetime game should be the perfect recipe to make it three in a row.
Week 8: (Oct. 20) Rice
This may come as a shocker to some, but Rice probably won't be very good this season. The Owls are coming off another losing season, which included a 38-20 loss to Tulsa. The Hurricane led 17-0 after the first quarter in that game and never looked back.
The Owls have actually had decent success in this matchup, having won seven of its 17 matchups all-time against TU, but the Hurricane has won five in a row in the series.
The Rice offense struggled in 2011 and improvement doesn't look likely this season. The Owls return just one starting offensive lineman and will give quarterback Taylor McHargue yet another chance to be the starter. McHargue has started and been benched in each of the past two seasons, so the Owls will hope the third time is the charm.
This is the final game before Tulsa gets a bye week and then faces the Razorbacks, so it will be crucial for coach Bill Blankenship to keep his team focused on Rice to avoid a potential upset.
Week 9: Bye Week
Week 10: (Nov. 3) @ Arkansas
There's no question that the trip to Fayettville to face the Razorbacks is the standout game of Tulsa's 2012 season, but as I eluded to earlier, don't confuse that with the most important game of the year.
Can Tulsa beat Arkansas? Sure. Will they? Well, they certainly won't be favored. But if TU can take care of business in conference play and take down Iowa State, they would take an 8-0 record into this game. The buildup for that game would be huge and the national spotlight would be on the Golden Hurricane.
After beginning last season 8-0, Houston earned its way into the AP Top-15, and you can expect the same respect to be given if Tulsa can do the same. Win or lose to the Razorbacks, at that point, Tulsa would already be a big winner.
The Razorbacks are expected to be as powerful as ever in 2012. They are an atypical SEC team, relying on a high-powered passing attack to outscore opponents in what is more of a Big-12 style of play. Tyler Wilson returns for his senior year, looking to lead the Razorbacks to a SEC title. Wilson is coming off an 11-2 record and a Cotton Bowl victory in his first year as the Hogs' starting quarterback. In order to take the next step, the tenth-ranked Razorbacks will have to overcome fellow SEC-West powers LSU and Alabama.
It was tumultuous offseason for Arkansas that was headlined by the scandal involving then-head coach Bobby Petrino's relationship with former Hogs' volleyball star Jessica Dorrell. Petrino is now gone and John L. Smith has taken over the program. The impact of the Petrino scandal will be something to keep an eye on this season.
As far as the actual matchup is concerned, if the Hurricane wants to take down the Hogs, they'll have to force turnovers and score points. I know that sounds like a pretty generic formula, but the Arkansas defense can be suspect at times, and the TU offense can be pretty impressive. Arkansas allowed over 20 points seven times last season, including allowing 41 to the same LSU offense we all had to suffer through watching in the BCS title game.
The other thing Tulsa has going for it is Arkansas' schedule. The Razorbacks host this game just one week before one of its biggest games of the season, a trip to South Carolina. If the Hogs are looking ahead to their trip to Columbia, it would certainly help the Hurricane's chances.
Tulsa trails the all-time matchup against the Hogs 16-52-3. Win number 17 will be tough to come by, but certainly not impossible.
Week 11: (Nov. 10) @ Houston
I'm sure that if Bill Blankenship had his choice, he wouldn't have scheduled his two toughest road games of the season on back-to-back weeks, but that's the hand his Hurricane was dealt.
The Cougars handed Tulsa its only conference loss of the season in 2011, crushing the Hurricane to win the C-USA West outright. Tulsa will be out for revenge this season, with a C-USA title as the goal, but will likely have to go through Houston to do it.
The good news is this isn't the same Houston squad we're accustomed to seeing. In fact, last season's Cougars have almost been completely declawed.
Head coach Kevin Sumlin bolted for Texas A&M, record-setting quarterback Case Keenum is now a member of the Houston Texans, and we haven't even gotten to their most serious problem yet.
Receivers Patrick Edwards, Justin Johnson Tyron Carrier and E.J. Smith combined for over 300 catches just over 4,200 yards through the air last season. All are gone. So is running back Michael Hayes, who gained over 1,200 yards of total offense last season.
But if you go think UH is going to suffer its way to a three-win season, think again. Houston has proven in the past it can rebuild quickly. When Kevin Kolb left after the 2006 season, UH turned to Keenum and the rest is history. In 2012, the Cougars will hope redshirt sophomore David Piland is ready to carry on the tradition. Despite the mass exodus of playmakers, Piland will have the benefit of a strong offensive line and the return of running back Charles Sims, who accounted for almost 1,400 all-purpose yards and 13 touchdowns last season.
Playing Tulsa late in the season should be a benefit for the Cougars, as it will give them nine games to discover new weapons and get on the same page.
Don't be surprised if Houston comes into this game undefeated in C-USA play, and perhaps even unbeaten overall. TU will be the toughest opponent Houston will play all season, with second place going to UCLA, I guess. A rematch that could decide the C-USA West title is a likely possibility.
TU won its previous meeting at Houston, 28-25 in 2010, but trails the Cougars 20-17 in the all-time series.
Week 12: (Nov. 17) UCF
Central Florida is easily the most difficult of TU's 2012 opponents to scout, and here's why. The Knights went 11-3 in 2010 including a bowl victory over the Georgia Bulldogs. They followed that by plummeting to 5-7 in 2011, but six of those seven losses were by seven points or fewer. So were they bad, or just unlucky?
Or perhaps there's a bigger problem with UCF. George O'Leary's first season in Orlando was 2004 and the Knights went 0-11. In 2005, they responded with an 8-5 season. In 2006, they fell back to 4-8. In 2007, they rose to 10-4. In 2008, back down to 4-8. In 2009, back up to 8-5. As I mentioned, they bucked the trend in 2010 and went 11-3, but dropped down to 5-7 last year.
So other than easily labeling UCF the flakiest program in the country, there's nothing more we know for sure.
In addition to all that, UCF managed to go 5-1 at home in 2011, including a win over an ACC school (Boston College), but 0-6 on the road, including a loss to abysmal UAB.
By the way, that one home loss last season was to Tulsa, and this season the Knights must travel west to face the Hurricane.
O'Leary is just 2-3 against Tulsa since arriving at UCF, but both wins came in the same season (2007).
Your guess is as good as mine as to how this will go, but it will be senior night at Chapman Stadium and the Hurricane will be ready to go.
Week 12: (Nov. 24) @ Southern Methodist
Since going 1-11 in 2008, the Mustangs have responded with three straight bowl appearances. They went 8-5 in 2011, with wins over Pitt and TCU, but took thumpings from Southern Miss, Houston and Tulsa in C-USA play.
SMU returns one of the best running backs in the country in Zach Line, who ran for over 1,200 yards and 17 touchdowns as a junior in 2011. The Mustangs also return top receiver Darius Johnson, who hauled in 79 balls for over 1,100 yards and eight touchdowns.
SMU might not have the firepower to win the C-USA West, but certainly have plenty to take down a team like Tulsa on any given day.