Backfield - Tulsa runs the ball at you many different ways. Uril Parrish is their most accomplished running back this season as he has gained over 700 total yards with an average of 4.3 yards per carry. Obviously those are not the explosive type numbers that Fresno State has become accustomed to in their last three games, but it seems that Fresno State does a great job of making running backs look far better than they truly are (aside Reggie Bush). If Tulsa wants to run the ball and they spread it out diagonally Fresno will be vulnerable. Fresno has shown the entire year that they cannot stop running backs that can break outside. While the Dogs are usually very strong between the tackles, they are weak outside. However, while Fresno may be sub par at stopping the run, Tulsa is far weaker than the Dogs are in this department. Oklahoma beat Tulsa earlier this season in a game where their qb only threw for 42 yards. In that same game Oklahoma racked up over 250 yards rushing controlling the clock to win the game. Minnesota did the very same thing against Tulsa as did Memphis. With the speed Wendell Mathis possesses the Bulldogs will try to run the ball early and often. The key here is the use of Bryson Sumlin. If Cignetti finally decides to use Sumlin as a fullback the Dogs will run over Tulsa's defensive line. Without Vercher the Bulldogs do not have a great blocking fullback and Sumlin has the size and ability to block and run the ball at times during the game. Once again the advantage here has to go to Fresno State.
Receivers - Tulsa can be summed up in one name - Garrett Mills. He may be a Tight End but the fact is he is one of the best pass catching Tight Ends in the nation. With 83 receptions for 1183 yards this season Garrett Mills has to be looked as the single biggest threat against Fresno State. Unfortunately Fresno State does not have a defender who matches up well with Mills. Since Riley went down for the season Fresno State will have to rely on LB's that do not play as fast and physical as Riley had in the past. Sanchez is not the best of tacklers and sometimes needs to be in the right place at the right time to make the tackle. Just as Virginia threw to Heath Miller last year constantly, look for Tulsa to do the very same this year with respect to Mills. However, do not look for the receivers on the corners to gain much yardage. With Marshall and McCauley on the outside the Dogs are as good at the corner position as anyone in the nation. Fresno State's receiving game has progressed this year in a great way. Paul Williams has finally stepped up as one of the two go to guys on the offense. Both Williams and Fernandez have made great plays for the offense the entire season. At the same time both Jennings and Jamison are also threats at the receiver position. Jamison has great hands and Jennings is one of the fastest receivers in the nation. Occasionally, McDonald will be used in the Tight End spot as will Bear Pascoe when the dogs need a short yardage gain or something short over the middle. Overall Fresno State has the edge with respect to receivers, but Tulsa has the better receiving Tight End.
Special Teams/Situational Players - Fresno State will use Matt Rivera out of the backfield in third down situations as he is one of the better pass catching running backs in the Fresno State system. Adam Jennings is one of the better kick returners in the nation and Tulsa will have to decide if they are going to let Jennings work his magic on kickoffs. Tulsa does have one glaring advantage that may be a huge part of this game. Their filed goal kicker Brad Devault hit 16 of 18 field goals going 6 for 6 from 40 yards or more. Fresno State's kicker Zimmerman is questionable on anything longer than 35 yards. If this game gets into a field goal war expect Tulsa to come out on top. Overall Fresno State's special teams are obviously the better of the two, but the kicking game is going to belong to Tulsa.
To predict this game is hard because we don't know what Fresno State team will show up to play. Will it be the team that would have been ranked in the top 10 if they hadn't lost their last two games of the season, or are we going to see that team that did blow their last two games of the year spiraling into a three game losing streak and dropping out of the top 25 altogether? Tulsa will be up for this game and they are playing a team that is looked at as a much more accomplished football program. With that being said Fresno State will be ready to end their losing streak and will come out fired up to play in this final game of the season. The running game should be too much for Tulsa to handle as I look for the Dogs offensive line to control Tulsa's defensive line. Fresno State should control the time of possession and Pinegar does not have to play outstanding for the Bulldogs to win this game.
Fresno State - 34
Tulsa - 20
thanks to Neil for contributing to the FS FB Blog