The Tulsa Golden Hurricane are coming to town into the buzzsaw of Bronco Stadium. Does Tulsa have a prayer? Does G.J. Kinne have all the right knee parts? Time will tell, I guess.
Join me after the jump for a look at the Tulsa-Boise State matchup and share your keys to the game in the comments.
Tulsa vs. No. 4 Boise State
- When to watch: Saturday, September 24, 6:00 MT kickoff
- Where to watch: Bronco Stadium, Boise, Ida. (Capacity: 33,500)
- How to watch: Live on CBS Sports Network, channel 152 on Dish Network and 613 on DirecTV with James Bates and Aaron Taylor (Taylor did last year's Wyoming game and thought Boise State's uniforms were green)
- What to wager: Boise State by 32.5 points, combined score over/under 62 points
- What to wear: Forecast calls for clear skies, high of 92, no chance of precipitation, and no chance for Tulsa
Keys to the game
How do you even get a good read on this Tulsa team? The Golden Hurricane have played three games and are mediocre or bad in most every statistical category, but two of those three games were against No. 1 Oklahoma and No. 8 Oklahoma State and one of those two games ended at 3:30 a.m..The third game was a 31-3 over Tulane, which is notable only because I forgot Tulane played football. On top of the schedule, Tulsa's two best players - WR Damaris Johnson and QB G.J. Kinne - are either suspended or injured. For Boise State, this must be like playing a season opener against a team that just materialized out of thin air. Who knows what to expect?
Coach Pete was smart in his weekly press conference to explain that even though Tulsa's personnel may be changing, Tulsa's schemes remain the same. The Golden Hurricane will play a four-man front on defense, and they'll spread the field and take what they can get on offense, be it yards on the ground or through the air. Oklahoma State opted for yards on the ground, and Tulsa ran up 365 of 'em last week. Oh, and the Hurricane lost by 26. Boise State could give up rush yards and be fine, it would seem.
I don't think the same can be said for Tulsa. The Hurricane cannot afford to be the WD40 for Boise State's rusty ground game. If the Broncos get going on the ground, this one will get ugly. Toledo made it a game Friday night by forcing the Broncos to pass, and though the final score and final stats didn't look so hot, at least the Rockets had a fighting chance. More can go wrong for an offense when they pass the ball (sacks, interceptions, drops, tipped balls) than when they run the ball (losses, fumbles). Play the odds.
Finally, look for third down conversions to play a big role. When Toledo jumped out to an early lead, they did so by picking up 3rd and longs (3rds and long?) on their first drive. When the game started getting out of hand, the Rockets were failing on 3rd down. Next to turnovers, 3rd down conversions are one of the most telling stats in winning and losing.
Miscellaneous keys for Boise State
- Sacks. If Boise State wins this stat category in a big way, they'll cruise.
- Snacks. Sorry. That first thing just made me think of snacks.
- Win the turnover battle. /obligatory mention
- Tackle. Preferably the first person who gets to the ballcarrier.
- .Convert third and short. Boise State missed a couple of these opportunities on Friday, most notably when an option play went horribly awry (possibly from the moment Coach Pease called for an option play).
- Get creative on fourth down. Chances are the Broncos will be going for it on fourth down a lot more than usual this game, unless some kicking fairy visited Bronco camp this week. If so, Boise State should mix up its strategies - a fake punt here, a fake field goal there, a Kellen Moore punt here, a cool play call there. Make it work.
Miscellaneous keys for Tulsa
- Don't listen to G.J. Kinne. Tulsa coach Todd Blankenship is apparently going to let Kinne play if the senior quarterback wants to. No problem there, but if Kinne starts stinking up the joint, Blankenship can't be afraid to yank him and go with freshman Kalen Henderson who, while not good against Oklahoma State, at least has an in tact MCL. (Reports say Kinne tore his MCL and will miss two-to-four weeks, but Tulsa ain't saying.)
- Win the turnover battle. /obligatory mention
- Big plays. Boise State has been generous with 20+ yarders this season, letting Georgia score on three of them and letting Toledo stay in the game because of them. If the Hurricane can find a way to break a few big ones either through scheme or broken tackles, they'll be in business.
- Force fourth down. Normally, the advice is to force teams to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns, but I'm not sure field goals are an option at this point for the Broncos.
- Negative plays. Avoid them on offense, force them on defense.
Other things that may matter
- Toledo may have given teams a blueprint against the Bronco defensive front: Quick throws, screens, and draws.
- The Rockets also may have given teams a blueprint against the linebackers and safeties of the Bronco D: slants and crossing patterns.
- Boise State is playing at home. In fact, pretend like I put this at the top of the article and then stop reading after this sentence.
- The weariness of the world. Boise State will be the third Top Ten team the Hurricane have played in the season's first four weeks and the first one outside of its home state of Oklahoma. If I were a 19-year-old college football player, the first one would have been easy to get amped up for, and the third one just feels like I'm being punished for something..
- Last time these two teams played, it was a 28-21 Boise State win in a game that wasn't that close. Still, Tulsa coaches may use that as motivation. People have short memories.
What are your keys to the game for Boise State and Tulsa? Do you prefer to see G.J. Kinne or Kalen Henderson? Think this is the week when Boise State gets is ground game moving? Share your thoughts in the comments.