Thanks to the great geographic expanse of the American Athletic Conference, UConn and Tulsa’s football teams met for the first time ever last year. For the third and final time that season, the Huskies emerged victorious after the final whistle. For the only time that season, UConn played a solid, complete game.
This year, it should be a competitive contest once again as the Huskies travel to Oklahoma for their debut performance at H.A. Chapman Stadium.
Head coach Philip Montgomery’s third season at the helm of this program was his worst, bottoming out with a 2-10 record just one year after winning 10 games.
The Golden Hurricane split the quarterbacking duties. They benched Chad President after five games in favor of Luke Skipper, who didn’t fare much better. They combined for just over 2000 yards and six touchdowns through the air, adding about 500 rushing yards and 13 rushing touchdowns, nine from President.
Tulsa’s spread out style used the running game to gain large chunks of yardage, partially because the o-line was solid but also because they struggled in the passing game. Freshman running back Shamari Brooks had a promising start but suffered a season-ending injury, luckily the Golden Hurricane had D’Angelo Brewer to lean on, as he gained over 1500 rushing yards and nine rushing touchdowns.
Defensively, Tulsa was one of the worst teams in the country last year, with a lot of youth and a touch of the injury bug affecting them. They finished 128th in the S&P+ final rankings for defensive efficiency. Statistically speaking, the season was very similar to UConn’s, a solid offense but terrible defense. With this trend expected to continue in 2018, it’s a good year to take the over in this match-up.
Both President and Skipper return and Brooks is back from his injury, hopefully ready to assume a feature role. Montgomery has not yet announced who will be starting or if it will be a QB-by-committee. (*Editor’s note*: Montgomery announced Skipper as the starting quarterback mere moments afterward publishing). At any rate, with President and Brooks, the ground game should be dangerous. The Golden Hurricane also have some promising underclassmen backs down the depth chart who are plenty capable. This will be a good offensive attack once again thanks to this strength, especially with multiple all-conference honorees returning on the offensive line.
Tulsa returns its top two receivers, Justin Hobbs and Keenen Johnson, but there isn’t a ton of actual production from those two and little in the way of proven talent beyond them. Hobbs led this unit with 830 receiving yards and three touchdowns.
On defense, Tulsa will be throwing a lot of bodies out there and hoping for the best. We know the feeling. Stopping other teams will be a problem for the Golden Hurricane all season, especially across the AAC West slate.
Match-Up with UConn
UConn should be able to do well offensively in this one, even on the road. It’ll be a good test for Randy Edsall’s young team, especially because the defense will have its hands full. Ultimately, I give the Huskies the edge, albeit hesitantly, due to UConn’s stronger quarterback situation, more talent at the playmaker positions, and because Tulsa will be less able to exploit UConn’s primary defensive weakness in the passing game. The biggest question mark for the Huskies is if they can win on the road, something they’ve struggled to do with just one victory away from the Rent in the last two seasons.
Prediction: UConn 31, Tulsa 27