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Tulsa's offense was fantastic last season, reaching 37.2 points per game led by one of the best passing attacks in the nation. That led to a 6-7 overall record with a bowl loss to Virginia Tech. But the reason for a losing record was because of one of the worst defenses in the country. The Golden Hurricane actually gave up more points per game than scored and that was seen in their 55-52 bowl loss. While the offense can be just as good this year, what can the defense do?
The offense can reach last year's levels simply because of two players. Dane Evans is back for his senior year as quarterback and third year as the full-time starter. Under head coach Philip Montgomery, he thrived in the up-tempo offense, completing 62.9% of his passes for 25 TDs and 8 INTs. To help him improve, stud receiver Keevan Lucas is back after injuring his knee early last season. Lucas was dominant in 2014 with 101 receptions for 1,219 yards and 11 touchdowns. Lucas, Joshua Atkinson (76 receptions, 1,071 yards, 5 TDs) and Justin Hobbs (551 yards) should all have great years yet again.
The offensive line remains an issue after allowing 40 sacks last season, but three players with starting experience return and there should be some improvement. The return of tackle Blake Belcher will also be huge after he was lost to injury last year as well. In addition to the passing game, Tulsa improved greatly on the ground with D'Angelo Brewer (837 yards, 6 TDs) having a solid season and he's joined by Ramadi Warren (475 yards, 6 TDs) in the backfield.
But the defensive side is where the trouble begins. They need to show some kind of improvement after a wretched season allowing 39.8 points per game and 536.6 yards. Starters return across all units with linebacker having the most experience led by seniors Trent Martin and Matt Linscott. The line has a couple returning ends and the secondary is led by Jeremy Brady, who was the Defensive MVP of their bowl game. Granted, it was a game that had 107 points in it.
Tulsa will be able to put points on anyone, and that includes at Ohio State in their second game. But stopping teams is another question. The Golden Hurricane's home schedule is mostly favorable outside of the finale against Cincinnati and that should lead to at least six wins again for this team. Beating a team like Fresno State or UCF on the road will determine if they can get to more wins than a year ago.
The Hurricane's over/under is sitting at 7 over at 5 Dimes Sportsbook and that falls right in line with what was said above. If the defense can improve, those seven wins should be easily attainable. If they don't, then every game will be a shootout and that's never a good thing, especially if betting the over on total wins.
2016 Tulsa Golden Hurricane Football Schedule
Sept. 3 vs. San Jose State
Sept. 10 at Ohio State
Sept. 17 vs. NC A&T
Sept. 24 at Fresno State
Oct. 7 vs. SMU
Oct. 15 at Houston
Oct. 22 vs. Tulane
Oct. 29 at Memphis
Nov. 5 vs. East Carolina
Nov. 12 at Navy
Nov. 19 at UCF
Nov. 25 vs. Cincinnati
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