Confused? Check out the advanced-stats glossary here. Below, a unique review of last year's team, a unit-by-unit breakdown of this year's roster, the full 2016 schedule with win projections for each game, and more.
1. A fun rebuild
You have to enjoy the general problem-solving approach of AAC teams: If your team stinks, go out and get a new head coach who is either a) an offensive dynamo, b) an exciting up-and-comer, or c) both.
- Two years ago, UConn chose B.
- Last year, Houston, Tulsa, and SMU chose C
- This year, Tulane chose A, UCF chose C, ECU chose C (though ECU didn't actually stink), and in replacing an awesome coach who got hired elsewhere, Memphis chose C as well.
This hiring stuff is easy.
While defense-friendly coaches still reside at Temple, USF, UConn, and to some degree Cincinnati, the American Athletic Conference is becoming increasingly defined by offense. Houston brought in Ohio State's offensive coordinator. SMU brought in Clemson's. And perhaps a bit more under the radar, Tulsa brought in Baylor's and found immediate success (on one side of the ball).
Philip Montgomery was able to immediately boost Tulsa's offense by about seven points per game (adjusting for opponent), and he was able to do something Morris wasn't able to immediately do at SMU: significantly improve the win total. Tulsa bounced from 2-10 to 6-7, taking care of business against the bad teams on the schedule and beginning to restore the program after a devastating two-year slide.
Because you also have to play defense, Tulsa still wasn't a very good football team overall. But as Virginia Tech learned, the Golden Hurricane were relentless, going full-speed for 60 minutes and forcing opponents to keep scoring if they were to maintain distance. For the most part this wasn't a problem -- Oklahoma scored 52, Memphis scored 66, Cincinnati scored 49, Navy scored 44, Virginia Tech scored 55 -- but to beat Tulsa you were going to have to run a marathon. You were going to have to put in the work.
In the short-term, Montgomery's first season was an absolute success. Now the shift in perspective turns to the long-term. Tulsa has been one of the more steadily successful programs in what is now the AAC over the last 15 years or so; after bottoming out at 2-21 in 2001-02, the Golden Hurricane rebounded with three bowls in four years under Steve Kragthorpe and another three in four under Todd Graham. They won the Conference USA title in 2012 under Bill Blankenship but graduated a ton of contributors and didn't have the pieces to replace them. After winning 11 games that year, Tulsa won just five in 2013-14.
With so many other strong hires in this conference, Montgomery will have to figure out how to keep the program's ceiling high. Tulsa's five-year recruiting ranks just ninth in the conference, and per the 247Sports Composite, Montgomery's 2016 class ranked 11th, 10th in per-recruit average.
Montgomery should be able to field a strong offense moving forward -- without his own recruits in place, he was already able to bump Tulsa's Off. S&P+ ranking to 51st -- but will he be able to figure out the defensive sie of the ball? When Art Briles did at Baylor, it turned the Bears from a 7-6 or 8-5 program into a Big 12 champion, but Briles' recruiting classes don't rank at the bottom of the conference, either, at least not anymore.
The Tulsa defense was dragged down by youth in 2015, but that won't be a viable excuse for much longer. The Golden Hurricane have upside on offense and experience on defense; we'll get at least a passing glimpse at the program's overall ceiling under Montgomery this fall.
|Record: 6-7 | Adj. Record: 1-12 | Final F/+ Rk: 95 | Final S&P+ Rk: 94|
|Date||Opponent||Opp. F/+ Rk||Score||W-L||Percentile
|12-Sep||at New Mexico||99||40-21||W||75%||94%||+18.6||+23.0|
|17-Oct||at East Carolina||73||17-30||L||29%||17%||-9.7||-2.5|
|26-Dec||vs. Virginia Tech||59||52-55||L||40%||31%||+8.9||+10.5|
|Points Per Game||37.2||21||39.8||121|
2. Bad teams couldn't keep up. Good teams, however...
Thanks mostly to the fact that opposing defenders couldn't hold onto passes -- Tulsa suffered 66 pass break-ups on offense but only eight interceptions, the fourth-lowest INT-to-PBU ratio in the country -- turnovers luck benefited the Golden Hurricane by an average of about three points per game in 2015. That can define a season when you play in a bunch of close games, but that wasn't really the case here. Tulsa beat FAU by three in the season opener and lost to Virginia Tech by three in the finale; in between, no game was decided by fewer than nine points.
