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Previewing Texas State at Tulsa

The Bobcats and Golden Hurricane are both 1-2 on the season and face each other in a game that will likely have a big impact on each team's bowl hopes.

Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports

Texas_st_medium AT Tulsa_medium

LOCATION: H.A. Chapman Stadium (30,000), Tulsa, OK

WHEN: 7:00 PM, CST

TV: ESPNNews

RADIO: Texas State Broadcast - 105.3 FM (Austin), 89.9 FM (San Marcos), 930 AM (San Antonio); Tulsa Broadcast - 102.3 FM, 740 AM (Tulsa)

WEATHER: 86°F, 0% chance of rain

LINE: Tulsa -3, (67 O/U)

Key Storylines

Both teams come into this game 1-2. The Texas State Bobcats are fresh off of a heartbreaking 2nd half collapse in a 42-35 loss to Illinois, and the Tulsa Golden Hurricane had a bye week after a 50-21 thrashing at Florida Atlantic.

Bowl Hopes on the Line

Given that the Sun Belt only has 3 guaranteed bowl bids, Texas State will need to go at least 7-5 and have a winning conference record in order to have a realistic shot at a bowl bid. There are still three easily attainable wins on the schedule--Idaho(H), NMSU(A), and Georgia State (A), but the rest of the schedule is far from certain. The Bobcats get all the preseason--and current--Sun Belt favorites in ULL, A-State, and Georgia Southern in San Marcos, but tossup games at ULM and South Alabama will be tough sledding.

If Texas State's path to bowl eligibility is uncertain, then Tulsa's situation is already quite dire by comparison. South Florida and especially SMU are beatable, but the Golden Hurricane still have difficult trips to Central Florida, Memphis, Colorado State, and Temple on tap, and AAC power East Carolina comes to Tulsa. Needless to say, TU badly needs this win if they want their postseason hopes to remain even remotely realistic.

Defense: Optional?

Tulsa was supposed to have an aggressive, respectable defense leading into the 2014 season, but aside from holding Tulane to three points in two overtime periods, it hasn't shown up. Giving up 580 yards and 52 points to potential playoff participant Oklahoma is one thing, but letting Florida Atlantic crest the 50 point, 500 yard threshold on offense is entirely another.

The Golden Hurricane are also prone to giving up huge plays, as opponents are averaging 14.4 yards per catch and 4.6 plays per game with 30 yards gained or more. Tulsa's also been hampered by injuries on defense, including a season ending injury to defensive tackle Jesse Brubaker suffered earlier this week, so their depth is thin.

The Bobcats had some nice moments in shutting down the Illini's somewhat inexplicable attempts to establish the run at the expense of their potent spread attack, but once Illinois did start throwing the ball down the field Texas State looked vulnerable. Tulsa has a quick passing attack and averages around 51 pass attempts per game, so the Golden Hurricane will test the Bobcat secondary's ability to stick to their assignments and keep their concentration.

However, TU quarterback Dane Evans is vulnerable to coughing up the ball as he has just as many interceptions as touchdown passes (6 each) and his offensive line averages 2.3 sacks given up per game. Expect the Bobcats to blitz non-stop once again to try and throw him off guard.

Blankenship's Job on the Line?

Todd Graham raised expectations with three years of 10 wins or more with the Golden Hurricane, and Bill Blankenship was able to ride that momentum to a C-USA Title and bowl win over Iowa State in 2012-2013. Last year's 3-9 campaign dismantled all of that momentum overnight.

Despite an invite to the American Athletic Conference, attendance has cratered and a few publications have suggested that Blankenship's seat might be warming up. A home loss to a Sun Belt program in year 3 of FBS play could spell doom for the Tulsa alumnus despite a 19-8 record in Blankenship's first two years at the helm.

Players to Watch

  • Ben Ijah, WR, Texas State: After being mostly absent in his first two starts, Ijah came through with two impressive touchdown catches against Illinois, including a snag as he fell backwards and got a foot down in the back of the end zone. Ijah has the size and route running ability to test a vulnerable TU secondary, but can Jones get him the ball?
  • Keevan Lucas, WR, Tulsa: Lucas is one of the few consistent bright spots for the Golden Hurricane as he's averaging 124 receiving yards per game and leads the team in touchdowns with four. Lucas went berzerk for 233 yards and three touchdowns against Tulane, but he was held to five receptions for 55 yards against FAU.

Stats of Varying Importance

  • Series Record: Tulsa leads, 1-0. Last Meeting: 41-15, Tulsa, 2003.
  • Average pass yards surrendered per game: Tulsa: 307.3, Texas State: 157 (266 against Illinois)
  • Average pass yards gained per game: Tulsa: 313.7, Texas State 295.3
  • F/+ efficiency rankings: Tulsa: 106 (LW 101), Texas State: 107 (LW 117)
  • Average turnovers per game: Texas State: 1, Tulsa: 3

Prediction

The Tulsa quick passing attack is, on paper, a bad matchup for the Bobcat defense. The shaky Texas State defensive line has looked especially weak in the middle and likely won't have time to generate much of a pass rush, and the secondary is fresh off of getting burned in the second half by the Illinois spread attack. However, Evans appears to make enough unforced errors to keep them from scoring every possession, and the Tulsa rushing attack leaves much to be desired.

On the other side of the ball, Tulsa's once vaunted defense looks unable to stop much of anything, which means Tyler Jones and company should crest 450 yards and 30 points for the third time this year. This game will likely come down to who holds the ball last or has fewer mistakes. The Bobcats' mistakes tend to be dropped passes or penalties, whereas Tulsa is overly generous in giving the ball to the other team.

Vegas might like Tulsa in this one, but I'm more inclined to count on a team who might stall a drive on a dumb penalty over another team who will likely give the ball away anywhere on the field.

Texas State 49, Tulsa 42