December 22, 2010

Hawaii Bowl: Tulsa at Hawaii

HAWAII BOWL

Tulsa (9-3) at Hawaii (10-3)
WHEN: Dec. 24, 8 p.m.
WHERE: Aloha Stadium, Honolulu.
TV: ESPN (Ron Franklin will do play-by-play, with Ed Cunningham as the analyst).
THE LINE: Hawaii by 10.5.
RECORDS VS. BOWL TEAMS: Hawaii 3-1, Tulsa 3-3.
NCAA SCHEDULE STRENGTH: Hawaii 79th, Tulsa 89th.
BCS RANKINGS: Hawaii 24th, Tulsa unranked.
OFFICIATING CREW: From the Pac-10
COACHES: Hawaii- Greg McMackin (0-1 in bowls); Tulsa- Todd Graham (2-1 in bowls).
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH: Hey, it's Christmas Eve, and what says "Christmas Eve" more than gathering around the tree, breaking out the egg nog and watching the Hawaii Bowl? The game is worth watching, though; this should be one of the highest-scoring bowl games this season, as both offenses can move up and down the field. Plus, ESPN has given viewers a present by assigning Ron Franklin - a great play-by-play guy - to this one.
KEY STATS: Tulsa is fifth in the nation in total offense (503.5 yards per game) and 10th in scoring offense (39.7 points per game); Hawaii is eighth in total offense (496.8 ypg) and ninth in scoring offense (39.9 ppg).

For fans who like offensive football, Christmas is going to come about four hours early.

Hawaii and Tulsa meet in the Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve, with kickoff at about 8 p.m. Eastern time. A typical Hawaii game averages 62.6 points; the typical Tulsa game has 69.6 points.

But forget the gaudy offenses. Tulsa coach Todd Graham says the outcome will depend on the defenses.

"With this game, everybody wants to talk about our offenses and throwing the ball all over the place," he said. "The bottom line in this game, just like any game: Whoever plays the better defense will win the game."

Hawaii is worried about Tulsa's "fast-break" offense.

"Tulsa executes at a fast tempo," Hawaii defensive coordinator Dave Aranda told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. "Good execution plus the fast tempo creates problems."

It will be a hope game for Hawaii, one of three teams - San Diego State and SMU are the others - that will be playing their bowl game in their home stadium. Hawaii is 3-2 in five previous trips to this bowl.

Tulsa comes in having won six in a row and eight of nine. Hawaii has won nine of 10, with the only loss in that span a 42-7 setback at Boise State.

WHO GETS THE EDGE?

Hawaii rush offense vs. Tulsa rush defense: Hawaii passes the ball two-thirds of the time, and when the Warriors do run, it's with Alex Green, who has rushed for 1,168 yards and 17 TDs. He has had four 100-yard games, all in the second half of the season. Tulsa has been solid against the run, though the Golden Hurricane's three worst defensive performances vs. the run came in the final month of the regular season. Edge: Tulsa.

Hawaii pass offense vs. Tulsa pass defense: This could get ugly for Tulsa. Hawaii leads the nation in pass offense and Tulsa is next-to-last in pass defense. Hawaii QB Bryant Moniz has thrown for 4,629 yards and 36 TDs, and four receivers have at least 48 receptions. Greg Salas and Kealoha Pilares share the go-to receiver job; they have combined for 194 catches for 2,981 yards and 27 TDs. Tulsa does have 19 interceptions, but the Golden Hurricane also have surrendered 30 TD passes. They've allowed six foes to throw for at least 334 yards, and five opponents have thrown at least three TD passes. Tulsa's pass rush is nothing special, but Hawaii has allowed 34 sacks. Edge: Hawaii.

Tulsa rush offense vs. Hawaii rush defense: Tulsa is 15th nationally in rush offense at 219.3 yards per game, and there are four players who have rushed for at least 333 yards. Dual-threat QB G.J. Kinne leads the way with 557 yards. The fly sweep is a big part of Tulsa's offense, and the Golden Hurricane scored at least two rushing TDs in every game but two. They had seven games with at least 200 rushing yards and four more with at least 173. Hawaii has been relatively good against the run; the Warriors were gashed early in the season, but once league play started, only Boise State had much success on the ground. Edge: Tulsa.

Tulsa pass offense vs. Hawaii pass defense: Tulsa throws for 284.2 yards per game, with is 16th nationally. Kinne, who began his career at Texas, has thrown for 3,307 yards and 28 TDs, with 10 picks. He threw at least two TD passes in nine regular-season games. He has a deep receiving corps to work with; in addition, FB Charles Clay is a huge weapon out of the backfield, with 41 receptions and seven TD catches. Hawaii has good pass-defense numbers, but teams that wanted to throw on the Warriors had success, for the most part. Still, Hawaii leads the nation with 23 picks. Hawaii's pass rush has been OK, and despite Kinne's mobility, Tulsa gives up 2.0 sacks per game. Edge: Tulsa.

Hawaii special teams vs. Tulsa special teams: Hawaii has a lot of exciting skill-position players, but the Warriors' return games are surprisingly pedestrian. While the kickoff coverage is good, the punt coverage has been poor. And that should be worrisome to Hawaii coaches. Tulsa WR Damaris Johnson is one of the best return men in the nation; he averages 27.4 yards per kickoff return and 12.5 per punt return, and has taken one back for a score in both roles. Hawaii K Scott Enos is 17-of-21, but his longest make is just 40 yards. Alex Dunnachie is a good punter. Tulsa K Kevin Fitzpatrick is solid from inside 40, but his accuracy wanes from longer distances and he has had four blocked. P Michael Such has a solid leg and is a big reason Tulsa is one of the best teams in the nation when it comes to net punting. Tulsa's kickoff coverage generally is good, as the Golden Hurricane allow just 18.9 yards per return - but they've also allowed two to be taken back for touchdowns. Edge: Tulsa.

Hawaii coaches vs. Tulsa coaches: A dip was expected when June Jones left Hawaii for SMU, but Greg McMackin has kept Hawaii among the top teams in the WAC. The Warriors still use an offshoot of Jones' pass-happy attack, but there now is a bigger emphasis on defense. Offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich, a former Jones quarterback, has shown good acumen as a play-caller this season. Tulsa coach Todd Graham has kept the Golden Hurricane near the top in Conference USA; ironically, Tulsa tied with Jones' SMU team for the C-USA West title this season, but SMU won the head-to-head meeting. Graham has co-coordinators on both sides of the ball. Edge: Even.

X-factor: This is a home game for Hawaii, and how Tulsa performs in the first quarter should have a huge affect on the crowd. If the Golden Hurricane can take an early lead, that bodes well. On the other hand, an early deficit will make things tough for Tulsa.

Hawaii will win if: This one is on the defense. Hawaii is going to have success throwing the ball - maybe even a lot of success. But if Tulsa is well-balanced offensively, it, too, is going to score a lot. Hawaii needs to make Tulsa one-dimensional on offense, which means stifling Kinne when he tries to run.

Tulsa will win if: This one is on the offense. Tulsa's secondary likely is going to get torched. But if the defense can come up with two or three stops, the offense has the potential to put up a ton of points, too. Running the ball effectively is vital. A big reason: It will keep Hawaii's offense off the field. Plus, running effectively means the secondary will be some susceptible to some deep passes.

EXPERT PICKS

Olin Buchanan: Hawaii 45, Tulsa 42
Tom Dienhart: Hawaii 48, Tulsa 45
David Fox: Hawaii 45, Tulsa 38
Mike Huguenin: Tulsa 48, Hawaii 44
Steve Megargee: Hawaii 34, Tulsa 27

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




 

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