Fresno State enters this game coming off of an absolute shredding of the Colorado Buffaloes. The Bulldog scored 55 points and racked up 516 yards of offense in the first half against the hapless Buffs before pulling their starters on offense at halftime and cruising to a 69-14 final score. Now, however, the Bulldogs face their first relatively opponent of the season in the Tulsa Golden Hurricane. The two teams have met 5 total times, with the 'Dogs leading the series 4-1. Tulsa won the most recent matchup, however, in the 2005 Liberty Bowl against an admittedly broken Fresno State team that was never the same following their near-win against USC that year.
Fresno State dominated their game against Colorado on every level. Derek Carr was 17 of 22 for 300 yards and 5 touchdowns against one pick before taking a seat on the bench in the second half, giving him a ridiculous 257.7 QB rating. Robbie Rouse ran for 144 yards and two touchdowns on nine carries, adding 4 catches for 42 yards and 2 TDs, all in the first quarter. Rouse broke the all-time Fresno State rushing record on a 94 yard run, and Isaiah Burse added a 97-yard receiving TD of his own. Burse finished with 3 catches for 107 yards. Victor Dean saw his first real on-field action and added 3 receptions for 97 yards, while Davante Adams reeled in 4 for 74 and a TD. On the defensive side of the ball, the Bulldogs utterly shut down the Buffaloes. Colorado had one scoring drive in the first half to make it 48-7 and a final one to make it 69-14. The Bulldogs forced four turnovers, three of them coming from Phillip Thomas interceptions. Thomas returned two of those to the house and earned numerous national accolades for his performance. Derron Smith added the final TO, another pick. Colorado RB Christian Powell, who ran for over 140 yards the previous game, was held to 47 yards on 19 carries. Most of Colorado's yardage came in garbage time.
Tulsa comes off a blowout win of their own, a 66-19 pasting of FCS Nicholls State. Tulsa's first half stats were also rather gaudy; they led 42-9 at halftime. In limited time Tulsa QB Cody Green was 10 of 15 for 130 yards and 2 TDs. He has a 54.4 completion percentage and total 602 yards on the season, with 6 TDs and 2 picks. Tulsa ran for 333 total yards on the day, 163 of which came from junior Ja'terian Douglas. However, the Golden Hurricane's backfield does not appear to have a single dominant rusher. Douglas has received 29 total carries, junior Trey Watts has gotten 29, and senior Alex Singleton has toted the rock 28 times. All three have one 100-yard rushing game each. On defense, the Golden Hurricane lead the country in Tackles for loss. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, are tenth.
While Tulsa and Fresno State both have apparently explosive offenses, the modus operandi for each team is different. Fresno State has a more pass-based attack, averaging a little over 300 yards through the air total per game. Robbie Rouse, Josh Harper, Isaiah Burse, and Davante Adams have all caught touchdown passes from Carr. Big WR Victor Dean (6-7, 209 pounds) is coming on and presents a colossal size matchup for any but the largest secondaries. (As an addendum, 6-3 WR Aaron Peck is now officially the first freshman from Fresno State's 2012 recruiting class to earn a starting spot. He is listed over senior Anthony Riggins on the depth chart for this game at one of the 4 WR positions). Tulsa's attack is more run-focused, averaging nearly 286 yards per game, with three solid RBs sharing carries. Cody Green is not on Carr's level as a QB. Both teams can and will be going after the quarterback hard. Prior to the season I called this game a loss (albeit a hard-fought one) for Fresno State. However, the Bulldogs' defense has improved more than what I (and anyone, really) expected. This game now looks like a toss-up to me. I'm going to give the advantage to Fresno State because of their offensive versatility and slight advantage at the skill positions. Prediction: Fresno State 35, Tulsa 30. Phillip Thomas and Derek Carr will come up big in this game.
Note: Fresno State suffered their first season-ending injury against Colorado. Redshirt freshman OLB Jamaal Rose tore his ACL. He is not on the 2-deep and Fresno State has considerable depth at LB. Meanwhile, DE Todd Hunt may return from the ACL injury he suffered in spring ball, giving some much-needed depth at the DL.