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January 3, 2008

GMAC Bowl: Bowling Green vs. Tulsa

GMAC Bowl: Who has the edge? | Bowl Central | Bowl schedule

Bowling Green (8-4) vs. Tulsa (9-4)
WHEN: 8 p.m., Sunday.
WHERE: Ladd Peebles Stadium, Mobile, Ala.
WEATHER: Partly cloudy, about 63.
TV: ESPN (Bob Wischusen will do play-by-play, with Andre Ware as the analyst).
THE LINE: Tulsa by 4.5.
RECORDS VS. BOWL TEAMS: Bowling Green 0-2, Tulsa 2-3.
RECORD VS. BCS TOP 25: Bowling Green 0-1, Tulsa 1-1.
BCS RANK: Bowling Green T-41st, Tulsa 40th.
SCHEDULE STRENGTH: Bowling Green 115th, Tulsa 84th.
COACHES: Bowling Green - Gregg Brandon (2-0 in bowls); Tulsa - Todd Graham (0-1 in bowls).
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH: It's the penultimate game of the season, and, frankly, that should make you sad. At the same time, this isn't exactly an important game, though it has the potential to have a ton of points.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Tulsa QB Paul Smith might have a plain name, but he has been anything but plain on the field. He has an excellent chance to finish the season with 5,000 yards passing and 45 TDs.

The next-to-last bowl of the season may well end up being the longest bowl of the season.

Bowling Green meets Tulsa in the GMAC Bowl in Mobile, Ala., on Sunday, and you can expect to see a lot of points and very little defense. A four-hour game seems about right.

Tulsa is trying to become the first team in NCAA history with a 5,000-yard passer, a 1,000-yard rusher and three 1,000-yard receivers. The Golden Hurricane already have the 1,000-yard rusher (Tarrion Adams) and two 1,000-yard receivers (Trae Johnson and Brennan Marion). Quarterback Paul Smith is 247 yards shy of the passing total, and freshman H-back Charles Clay is 45 yards shy of the receiving total.

In 2001, Fresno State had a 4,000-yard passer (David Carr), a 1,000-yard rusher (Paris Gaines) and two 1,000-yard receivers (Bernard Berrian and Rodney Wright). But no one has come close to what Tulsa can accomplish.

While not as prolific as Tulsa, Bowling Green has been good on offense, as well. The Falcons average 416.9 yards and 32.1 points per game. Neither team is that good on defense: Bowling Green allows 413.0 yards and 29.5 points per game, and Tulsa surrenders 469.0 yards and 35.4 points per game.

The good offense/bad defense combination has led to Vegas oddsmakers setting the over-under on this game at 76.5 points, the highest of the bowl season.

"I don't think the score is going to be 3-0," Bowling Green coach Gregg Brandon said jokingly when asked what he expected.