Tulsa was in its own way kind of a sure thing in 2015. Without exception, the Golden Hurricane lost to decent teams and beat bad ones.
- Games vs. S&P+ top 75
Average percentile performance: 27% (~top 95) | Record: 0-7 | Average score: Opp 48, TU 33 | Yards per play: Opp 7.4, TU 6.0
- Games vs. S&P+ No. 91+
Average percentile performance: 47% (~top 70) | Record: 6-0 | Average score: TU 42, Opp 31 | Yards per play: TU 6.1, Opp 5.6
The offense was prolific no matter what, just as opposing offenses were. But against better teams, Tulsa just had no hope of making stops. Oklahoma averaged 9.1 yards per play, Memphis 7.3, Cincinnati 7.9, Navy 8.2, and Virginia Tech 7.4.
Again, the Tulsa defense will be quite a bit more experienced this year. That will help. But is there enough pure talent here? And is there any semblance of the depth required to defend on a team with such a high-tempo, frequent-possessions offense.
|FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||40.4%||81||Succ. Rt. +||97.6||83|
|FIELD POSITION||Def. Avg. FP||31.7||106||Def. FP+||31.7||106|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity||4.9||29||Redzone S&P+||97.2||88|
|Q1 Rk||89||1st Down Rk||52|
|Q2 Rk||59||2nd Down Rk||41|
|Q3 Rk||78||3rd Down Rk||99|
Montgomery serves as his own offensive coordinator after holding the same role for Briles for three years. (He was also Briles' co-coordinator for the six years before that.) His vision is the Briles vision: Play at a relentless tempo, spread opponents from sideline to sideline, and do whatever the defense cannot stop.
At its best, Baylor's offense has been balanced and devastating; during 2013's Fiesta Bowl run, for instance, Lache Seastrunk and Shock Linwood rushed for 2,058 yards (7.2 per carry!) while quarterback Bryce Petty completed 62 percent of his passes for 4,200 yards and a 174.3 passer rating.
Tulsa wasn't completely ready for liftoff yet in 2015. The Golden Hurricane couldn't run the ball consistently against decent defenses (at least, not until the bowl game, when D'Angelo Brewer and Zack Langer gained 168 yards on 22 carries), and without play-makers well-versed in this system, passing downs were a bit of a challenge.
Still, Tulsa was committed to tempo and stretching the field both horizontally and vertically, and it worked well enough to triple the win total.
Senior quarterback Dane Evans returns in 2016, and a second year in this sytem could help immensely. The biggest issue he might face this fall is that the top layer of skill position help has been skimmed off. Langer is gone, as are two of last year's top three receivers (Keyarris Garrett, Conner Floyd). But when you look at what returns, that might not actually be an issue at all.
Note: players in bold below are 2016 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.
