The Ohio State football season will be here before you know it, and even if you’ve only been paying semi-close attention this offseason, you’re probably aware of the major storylines with the program. This is going to be an exceptionally young, but talented and athletic team. There’s a lack of proven production at wideout, running back, and defensive back. They return the best QB in the conference, and should at least compete for a Big Ten title.
But you may not know a lot about the specific teams on Ohio State’s schedule. We’ll get into a lot more detail before the actual games, but you may want a primer so you can sound smart at the bar, or at the barbecue, or in the grocery store checkout line.
So take a look at Ohio State’s opponents this year. Next up, the Buckeye’s second opponent, Tulsa.
What was the story with Tulsa last year?
After struggling for the last two years under Bill Blankenship, Tulsa turned to new coach and former Baylor assistant Phillip Montgomery, and experienced a bit of a resurgence. The Golden Hurricane didn’t really beat anybody good last season, but after winning a total of five games from 2013-2014, they won six last season, earning an Independence Bowl bid, which they lost in a highly entertaining game to Virginia Tech.
Tulsa football was a lot of things last year, but it certainly wasn’t boring. They beat Florida Atlantic, 47-44. They lost to Cincinnati, 49-38. They lost to Memphis, 66-42. They beat Tulane, 45-34. If you think defense is boring, and want your football games flooded with points, you’ll probably enjoy Tulsa football.
So, that’s two games in a row against high flying offenses, huh?
Yes, and by some measures, Tulsa might be a little more scary than Bowling Green. For one thing, they return their QB from last season. Dane Evans returns for his senior season, after tossing 4,332 yards and 25 TDs last season, while completing 62.9% of his passes. Four of Tulsa’s top five rushers from last season are back, along with four of the top six pass catchers (although leading receiver Keyarris Garrett is gone).
The Golden Hurricane will need to retool their line a little bit (they replace two starters), and they weren’t super effective at running the ball, but they’re going to try and run a lot of plays, spread the ball out all over the field, and score points. Probably a lot of points.
Okay, what about their defense?
Well, there’s a reason Tulsa finished 6-7 ... and that was it. High tempo teams often give up more points and yards, but Tulsa’s defense was bad even if you adjusted it for all those other factors.
In fact, by basically every advanced metric, Tulsa’s defense last year was near the very bottom of FBS. They don’t rank above 89th in any defensive metric. They allowed the most gains of 10-yards or more in the country. It was a bend-and-also-break unit.
Granted, it was also pretty young last season, and the Golden Hurricane return most of their starters, but even if injury luck holds, just based on the talent in this unit, an enormous leap seems unlikely. AAC teams will probably be able to score on Tulsa. Ohio State should be able to do it plenty.
Have Ohio State and Tulsa ever played before?
This probably isn’t a surprise, but this will be Ohio State and Tulsa’s first ever meeting.
Is Tulsa supposed to be good?
Well, that’s an interesting question. The defense probably can’t get much worse than it was last season, and thanks to their coach and their returning talent, this offense should still pretty potent, especially their passing attack.
Tulsa’s non-conference schedule outside of Ohio State is pretty manageable (San Jose State, NC A&T, at Fresno State), but they also draw some of the best teams in the AAC, and have to make road trips to Houston, Memphis and Navy.
This probably won’t be a *bad* team, but chances are, they’ll be the worst team Ohio State plays before Big Ten play. The Golden Hurricane figure to be in the conversation for a bowl game, but would need to spring some big upsets to be in the running for anything more substantial than that.
How worried should fans be about this game?
Any time you face a team that can do one thing very well, there’s a cause for some concern, and Tulsa should be able to score. But Ohio State has superior athletes at every position, and has a defense that can potentially make them a little dimensional. A sloppy, turnover-filled performance can make this an uncomfortably interesting game, but if Ohio State and Tulsa straight up get into a points track meet, there’s no much doubt who should have the better team.