I wonder how many people realize that Friday night’s college football matchup on ESPN2 (7 PM ET) pits the school with the largest student body in the country against the institution that is dead last in Division I (130th) in undergraduate enrollment? That’s right.
Which one is which? Well, if you were closing on on your 18th birthday, would you rather be at a party school in Florida or anywhere in Oklahoma?
When it comes to football tradition, however, the little school that is Tulsa has the advantage over the relative upstarts from Central Florida (UCF).
Customers at BetAnySports might not know this, but Tulsa was one of the forerunners of the modern aerial attack in college football, and in fact was the first Division I school to lead the nation in passing yards five years in a row.
College Hall of Famer Glenn Dobbs was sort of a Hal Mumme or Mike Leach of the era. He had one of the best quarterback tutors on board in Slingin’ Sammy Baugh, a guy who had been way ahead of his time in his playing days.
You may not have ever heard of them, and certainly Drew Pearson and Steve Largent were Tulsa alums more celebrated in the NFL, but the Jerry Rhome-Howard Twilley connection was “golden” for the Hurricane. Hey – can YOU name many quarterback-wide receiver combos who were BOTH runner-up for the Heisman Trophy?
People may think wide-open football isn’t that old, and that Stone Age football was played in the 1960s. Okay, to a considerable extent, it was. But Rhome’s 1964 numbers, which include 32 TD’s, four INT’s and 69% completions, sound like something right out of the high-tech offenses of 2019. And in 1965, Twilley (who later played for the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins) caught 134 passes. That’s not a typo. Call him the Wes Welker or Julian Edelman of the period.
Of course, a few years later, in 1968, Tulsa suffered the indignity of a 100-6 defeat at the hands of Houston, which had 762 yards while throwing it only sixteen times, and scored 49 points in the fourth quarter. Wade Phillips played for Houston in that game. The famous Dr. Phil was playing for Tulsa, and later claimed that most of his teammates had the “Hong Kong Flu.”
Why are we saying all this? Because it’s entertaining and maybe enlightening, that’s why. And because we are setting you up for what might happen if a team that is ranked second in the nation in Total Offense and fifth in scoring gets really hot against an opponent that is 108th in scoring defense.
Which is which? Well, see if you can tell by the college football odds on this game:
UCF Knights -17.5 (-105)
Tulsa Golden Hurricane +17.5 (-105)
Over 69.5 points (-105)
Under 69.5 points (-105)
Notice the “-105” rather than the “-110”? That’s because you get reduced juice at BetAnySports, allowing you to avoid the 11-to-10 and save some money when you wager. That has a long-term benefit for you – that’s for sure!
There was some uncertainty in the UCF quarterback situation after McKenzie Milton suffered a knee injury so bad last season that there was consideration given to amputating his leg.
Brandon Wimbush, not necessarily a polished passer but a field leader, transferred in from Notre Dame. He started the season opener, but when he was not 100% healthy for the second game, he was replaced by true frosh Dillon Gabriel, and head coach Josh Heupel has never looked back. Gabriel’s thrown for 2516 yards and 23 TD’s, surpassed 200 yards in eight straight games. He is 8th in the nation in passing efficiency. And Heupel and the offensive staff have so much faith in him that they shifted Wimbush to the wide receiver position.
Only Oklahoma has gained more yards per game than UCF’s 551, and the Knights are averaging 46.3 points per game.
There’s also a little defense going on here; UCF has registered more tackles for loss on a per-game basis than any other Division I team (9.9) and they’ve allowed only 29.4% on third down, which is in the nation’s top ten.
There are plenty of negatives to go around for 2-7 Tulsa. They have allowed 33 points per game. They are outside of the nation’s top 100 in both rushing offense and rushing defense. They have just seven sacks while giving up 33. They are the second-most penalized team in the nation.
Yet at the same time, they are in the nation’s top 30 in both third-down conversions and third-down conversion defense, as well as red zone defense. They are dead even on turnover margin. Zach Smith ain’t no Jerry Rhome, but he at least keeps the ball out of enemy hands (six INT’s in 341 attempts).
And when you look at some of the results, they’ve shown up most of the time. They have wins over a couple of fairly good teams who might make it to a bowl (San Jose State & Wyoming). They outplayed Oklahoma State for at least one half of play. They out-gained Cincinnati and took that one into the final few minutes.
They had a 21-point fourth quarter lead against SMU and lost in triple overtime. And Jacob Gainey missed a 29-yard field goal at the final gun as they lost 42-41 to Memphis. So they could have – maybe SHOULD have – beaten two conference rivals who, as of last week, were among the nation’s Top 25-ranked teams.
And now we get back to what we mentioned at the top, about the schools’ respective enrollments. We’re not sure UCF “travels” all that well, despite its 55,000-plus students. Meanwhile, Tulsa, at less than 3400, nonetheless drew 17,611 for the Memphis game. We’re not sure what everybody’s ratio of students to attendance is, but I’m sure the Golden Hurricane isn’t doing too badly in that department.
What I’m saying is, they’ll have some support, and I think they’ll figure out a way to hang inside the number. Let’s throw an “under” in there as well for good measure.
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