|Dane Evans||6'1, 210||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8404||305||485||4332||25||8||62.9%||40||7.6%||7.8|
|Chad President||6'3, 222||So.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8881||0||3||0||0||0||0.0%||1||25.0%||-5.3|
|Ryan Rubley||6'3, 220||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8048|
|Will Hefley||6'5, 207||RSFr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7920|
|Luke Skipper||6'3, 200||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8125|
|D'Angelo Brewer||RB||5'9, 185||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7852||162||837||6||5.2||4.3||40.1%||2||1|
|Ramadi Warren||RB||5'9, 210||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8151||71||475||6||6.7||8.7||40.8%||3||2|
|Dane Evans||QB||6'1, 210||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8404||56||254||2||4.5||2.3||46.4%||4||2|
|James Flanders||RB||5'10, 203||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8125||21||87||0||4.1||1.6||33.3%||0||0|
|Chad President||QB||6'3, 222||So.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8881||16||64||0||4.0||7.0||25.0%||0||0|
|Rowdy Simon||RB||5'8, 203||Jr.||NR||NR||7||35||1||5.0||2.0||42.9%||0||0|
|Keevan Lucas||WR||5'10, 195||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8004||6||46||0||7.7||3.3||66.7%||0||0|
|Javon Thomas||RB||6'2, 223||RSFr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7959|
|Rivals||247 Comp.||Targets||Catches||Yards||Catch Rate||Target
|Joshua Atkinson||WR||6'2, 208||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8113||108||76||1071||70.4%||22.9%||9.9||61.1%||54.6%||1.73|
|Justin Hobbs||WR||6'4, 207||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7593||53||32||551||60.4%||11.2%||10.4||54.7%||45.3%||2.11|
|Keevan Lucas||WR||5'10, 195||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8004||41||26||409||63.4%||8.7%||10.0||58.5%||48.8%||2.04|
|D'Angelo Brewer||RB||5'9, 185||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7852||17||15||107||88.2%||3.6%||6.3||58.8%||35.3%||1.45|
|Nigel Carter||WR||6'3, 205||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7883||4||2||27||50.0%||0.8%||6.8||0.0%||25.0%||2.16|
|Bishop Louie||IR||5'10, 172||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||NR||3||2||13||66.7%||0.6%||4.3||33.3%||33.3%||1.44|
|Chris Minter||TE||6'3, 247||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7756|
|Brodrick Umblance||WR||6'1, 184||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7893|
|Payton Prince||TE||6'4, 252||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7935|
|Jarion Anderson||WR||5'9, 179||RSFr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7793|
|Rob Riederer||TE||6'0, 230||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||NR|
|Josh Stewart||WR||6'4, 201||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8187|
|Jordan Brown||WR||6'2, 198||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8106|
|Keenen Johnson||WR||6'1, 190||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8090|
4. All the toys you need
At 6'0, 220 pounds, Langer provided some size in the backfield and was the clear short-yardage guy of choice, scoring 18 touchdowns. He was pretty good at falling forward, too, and avoiding losses. That's obviously important. But from an upside perspective, Langer was limited, and his absence this year might mean a breakout opportunity for Brewer and sophomore Ramadi Warren, who combined to average 5.6 yards per carry to Langer's 3.9.
Brewer rushed for at least 90 yards in five games, and in a brief feature audition, Warren rushed 33 times for 307 yards against UCF and Cincinnati. Warren's three fumbles in 71 carries were far too much, but if maturation leads to improvement in that regard, the Brewer-Warren combination could be devastating. It certainly was in the spring game: The duo combined for 199 yards on 19 carries (granted, against the Tulsa defense).
Meanwhile, the loss of Garrett and Floyd should simply mean more opportunities for Justin Hobbs and Keevan Lucas. Lucas was the star of the 2014 offense, catching 101 passes for 1,219 yards; projected over 13 games, he was on pace for 85 catches and 1,330 yards through four games but injured his knee against Houston and was lost for the season.
In Lucas' absence, Joshua Atkinson emerged as a solid target; meanwhile, Hobbs surged in the middle of his freshman season, catching 24 passes for 438 yards in a six-game span before fading a bit late.
Lucas' presence in the slot, with Arkinson and Hobbs lined up wide, could create a trio more prolific than Garrett-Floyd-Atkinson/Hobbs was last year. That's a pretty exciting thought, as the receiving corps was a strength in 2015.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||2015 Starts||Career Starts||Honors/Notes|
|Evan Plagg||LT||6'3, 292||Jr.||NR||NR||13||13|
|Chandler Miller||C||6'3, 290||So.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7785||13||13|
|Blake Belcher||OT||6'5, 304||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8063||1||13|
|Willie Wright||RT||6'3, 296||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8144||12||12|
|Zac Uhles||LT||6'3, 276||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8044||0||1|
|Alex Pagonis||LG||6'5, 320||Sr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7300||0||0|
|Tyler Bowling||RG||6'6, 325||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8095||0||0|
|Isaac Johnson||RT||6'7, 275||So.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8141||0||0|
|Blake Browning||C||6'0, 298||RSFr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7793|
|Deya Mhiesen||OL||6'7, 305||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8560|
|Rowdy Frederick||OL||6'4, 330||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8346|
|Tiller Bucktrot||OL||6'5, 350||Fr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8066|
|Waahid Muhammad||OL||6'7, 295||Fr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.8018|
5. Dane took a lot of hits
The 2015 college football season was defined in part by quarterback injuries. Baylor, TCU, Notre Dame, Florida State, Oregon, and others all had their respective seasons defined in part by QB availability.
