The ninth annual Armed Forces Bowl will see the BYU Cougars try to get their third consecutive postseason victory when they challenge the Tulsa Golden Hurricane, who are looking for the eighth bowl win in school history.
The Cougars have been on a roll since a 1-2 start with eight wins in their final nine games. Granted, their schedule has not given them a lot of challenges since a loss to Utah in September, but you still have to win the games in front of you.
The Golden Hurricane had a seven-game winning streak until they ran into Houston in their regular season finale. Don't be fooled by their 8-4 record, though. This is a good team that challenged itself. Their losses came against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Boise State and Houston.
Where: Gerald Ford Stadium in University Park, Texas
When: Friday, Dec. 30 at 12:00 p.m. EDT
Watch: ESPN; ESPN3.com
Listen: KBYU 89.1 FM (BYU); KRMG-FM 102.3 (Tulsa)
Betting Line: Pick 'Em
We are going to find out just how good this Tulsa team really is. We know that they have won eight games this season, with all of their losses coming against teams ranked in the top 10 at the time of the game.
BYU has struggled against the few good teams that it played this season, and this will be the Cougars' best chance to prove themselves against quality competition.
BYU Injury Report
Questionable: OL Matt Reynolds (Shoulder)
Doubtful: DB Jray Galea'i
Out: TE Austin Holt (Knee), LB Austen Jorgensen (Shoulder), LB Jordan Pendleton (Knee), TE Richard Wilson (Knee), OL Ryker Mathews (Foot), RB Adam Hines (Academics), RB Iona Pritchard (Leg), TE Devin Mahina (Neck)
Tulsa Injury Report
Questionable: DE Tyrunn Walker (Leg)
Out: G Stetson Burnett (Knee), DB John Flanders (Academics), WR Damaris Johnson (Academics), DT Darrell Zellars (Academics)
What It Means For BYU
The Cougars only defeated one team that finished the season with a winning record (Utah State on September 30). This game is going to prove just how good they are, and how good they can be heading into 2012.
What It Means For Tulsa
The Golden Hurricane took on a lot of heavyweight teams this season and came up short each time. But when they took a step down in competition, they were undefeated. We are going to find out how much of their record was a product of beating lesser schools and how much they learned from those elite programs.
What They Are Saying
Throughout this article, I have mentioned BYU's lack of success against quality competition this season. Apparently the Cougars are hearing that from all corners of the world, because Jay Drew of the Salt Lake Tribune wrote an article about how they are looking for respect.
Here is what quarterback Riley Nelson said in the article:
“Man, you just want to finish off the season right,” said quarterback Riley Nelson, the team’s emotional leader. “On the line I guess is just the validation of our preparation, because we have worked really hard to get to a bowl game. Then once you are in a bowl game, you don’t want to lose just because it leaves a bad taste in your mouth all through winter.”
BYU Player To Watch: WR Cody Hoffman
It is hard to single out any one player from the Cougars offense because they spread the ball around to everyone. But Hoffman has been the most productive player for this team from start to finish, and he has the ability to take over a game if he wants to.
Hoffman led the team in receptions (53), yards (821) and touchdowns (7). Tulsa's defense is in the middle of the pack in points allowed, so the sophomore receiver has a chance to put up big numbers in this game.
Tulsa Player To Watch: RB Ja'Terian Douglas
Tulsa's offense works best when the running game is going strong, and Douglas has been the glue that has held the whole thing together. He has just 108 carries this season but ran for 884 yards and four touchdowns.
Douglas needs to get the ball more than 10 times. In the five games that he had double-digit carries, the Golden Hurricane went 4-1.
Key Matchup: RB Ja'Terian Douglas vs. BYU Defense
Douglas is going to be the difference maker for Tulsa. If he has a good game, the rest of the team will follow his lead. If he struggles, they will also follow his lead.
BYU has a solid defense, though a lot of their stats are skewed because of their lack of competition this season. If they want to prove themselves, this will be their chance to do so.
Tulsa is stronger on paper and will get the best of BYU in this matchup.
Tulsa 28, BYU 20