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Tulsa vs Central Arkansas: Game Preview & Prediction

Tulsa looks to exorcise the demons of a dismal 2017 campaign in their season opener against Central Arkansas.

NCAA Football: Memphis at Tulsa David D. Stacy-USA TODAY Sports

Start Time: 6:00 pm Central

Location: Tulsa, OK, Skelly Field at H.A. Chapman Stadium

TV/Streaming: ESPN3

Radio: Big Country 99.5 FM or Online

Stats: Live Stats

Series Record: Tulsa leads 2-0

Last Meeting: Tulsa 41, UCA 14 (Sept. 25, 2010)

Betting Line: Tulsa -10


Central Arkansas Outlook

The Bears won a road game at Arkansas State in 2016, had their star return-man drafted in May, recently recruited a top 10 FCS class, and are the defending Southland Conference champions. Central Arkansas schedules an FBS game or two every year given the recent overachieving and recruiting bump. This is a much more dangerous squad than your traditional early season FCS cupcake opponent.

Geographically, this matchup works but a growing G5 football program that needs to consistently make bowls scheduling a top 10 recruiter in the FCS doesn’t make a ton of sense. The UCA Bears did lose stud QB Hayden Hildebrand to graduation and special teams difference-maker Tremon Smith. Smith was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in the sixth round of the NFL Draft back in May. The Bears have some question marks and some production to replace, but a strong coaching staff will have this group ready to play.

Tulsa Outlook

Coach Phil Montgomery named third-year sophomore Luke Skipper the starter at quarterback to start this season. As many will recall, Skipper started five games last year and threw for just three touchdowns. Skipper presents a more accurate passer than Chad President and I believe he’s just as capable on the ground. Many felt President was the better runner of the two last season, but they bring different styles to that aspect of the position. President is the bullish, stronger runner but Skipper is shifty and athletic enough to scoot out of the pocket and pick up yardage. Quarterback isn’t the only spot in need of a reboot from the 2017 season.

The Golden Hurricane defense was an embarrassment last season and was blown up by most of the opposing offenses in the American. To change this, Montgomery brought in multiple JUCO defenders to revamp this defense. The defensive line doesn’t return anyone with a recorded sack, but look for new addition JaJuan Blankenship to make some noise alongside returning starter Shemarr Robinson. Transfer Yohance Burnett should help to shore some things up in the LB group, as well.

Prediction

This isn’t your typical FBS-FCS meet up and senseless beatdown scenario. Central Arkansas can ball, but with an entire offseason of thinking about a 2-10 campaign I think Tulsa comes out fired up and performs well. Look for the Tulsa defense to get creative in generating pressure against the inexperienced Bears QB. Tulsa 45, Central Arkansas 27.