GMAC Bowl: Mike Huguenin breaks it down
Bowling Green run offense vs. Tulsa run defense
EDGE: Bowling Green The Falcons' running game has caught fire the second half of the season. Anthony Turner who has played quarterback, tailback and wide receiver is the leading rusher, though true freshman TB Willie Geter has come on of late. The Falcons have run for at least 140 yards in each of the past six games and at least 193 in four of the past six games. They also have run for 10 of their 16 rushing TDs in the second half of the season. Tulsa's run defense has been atrocious. The Golden Hurricane have surrendered at least 114 yards in each game, at least 150 in 12 games and at least 175 in seven games. Tulsa has allowed 28 rushing TDs.
Bowling Green pass offense vs. Tulsa pass defense
EDGE: Bowling Green Sophomore QB Tyler Sheehan has been solid in his first season as the starter, throwing for 3,123 yards, 23 TDs and 11 picks. He also is a running threat. Freddie Barnes, a converted quarterback, is the Falcons' leading receiver (77 catches, 891 yards, nine TDs, including two against Boston College). He is one of five Falcons with at least 25 catches. Sophomore WR Chris Wright has played well down the stretch. Tulsa's pass defense? Here's that word again: atrocious. The Golden Hurricane allow 273.1 passing yards per game, which is 109th in the nation. They've surrendered 28 TD passes and have just 11 picks, and they've allowed at least three TD passes in six games and at least two in nine games.
Tulsa run offense vs. Bowling Green run defense
EDGE: Tulsa Junior tailback Tarrion Adams has five 100-yard games and has 1,113 yards and seven TDs this season. Backup TB Jamad Williams also has been productive. Bowling Green's run defense? You guessed it: atrocious. The Falcons are 108th nationally in run defense (205.3 yards per game) and have allowed seven 200-yard games this season; just one opponent was held under 102 yards.
Tulsa pass offense vs. Bowling Green pass defense
EDGE: Tulsa Senior QB Paul Smith has had a great season, with 4,753 yards and 42 TDs. One problem: He also has thrown 19 picks. He has thrown for at least 300 yards in every game and for more than 350 seven times. He also has thrown at least two TD passes in each game and has thrown at least three TD passes in 10 games, including seven of the past eight. Seven receivers have at least 26 catches, with freshman Trae Johnson (67 catches, 1,039 yards, 11 TDs) leading the way. Junior WR Brennan Marion is one of the nation's best deep threats (39 catches but for 1,244 yards an incredible 31.9 yards per catch and 11 TDs). Freshman Charles Clay, essentially an H-Back, has 58 catches for 955 yards and six TDs. Bowling Green's pass defense? It actually has been adequate. The Falcons have 14 picks (seven came in two games), but they also have allowed 21 TD passes. They've allowed 300 passing yards in a game just once, against Boston College (325 yards, four TDs). Strong safety P.J. Mahone (seven picks) is the best player in the Falcons' secondary.
Bowling Green special teams vs. Tulsa special teams
EDGE: Bowling Green Bowling Green kicker Sinisa Vrvilo is 15 of 19 on the season, including 6-for-8 between 40 and 49 yards. Punter Nick Iovinelli is adequate, but has had two blocked. The Falcons' coverage units have been solid; the kick-return unit has been fine, the punt-return unit has been mediocre. Tulsa kicker Jarod Tracy has attempted just 12 field goals, making seven. He is 1-for-2 from beyond 40 yards. Punter Michael Such averages 38.9 per punt. Tulsa has returned just 14 punts, and Johnson is averaging almost 10 yards per return. Roy Roberts is a good kick returner. Tulsa's punt-coverage team is weak, but its kick-coverage unit has been good.
Bowling Green coaching staff vs. Tulsa coaching staff
EDGE: Bowling Green Bowling Green coach Gregg Brandon has his team in a bowl for the third time in his five seasons; each has come with a different starting quarterback. Todd Graham has led Tulsa to its third consecutive bowl appearance in his first season as coach. Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn oversees a powerful unit.
Bowling Green will win if
Sheehan has to be sharp, and the Falcons have to be productive on the ground (they're 7-1 when they rush for at least 100 yards). Bowling Green isn't going to be able to consistently stop Tulsa's offense, so a shootout is in the offing.
Tulsa will win if
Expect Smith and the offense to have a good day; it would be surprising if Tulsa doesn't score at least 35 points. Tulsa's defense needs to pick its poison: Will it be hurt more on the ground or in the air? Look for Tulsa attempt to try to slow the Falcons' rushing attack. If they have some semblance of success there, the Golden Hurricane should be fine.
Tulsa has been sloppy with the ball and has a minus-10 turnover margin. Bowling Green is at plus-4. If Bowling Green can come up with a few early interceptions off Smith, who has thrown 19 picks, this could become mighty interesting.
The picks
Huguenin's pick: Tulsa 42-31
Other Rivals.com expert picks:
Steve Megargee, national college football writer: Tulsa 38-31
Olin Buchanan, national college football writer: Tulsa 41-31
Bill King, Rivals Radio host: Tulsa 45-40
Check out the rest of the Rivals.com Expert Picks.

Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at mhuguenin@rivals.com.

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