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December 29, 2011

Armed Forces Bowl Preview: Tulsa vs. BYU

The Armed Forces Bowl pits BYU vs. Tulsa, and despite the fact the two teams have 17 wins between them, both come in with questions marks. That's because out of those 17 wins, Tulsa and BYU really haven't beaten any quality teams.

BYU's best win is over Utah State, while Tulsa's most impressive victory was over average SMU and Marshall teams. Both BYU and Tulsa played well after rough starts, but each team will be looking for a signature win to end its season on a high note in the Armed Forces Bowl.

Tulsa's explosive offense is led by quarterback G.J. Kinne. The senior threw for 2,876 yards and 25 touchdowns this year, while adding 405 yards and three scores on the ground. Kinne didn't play well in Tulsa's season-finale against Houston, but overall he's had a stellar senior season.

The Golden Hurricane featured a strong running game this season. Both Trey Watts and Ja'Terian Douglas topped 800 yards and combined for seven touchdowns. Power back Alex Singleton chipped in with 279 yards and eight scores of his own. The Tulsa running backs will be in for a challenge against a BYU defense that allows just 118 yards per game on the ground.

The Cougars defense has been strong overall in 2011, finishing 23rd in scoring defense. BYU allows less than 200 yards passing per game and held three of its last five opponents to seven points or less.

However, the Cougars haven't faced an offensive machine like Tulsa this season. The Golden Hurricane finished the year 24th in the country in scoring at 34 points per game and 23rd in total offense at 454 yards per game.

BYU will look to match Tulsa offensively. The Cougars offense got much better as the season went on. BYU scored at least 40 points in four of its last five games. The Cougars rank 42nd in the country in scoring offense at 30.6 points per game.

Junior quarterback Riley Nelson returned for the season finale against Hawaii after suffering from lung and rib injuries on Nov. 12. Nelson's return was worth the wait as he torched Hawaii for a career-high 363 yards and three touchdowns. On the season, Nelson has thrown for 1,467 yards and 16 touchdowns compared to just five interceptions.

Like Tulsa, the Cougars don't rely on just one running back to carry the load. BYU has five players that have run for at least 200 yards on the season. BYU's leading rusher is JJ Di Luigi, who ran for 546 yards. Michael Alisa also sees a lot of time in the backfield, racking up 455 yards and three scores.

Tulsa's run defense has been pretty stout all year long. The Golden Hurricane allows a respectable 131 yards per game on the ground. Part of that is good defense. The other part is teams are too busy throwing on a pass defense that allows close to 300 yards a game.

Tulsa does force a lot of turnovers; ranking 15th in the country in interceptions, but the bottom line is the secondary gives up way too many big plays. That could once again be a problem on Friday.

Looking to exploit that secondary will be receivers Cody Hoffman and Ross Apo. The two combined for 1,274 yards and 16 touchdowns this year. Dexter McCoil and the rest of the Tulsa secondary will have a challenge trying to slow down BYU's passing attack now that Nelson is back under center.

This is one of the most evenly matched bowl games. Both teams have strong offenses and neither team has really beaten a quality opponent. However, BYU looks to have an edge on the defensive side of the ball in what should be a very entertaining game.




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