Dec. 30
ESPN                           BYU 24 vs Tulsa 21

Offense: BYU has an offense that has progressed over the course of the season, scoring over 40 points in each of their 3 final games. For the season, they average 30.6 points a game. The Cougars will not have the sam quarterback who impressed in last year's New Mexico Bowl. Jake Heaps struggled, was benched, and is en route to Lawrence, Kansas, to play for Charlie Weis. In his place is junior Riley Nelson. He has gotten his teammates behind him and led BYU to a strong second half. He is a mobile passer, who can run like a running back. The true running back, however, is JJ Di Luigi, who has gone for 556 yards on the season. When Nelson looks to pass, WR Cody Hoffman is a threat, as he averages 15.5 yards a catch. Freshman Ross Apo has also had an impact for the Cougars catching the ball. Tulsa is led by their offense, which averages over 34 points a game. Senior G.J. Kinne will be playing in his final game for the Golden Hurricane. He has passed for 2876 yards and 25 touchdowns. He is no doubt helped by his extremely experienced offensive line, which starts three seniors and two juniors. Willie Carter and Bryan Burnham are the two leading receivers, combining for 15 touchdowns. The Golden Hurricane also have a two-headed threat at running back, with Jaterian Douglas and Trey Watts receiving the bulk of the carries.

Defense: BYU has the advantage in this game on defense. They give up just 20 points a game. Linebackers Brandon Ogletree and Kyle Van Noy have led the resurgance of the defense. DE Jordan Pendleton is one of the leading sackers on the team and it will be his job to get pressure on Kinne. Senior free safety Travis Uale is tied for the team lead in interceptions and his play will be key to slowing down the explosive Tulsa offense. Tulsa struggles on defense, giving up nearly 28 points a game. Curnelius Arnick is the key to the defense, playing middle linebacker. He leads the team in tackles with 142. The closest player to him is 50 behind. DE Tyrunn Walker is a force on the edge. The senior has 8 sacks on the season. The secondary will likely be tested after giving up 48 points to Houston is their final game of the season. How that unit does very well may be the difference in the game.


The Pick: I like Tulsa to win this game. I feel their defense is doing better and the offense should do well again. They put up 62 in last year's bowl game in Hawaii. If you agree or disagree let me know why by tweeting me @bowlseason or emailing me at . I'll post them if you send them.



We picked Tulsa to win. We are now 9-6 , 1 game losing streak.





Eric Bailey, of The Tulsa World, answered some questions about Tulsa football for us.


BS: The Golden Hurricane finished 8-4 playing against a schedule including 4 top 10 teams. How would you rate this season overall and as a comparison to preseason expectations?

Eric Bailey: The month of September wasn't a surprise, as Tulsa finished 1-3 with losses to OU, Oklahoma State and Boise State. The team captured seven consecutive wins heading into the regular-season finale before a loss to Houston. I think the season was better than expected. By the end of the year, expectations were much higher than the beginning because of the week-by-week success.

BS: The offense, led by QB G.J. Kinne was explosive, averaging 34.1 points per game. What do they do to be so successful and who are his key weapons?

Eric Bailey: The key, of course, has been Kinne. The fifth-year senior and third-year starter is (sorry for the tired cliche) a "coach on the field." His ability to distribute and manage a football game as well as make plays is huge. An experienced offensive line also has been huge for the team. TU starts three seniors and two juniors up front.

BS: The defense had some problems, but was more successful late in the season. How would you rate this unit and who are the key guys that make the defense effective?

Eric Bailey: Curnelius Arnick, a senior at MLB, is the key. He's sixth nationally in tackles and everything starts with him. The team has adapted defensive coordinator Brent Guy's new system and has gotten better each game. It was tough to gauge how this team played after opening with three prolific offenses, but as the unit grabbed experience, the team got better. Dexter McCoil (S) and Shawn Jackson (LB) are also ones to watch.

BS: If you could choose one player to have a breakout performance in the bowl game, who would it be?

Eric Bailey: Keep an eye out for Willie Carter, Tulsa's H-back, who uses speed and strength. Also, Ja'Terian Douglas at RB could be one to watch.



Thanks a lot to Eric Bailey. Check his work out at and follow @EricBaileyTW




Jay Drew, who covers BYU football for the Salt Lake Tribune, answered some questions for us.


BS: The Cougars went 9-3 in their first year of being an independent
in recent memory. How would you asses this season overall for BYU?

Jay Drew: I would call it a mixed bag. A 9-3 record is nothing to scoff at,
but the Cougars expected much more. Basically, they won the games
they were supposed to win, and lost the games there were supposed to
lose. Getting blown out 54-10 by archrival Utah on their home field
was downright embarrassing for the Cougars.

BS: After watching last year's New Mexico Bowl, I was convinced that
highly recruited QB Jake Heaps was the real deal. But he lost his
starting job and is now seeking a transfer. What went wrong with

Jay Drew: A quarterback's best friend is a strong running game, and early in
the season the Cougars just didn't have one. As a result, they had to
rely too much on Heaps, against a very strong early schedule, and he
just didn't deliver. Then Riley Nelson came on in relief when Heaps
struggled against Utah State, and led a come-from-behind victory.
Players threw their support behind Nelson, and coach Bronco
Mendenhall was pretty much forced to stick with the junior lefthander.

BS: The offense was taken over by QB Riley Nelson. Talk about his
ability and who are his top weapons?

Jay Drew: Nelson's strength is his mobility. He runs the ball like a running
back, and is extremely elusive in the pocket. He's just a much better
athlete than Heaps, who has the stronger arm. Nelson is also a better
leader, which was evident when he came in against USU. The players
just rallied behind him much more than they did Heaps.

BS: The defense has been tremendous, giving up only 20 points a game.
Who and what makes that group successful?

Jay Drew: The strength of BYU's 4-3 defense is supposed to be the linebackers,
and this year they delivered. With Kyle Van Noy and Brandon Ogletree
standing out amongst that group, the Cougars really got it together
after giving up 54 points to Utah. Also, the quality of competition
decreased as the defense's confidence grew.

BS: If you could choose one player to have a breakout performance in
the bowl game, who would it be?

Jay Drew: Receiver Ross Apo started quickly with Heaps throwing the ball to
him, then kind of tailed off once Nelson took over. Nelson's favorite
target is Cody Hoffman, and will probably remain that way. But
against Hawaii, Nelson sort of re-discovered Apo, and the freshman
caught a pair of touchdown passes.
I expect Apo to have another big game against Tulsa.

Thanks a lot to Jay Drew. Check him out at and follow @drewjay

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