Evans took nearly every non-garbage time snap for Tulsa in 2015, but he took a lot of hits in the process, and it was perhaps a bit lucky that he didn't end up on the sidelines for a while. Tulsa's retooled line kept defenders out of the backfield in the run game (with help from Langer's ability to fall forward) but struggled in pass protection. Evans' willingness to extend plays to look downfield didn't really help in this regard. But regardless of fault, Evans took 40 sacks while rushing 56 additional times. That's risky.
Tulsa's line must replace two starters but returns four: 2014 starter Blake Belcher returns after tearing his ACL in the first game of last season. His return, along with that of veterans like Zac Uhles and Alex Pagonis (and the addition of big JUCO Deya Mhiesen) should assure that Tulsa's line is at least as effective as it was last year.
Still, 2015 backup QB and former four-star prospect Chad President should be ready to go -- Evans might be due a knock or two.
(Meanwhile, in my opinion, the fact that Tulsa signed linemen with the beautiful names of Rowdy Frederick and Tiller Bucktrot should have earned the Golden Hurricane's class an automatic spot in the top 25.)
|FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||46.6%||113||Succ. Rt. +||86.8||114|
|FIELD POSITION||Off. Avg. FP||28.9||92||Off. FP+||29.0||89|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity||4.7||93||Redzone S&P+||87.2||116|
|Q1 Rk||123||1st Down Rk||122|
|Q2 Rk||96||2nd Down Rk||123|
|Q3 Rk||126||3rd Down Rk||103|
6. Bill Young's worst defense in a very, very long time
Bill Young has been around a long time. From 1988 to 2012, he spent 24 seasons as a power-conference defensive coordinator at Ohio State, Oklahoma, USC, Kansas, Miami, and Oklahoma State. His steady, conservative defenses were key in complementing prolific offenses at Kansas and OSU -- Kansas ranked 21st in Def. S&P+ in 2005 and 35th during 2007's 12-1 run, and Oklahoma State ranked 20th in 2009 and 21st during 2011's 12-1 run.
Young's defenses were never particularly elite in recent times, but they were always solid and sound.
2015 must have driven Young crazy. After a few years at the high school level, he returned to college football, inherited a unit that had fallen apart in 2014 (from 51st in 2013, the Golden Hurricane plummeted to 122nd in 2014) and found he couldn't do much with it. His approximate bend-don't-break principles couldn't apply with a defense that bent just fine but broke repeatedly. Tulsa allowed 259 gains of 10-plus yards last fall; no one else in the country allowed more than 241. Granted, part of that was because of tempo and the stress that the offense was putting on the defense, but ... when you allow 18 more gains of 10-plus yards than the wretched Texas Tech defense, you've got problems.
