2008 GMAC Bowl - Bowling Green vs. Tulsa
Tulsa QB Paul Smith
Tulsa QB Paul Smith
Posted Dec 27, 2007

2008 GMAC Bowl Preview & Breakdown - Bowling Green vs. Tulsa

Bowling Green (8-4) vs. Tulsa (9-4)

Jan. 6, 8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN

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2008 GMAC Bowl History, Each Team's Best Bowl Moments, & More

National Rankings
Bowling Green Tulsa
Total Offense
44th  416.92 ypg 1st  542.54 ypg
Total Defense
78th  413 ypg 111th  469 ypg
Scoring Offense
35th  32.08 ppg 9th  39.46 ppg
Scoring Defense
79th  29.50 ppg 105th  35.38 ppg
Run Offense
87th  130.08 ypg 41dt  167.92 ypg
Run Defense
107th  205.33 ypg 97th  195.92 ypg
Pass Offense
19th  286.83 ypg 3rd  374.62 ypg
Pass Defense
29th  207.67 ypg 108th  273.08 ypg
Turnover Margin
32nd  0.33 106th  -0.77
Bowling Green
at Minn. W 32-31 OT
at Mich St L 28-17
Temple W 48-35
W Kent W 41-21
at Bos Coll L 55-24
at Miami Un. L 47-14
at Kent St W 31-20
Ohio L 38-27
Akron W 44-20
at E Mich W 39-32
at Buffalo W 31-17
Toledo W 37-10
at UL Mon W 35-17
BYU W 55-47
Oklahoma L 62-21
UAB W 38-30
at UTEP L 48-47
Marshall W 38-31
at UCF L 44-23
SMU W 29-23
at Tulane W 49-25
Houston W 56-7
at Army W 49-39
at Rice W 48-43
C-USA Champ.
UCF L 44-25
Position Ratings
relative to each other
BG 5 highest
1 lowest
3.5 Quarterbacks 4.5
3 RBs 4
3.5 Receivers 4
2.5 O Line 3
3.5 D Line 2.5
3 Linebackers 4
2.5 Secondary 2
3 Spec Teams 2.5
3 Coaching 3

If you enjoy wide-open offenses, and are indifferent to the logos on the helmets, Bowling Green and Tulsa in the GMAC Bowl ought to be a sneaky good undercard to the main event 24 hours later in New Orleans.

Tulsa entered the 2007 season with so much uncertainty and change, yet wound up weaving a solid nine-win season, a berth in the Conference USA championship game, and a third straight bowl invitation.  Although it’s not the Liberty Bowl, the prize for winning that title game, the Hurricane and rookie head coach Todd Graham are excited about an opportunity to showcase their high-powered offense, and make amends for losing so badly to UCF on Dec. 1.

Much of the credit for Tulsa’s success belongs to offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, whose hurry-up, no-huddle offense compensated all year for a defense that was routinely exposed.  The Hurricane leads the country in total offense, featuring an attack that averages 167 yards a game on the ground and 374 through the air.  Malzahn’s triggerman is QB Paul Smith, a senior that didn’t initially look like a perfect fit for the new system, but wound up accounting for a nation’s-best 54 touchdowns, 42 through the air.  The high-water mark of the regular season was a stunningly easy 56-7 dismantling of defending Conference USA champ Houston that put Tulsa in the West Division driver’s seat.

With a mighty finishing kick in November, Bowling Green established itself as the surprise of the MAC in 2007.  The Falcons reeled off four consecutive decisive wins, and got a little bit of help from Miami (OH) to return to the postseason for the first time in three years.  They also opened the year with a win over Minnesota and a good showing at Michigan State, evidence that head coach Gregg Brandon has his youthful roster headed in a northerly direction after going 10-13 the last two seasons.

Not unlike its opponent in Mobile, Bowling Green has been fueled by a pass-happy offense that prevailed despite being forced to consistently bail out the defense.  And not unlike Tulsa, the catalyst of the attack is its quarterback, Tyler Sheehan.  In his debut as the starter, the sophomore threw for 23 touchdowns and more than 3,000, showing nifty feet when the pocket shrunk.  Best of all, he got more efficient as the season progressed, throwing a dozen touchdowns to just a pair of picks in the final six games.  It won’t be Tim Tebow vs. Chad Henne, but Paul Smith vs. Tyler Sheehan figures to deliver a fair amount of fireworks on the eve of the National Championship game.

Players to watch: … Somehow, someway, Bowling Green will be getting the ball in the hands Anthony Turner, Sheehan’s competition before the season, who’s morphed into a multi-dimensional weapon.  The Falcons’ leading rusher, he’s a threat to throw a pass when defenses least expect it, and has scored a touchdown in each of the last six games.  A case of getting the most out of your resources, Turner will have to be watched very closely by the Tulsa defenders.  The defense is cautiously optimistic that LB John Haneline will be able to return from foot surgery which shelved him for the final three regular season games.  If the Falcons’ leading tackler happens to be a scratch, they’ll rely more heavily on freshman Glen Stanley, who racked up 37 tackles and didn’t skip a beat when pressed into action in November.

All that preseason hand-wringing over who’d catch passes in Malzahn’s new system wound up being wasted energy.  While rookie Trae Johnson and JUCO transfer Brennan Marion emerged as Smith’s go-to wideouts, freshman Charles Clay filled a valuable role as a hybrid of an H-back and a tight end.  Together, they’ve helped give the Hurricane a diverse ensemble of pass-catchers capable of stretching a defense or picking up a first down on the intermediate routes.  Marion is a home-run hitting revelation for the offense, catching 11 touchdown passes, and averaging more than 30 yards on 39 catches.  Yes, the Tulsa defense has been a disappointment, but don’t blame the linebackers.  Seniors Chris Chamberlain, Nelson Coleman, and Alain Karatepeyan each have at least 100 tackles, helping form the best trio in Conference USA.  Karatepeyan leads the team with 17 tackles for loss and six sacks, providing a pass rush that isn’t always available from the fellas up front.

Bowling Green will win if... it’s able to mix the run in with the bread-and-butter passing game.  The best way to beat Tulsa is to pound the ball at its vulnerable front wall, keeping Smith and Co. on the sidelines.  The Hurricane defense is 97th nationally at stopping the run, and when it’s allowed more than 200 yards on the ground this year, the team is 1-4.  On the flip side, when the Falcons run for more than 150 yards, they’re 4-1.  They need to get Turner in the flow early on handoffs and direct snaps, and dynamic freshman Willie Geter back from an ankle injury.

Tulsa will win if... Tarrion Adams runs well.  The Hurricane is unbeaten when he rushes for more than 100 yards, giving the offense a level of balance and unpredictably that’s hard to stop.  The Bowling Green defense, which allows 30 points a game and is 106th nationally against the run, is in no position to mount a stand against an offense that’s equally adept between the tackles as it is through the air.  If Adams gives the Falcons a reason to press up to stop the run, Smith will carve them up for his fourth 400-yard game of the year.

What will happen: Both Tulsa and Bowling Green will follow the GMAC script, freely moving up and down the field, and scoring plenty of points.  With a few more weapons on offense, the Hurricane will pull away in the second half, barely avoiding overtime in the waning minute.

Line: Tulsa -4 ... CFN Prediction: Tulsa 45 ... Bowling Green 37

2008 GMAC Bowl History, Each Team's Best Bowl Moments, & More