Tulsa, Oklahoma - Led by the most prolific offense in the nation, Tulsa has cracked the Top 25 for the first time in 17 years.
Staying there, however, won't be easy.
On Sunday, the 22nd-ranked Golden Hurricane host Central Florida, which defeated Tulsa twice last season.
After several weeks of being left just outside the poll, Tulsa (7-0, 4-0 Conference USA) entered the Top 25 for the first time since ending the 1991 season ranked 21st. The Golden Hurricane did it with their biggest offensive outburst in more than 40 years.
Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Tulsa –23 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 89% of bets for this game have been placed on Tulsa –23 (View College Football bet percentages).
Tulsa racked up 791 yards of offense en route to a 77-35 victory over Texas-El Paso last Saturday. The point total was the team's best since a 77-0 win over Tampa on Oct. 14, 1967, and the yardage total its highest since amassing a school-record 798 yards in a 58-0 win over Idaho State on Oct. 7, 1967.
The Golden Hurricane lead the nation with 624.7 yards and 56.6 points per game, and they're off to their best start since the 1942 squad opened 10-0 before losing to Tennessee in the Sugar Bowl.
While Tulsa is back in the Top 25, coach Todd Graham is hoping it's not a distraction.
"Everybody's patting me on the back, and you can't do that, you can't buy into that," Graham said. "You've got to stay focused, you've got to stay hungry, you've got to stay focused on one thing, and that's going 8-0."
Tulsa also boasted the country's top-scoring offense last year when it went 10-4, but the Golden Hurricane were no match for Central Florida (2-4, 1-1).
Tulsa lost 44-23 to the Knights on Oct. 20, 2007 and 44-25 in the Conference USA championship game Dec. 1. Tulsa averaged 424.5 yards of offense in those games, but turned the ball over seven times.
UCF allowed an average of 26.6 points in 14 games last season, but its defense has not been as strong this year, yielding an average of 32.0 points in its last five contests.
The Golden Hurricane are still not about to take the Knights lightly.
"We definitely know how good a team they are," Tulsa defensive end Moton Hopkins said. "Last year was a reminder we have to be ready for every game."
Both games against UCF were in Orlando last season, and Tulsa hopes to have better luck this year at Skelly Stadium, where it's won eight straight and 16 of 18.
The Golden Hurricane are led offensively by David Johnson, who's fifth in the nation in passing yards (2,397) and first in touchdown passes (31). Johnson, a backup last season, threw for 434 yards and five TDs last Saturday.
Johnson's favorite target Brennan Marion leads the Golden Hurricane with 28 receptions for 755 and seven touchdowns. Last week, Marion had six catches for 233 yards and three scores, and set a Conference USA record for yards per catch in a game (38.8).
While Tulsa's passing attack is difficult to stop, its ground game is just as effective.
The Golden Hurricane ran for 321 yards and five touchdowns against the Miners, and are averaging 339.3 rushing yards in their last four games.
While Tulsa is coming off its best offensive performance in decades, UCF had a horrible game on the offensive side of the ball in last Saturday's 20-14 loss to Miami.
The Knights managed 78 yards on 64 plays and were forced to punt a school-record 12 times. They were held to four rushing yards on 27 attempts.
Central Florida's scores came on Joe Burnett's 91-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and Johnell Neal's interception return for a TD.
"We strive to get respect," said Burnett, who also fumbled a punt return. "We fell short."
A win over a Top 25 opponent might earn the Knights some respect, as they've lost 18 straight against ranked opponents since becoming a Division I program in 1996.
In the only meeting between the schools, Tulsa defeated UCF 44-27 in the 2005 conference championship game.
Top Betting Trends:
All games in this series since 1992
UCF is 2-1 against the spread versus TULSA since 1992
UCF is 2-1 straight up against TULSA since 1992
2 of 3 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL since 1992
Games over the last 3 seasons
UCF is 2-0 against the spread versus TULSA over the last 3 seasons
UCF is 2-0 straight up against TULSA over the last 3 seasons
2 of 2 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons
Key Player Injuries
[RB] Phillip Smith has been dismissed from the team. - Disciplinary - 08/0
[WR] AJ Guyton expected to miss entire season - ACL - 08/07/08
[WR] Rocky Ross out for the season - Collarbone - 09/29/08
[OL] Jeramy DeVane has left the team - Personal - 10/05/08
[LB] Jordan Richards left last game %27?%27 - Undisclosed - 10/06/08
[LB] Cory Hogue is expected to miss the rest of the season - Leg - 10/06/0
No significant injuries.
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Posted: 10/21/08 6:57PM