Improvement is likely in 2016, and not only because of "it almost literally can't get worse" principles. Four key linemen were sophomores in 2015, and the Golden Hurricane return six of eight linemen, five of six linebackers, and seven of nine defensive backs. Injuries luck was on Tulsa's side for the most part, but experience was not. This won't suddenly become the top-50 defense Young is accustomed to (especially if injuries are more of a problem), but it would be a surprise if the Golden Hurricane didn't attain some level of competence here.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Jeremy Smith||DE||6'5, 260||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7652||11||31.5||3.8%||6.5||2.5||0||0||0||0|
|Jesse Brubaker||DT||6'3, 270||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8093||13||23.0||2.8%||4.5||2.0||0||1||2||0|
|Frankie Davis||DE||6'2, 240||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8004||12||16.5||2.0%||1.0||0.0||0||1||0||0|
|Kolton Shindelar||DT||6'6, 276||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7883||12||10.5||1.3%||2.5||2.5||1||0||0||0|
|Jerry Uwaezuoke||DT||6'3, 286||Sr.||NR||NR||13||9.5||1.2%||1.5||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Myles Mouton||DE||6'3, 257||So.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7578||13||8.0||1.0%||3.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Jake Hanks||DE||6'2, 240||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7752||6||3.0||0.4%||1.0||1.0||0||0||0||0|
|Hayden Carman||DT||6'4, 289||Sr.||NR||NR||13||2.5||0.3%||0.0||0.0||0||1||0||0|
|Michael Anderson||DE||6'3, 250||RSFr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.7900|
|Johnnie Williams||DE||6'5, 275||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8159|
|Tyarise Stevenson||DT||6'4, 320||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7954|
|Jimmy Nelson||DE||6'3, 248||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7903|
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Matt Linscott||STAR||6'1, 223||Sr.||NR||NR||13||84.0||10.3%||16.0||5.0||1||4||1||0|
|Trent Martin||MIKE||6'2, 232||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8089||13||81.5||10.0%||14.0||2.0||0||3||4||0|
|Craig Suits||WLB||6'0, 220||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.7300||11||37.0||4.5%||5.5||0.0||1||1||1||0|
|Petera Wilson||MIKE||6'2, 220||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8607||13||14.5||1.8%||2.5||1.0||0||1||1||0|
|C.J. Gooden||LB||6'1, 227||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8133||10||13.0||1.6%||1.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Conner Sherwood||LB||6'3, 232||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8053||13||6.5||0.8%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Tim Quickel||LB||6'2, 225||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7593||11||4.5||0.5%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Khari Harding||LB||6'1, 235||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8595|
|Robert Revels III||LB||6'3, 234||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8213|
7. Run stuffs were a relative strength
The pass rush was, like most things, a weakness for Tulsa in 2015, but the Golden Hurricane appeared to thrive at getting defenders into the backfield against the run. Linebackers Matt Linscott, Trent Martin, and Craig Suits, combined for 35.5 tackles for loss, and only seven were sacks. That's a lot of run stuffs. Combined with a decent presence from ends Jeremy Smith and Myles Mouton, and it appears you've got the components of a disruptive run defense.
The problem, however, was obvious: Making stops against the run helps a lot more when you aren't also a) giving up a ton of big run plays and b) giving up a lot of big gains on passing downs. That strong safety Michael Mudoh made 13 percent of Tulsa's tackles, 20-plus more than either Linscott or Martin, tells a story. Young had some nice, aggressive pieces, but he couldn't use them without risking a 30-yard gain.
Again, to the extent that this was an experience issue, things could improve. But you have to wonder about the level of athleticism and actual talent, too. Like Young, this front seven has a lot to prove in 2016.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Jeremy Brady||FS||5'10, 197||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7600||13||59.5||7.3%||0||0||2||3||0||0|
|Kerwin Thomas||CB||5'10, 170||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7906||13||52.0||6.3%||2||0||2||12||1||0|
|Jordan Mitchell||FS||6'2, 187||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7793||13||31.5||3.8%||0||0||0||3||0||0|
|Will Barrow||CB||5'9, 172||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8444||11||24.5||3.0%||0||0||0||3||0||0|
|McKinley Whitfield||SS||6'4, 212||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8389||13||17.0||2.1%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Johnell Celistan||CB||6'2, 197||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.7900||13||10.0||1.2%||0||0||0||1||0||0|
|Samuel Gottsch||S||6'2, 190||So.||NR||NR||13||7.5||0.9%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|J.R. Reed||FS||6'1, 191||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7981||13||3.5||0.4%||0||0||0||1||0||0|
|Reginald Robinson II||CB||6'1, 185||RSFr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8345|
|Keidrien Wadley||CB||6'1, 185||RSFr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7300|
|Keanu Hill||CB||6'2, 185||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7855|
8. Pass defense ... won't be worse?
Stressed by big run plays and a lack of a pass rush, the secondary didn't have much of a chance in 2015. It held up reasonably well in wins -- 55 percent completion rate, 126.9 passer rating -- but against the good teams it got consistently rocked (69 percent, 165.4).
