Tulsa Golden Hurricane
Head Coach: Philip Montgomery
2015 Record: 6-7
2015 Bowl: 55-52 Loss to Virginia Tech at Independence Bowl
2016 Returning Starters: 6 Offense, 6 Defense
Odds to win 2017 Championship Game: +500000
Odds to win 2016 AAC Championship: +3900
Regular Season over/under: 6.5
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The Tulsa Golden Hurricane finished 6-7 last season, but with the play of its QB Dane Evans, it stands to reason that Tulsa makes a leap this year in the standings. Evans finished with 4,332 yards and 25 TDs last year, while throwing just eight INTs.
Although Tulsa did graduate two of his three top targets, there is plenty of depth and talent to keep the completions coming and the Golden Hurricane should be an offensively dominant team once again. Last year, Tulsa averaged 37.2 points per game (No. 21 in NCAA FBS schools) while ranking No. 11 in passing yards (333.2) and No. 13 in overall yardage (507.4).
Offense was not a problem last season for Tulsa.
Josh Atkinson is the No. 1 receiver this year, and he caught 76 passes for 1,071 yards last year. He is 6’2” 208, and capable of making some big plays. He had the team’s longest reception last year, and 80-yard grab against Memphis. Justin Hobbs and Keevan Lucas will also be counted on to step it up to replace the losses of both Keyarris Garrett and Conner Floyd. It is more than doable.
RB D’Angelo Brewer was good for 5.2 yards per carry last year, and he finished with 837 yards and six TDs. Backup RB Ramadi Warren looked good in his freshman season and had a 65-yard TD against Cincy last year.
The Golden Hurricane have a decent collection of talent on the line. They are led by Evan Plagg, Chandler Miller and Willie Wright, all of whom should return to keep the OL plenty strong enough to make Tulsa’s offense click once again.
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Tulsa was not good defensively last year, which obviously limited the team’s success given that the offensive game was so good. The Golden Hurricane gave up 39.8 points per game and allowed 536.6 yards, ranking No. 125 among FBS schools. The defense does return two very good talents in LBs Matt Linscott and Trent Martin. Linscott had 107 stops last season and 16 for loss, with five sacks. Martin had 104 tackles and 14 for loss.
Tulsa needs its line to be more mobile and DE Jeremy Smith is the only returning starter on it. Maybe that is not such a bad thing given how poor it was last year. SS Jeremy Brady is good in the secondary and he had 48 unassisted tackles and two INTs last season. Tulsa needs him to do more of that still. Kerwin Thomas had 60 stops and two INTs last season, as well.
Really, Tulsa just has a lot of work to do defensively, but it is also tough to imagine things being much worse than last season. DCs Brian Norwood and Bill Young will continue to try to find ways to get blood from oranges given that the defense is not exactly loaded with talent.
Redford Jones and Dalton Parks return as kicker and punter, respectively. Redford hit 14 of 18 FGA from within 40 yards last season, but was good for just 3 of 7 beyond the 40 yard line. Parks was good for 41.2 yards per punt. Warren will return kicks, and he had a 45 harder last season. Bishop Louie will return punts.
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Tulsa opens the season Sept. 3 against San Jose State. Week 2 should be a big chance for the Golden Hurricane to make a statement when it travels to face Ohio State. Conference play begins Oct. 7 against SMU.
Tulsa still will be a dominant offensive team. Evans is a good QB who is only getting better, and he has the receivers to really move the ball down field. It is defensively, of course, that Tulsa lags so far behind. If they could even put together a decent defense, they could surprise in the AAC, but that is such a huge ‘if,’ and there are few real reasons to expect a drastic turnaround, this season anyway.
Prediction: 7 wins
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