Losing their leading tackler by far, Mudoh, isn't a good thing, nor is losing corner Darrell Williams. But there does appear to be some play-making abilty here: corner Kerwin Thomas defensed 14 passes, and Will Barrow and Johnell Celistan each got hands on passes in backup opportunities. The safety position could be well-manned with senior Jeremy Brady, junior Jordan Mitchell, and sophomores McKinley Whitfield and J.R. Reed. Add in JUCO transfer Keanu Hill and three-star redshirt freshman Reginald Robinson II, and it appears the secondary's got the athletes and some semblance of experience. One last box to check: more help from the front seven.
|Dalton Parks||6'3, 209||Sr.||68||41.2||6||32||18||73.5%|
|Preston Soper||6'0, 205||Jr.||86||59.5||16||1||18.6%|
|Redford Jones||5'10, 175||Jr.||58-60||14-18||77.8%||3-7||42.9%|
|Bishop Louie||KR||5'10, 172||Jr.||20||19.5||0|
|Ramadi Warren||KR||5'9, 210||So.||12||20.3||0|
|Special Teams S&P+||112|
|Field Goal Efficiency||105|
|Punt Return Success Rate||12|
|Kick Return Success Rate||96|
|Punt Success Rate||50|
|Kickoff Success Rate||114|
9. Kickoffs > punts
Good news: Dalton Park's punts are mostly unreturnable, and last year, at least, with Conner Floyd as return man, punt returns were a strength.
Bad news: Punts didn't matter much in Tulsa games. Floyd got all of eight return opportunities all year.
Worse news: Kickoffs and kick returns, far more frequent occurrences, were a weakness. The result was a field position magin that ranked 99th in the country. Tulsa forfeited about 2.8 yards per possession to opponents based solely off of field position. With that defense, that was beyond problematic. And now Floyd's gone.
|Date||Opponent||Proj. S&P+ Rk||Proj. Margin||Win Probability|
|3-Sep||San Jose State||92||3.4||58%|
|10-Sep||at Ohio State||14||-24.8||8%|
|24-Sep||at Fresno State||94||-3.5||42%|
|19-Nov||at Central Florida||99||-1.5||47%|
|Projected wins: 5.5|
|Five-Year F/+ Rk||-7.1% (75)|
|2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk||89 / 79|
|2015 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin*||4 / -4.0|
|2015 TO Luck/Game||+3.3|
|Returning Production (Off. / Def.)||70% (73%, 67%)|
|2015 Second-order wins (difference)||4.8 (1.2)|
10. Plenty of bad teams still on the schedule
With a tougher schedule, Tulsa might not have found the six wins requisite (in most years) for a bowl appearance. The Golden Hurricane didn't beat any teams with much of a pulse and really only came close once. That wasn't their fault, mind you, but there's no question the schedule helped.
The schedule might be an asset again in 2016. Tulsa faces six teams projected worse than 90th in S&P+, and while the projection has the Golden Hurricane remaining about the same as last year (93rd), it's not hard to see them improving on both sides of the ball. Dane Evans is in his second year of running the Montgomery's system now, and despite some losses, it's impossible not to be pretty excited about what he'll have stocked in the skill position drawer. Meanwhile, experience should help the defense to improve at least a little bit unless injuries strike in a rougher way than last year.
Barring massive injuries, then, I view the No. 93 projection as a bit conservative, and I would expect something in the 7-5 range for Tulsa this time out.
A lot will be dictated by two early-season tossups against Mountain West teams. Go 2-0 against SJSU and Fresno State, and Tulsa is sitting pretty. Go 0-2, and suddenly a sixth win is hard to find.
Philip Montgomery passed his Year Zero test with flying colors and should be able to put up points to his heart's content in 2016. Whether his defense can actually stop decent offenses occasionally, however, will dictate his ceiling both this year and into the future.