GMAC Bowl Preview

The GMAC Bowl has been known for offense since the 2001 game became the highest-scoring one in bowl history. This year's matchup seems likely to continue that trend.

Tulsa (9-4) and Bowling Green (8-4) bring their high-powered offenses to Mobile, Ala., on Jan. 6 in the second-to-last game of the college football season.

Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Tulsa -5 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for the GMAC Bowl (Game Matchup).

Tulsa has the nation's top-ranked offense at 542.5 yards per game, and both teams average more than 32 points - while their respective defenses allow nearly that many.

The schools, however, will have to put together a pair of offensive onslaughts to come close to matching the 2001 GMAC Bowl between Marshall and East Carolina, which was won 64-61 in double overtime by Marshall.

Since then, this bowl has seen an average of 62.0 points combined each year, and Tulsa is a good candidate to help keep that number up. Behind the prolific passing of senior quarterback Paul Smith, the Golden Hurricane advanced to the Conference USA title game by winning the league's West Division, but lost to Central Florida for the second time this season and the Golden Knights went to the Liberty Bowl.

Tulsa, however, still advanced to its third straight bowl game and fourth in five years, with a chance to reach the 10-win mark for the first time since 1991.

"We're very excited about going to the GMAC Bowl," first-year Tulsa coach Todd Graham told the GMAC Bowl's official Web site. "We're looking forward to it. Our team has an opportunity to win 10 games, to tie the school record for most wins in school history. We're looking forward to being in Mobile on Jan. 6 and hoping to bring home a bowl championship."

Tulsa has lost two of its past three bowls, including a 25-13 defeat to Utah in last season's Armed Forces Bowl. This year, however, the Golden Hurricane's offense appears to make them much more formidable.

Other than games against Central Florida and Oklahoma, Tulsa didn't score fewer than 29 points or gain fewer than 438 yards in a contest.

Smith was the C-USA offensive player of the year after throwing for 4,753 yards and 42 touchdowns, both second to Texas Tech's Graham Harrell in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Smith, who also ran for 12 touchdowns, throws primarily to three freshmen who each have at least 950 receiving yards.

Brennan Marion has 1,244 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns, and easily leads the nation with a 31.9 yards-per-catch average. Classmate Trae Johnson has 1,039 receiving yards and 11 TDs, while freshman fullback Charles Clay has 955 receiving yards and seven total scores.

The Golden Hurricane also have a 1,000-yard rusher in junior Tarrion Adams (1,113 yards, nine total touchdowns).

Tulsa, however, also has the 11th-worst defense in the country, which allows 469.0 yards per game.

That should provide plenty of opportunities for Bowling Green's offense, which is near the top of the MAC in nearly every category and has averaged 37.8 points and 448.0 yards during the team's current four-game winning streak. Most recently, the Falcons beat Toledo 37-10 on Nov. 23, but missed out on a trip to the MAC title game and finished in a three-way tie for the East Division. Bowling Green lost the tiebreaker to Miami of Ohio.

Sophomore Tyler Sheehan has thrown for 3,123 yards and 23 touchdowns in his first season as the starter, completing 77 passes to his favorite target Freddie Barnes, who has 891 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. Five players for Bowling Green combined for 1,501 rushing yards.

Bowling Green has already displayed its offensive explosiveness once in Mobile, beating Memphis 52-35 at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in the 2004 GMAC Bowl. That was the Falcons' last bowl appearance before this season, but Bowling Green has won four straight bowl games.

"We are very excited about going to Mobile," Bowling Green coach Gregg Brandon told the school's official Web site. "To be returning to a bowl game says a lot about this senior class, and how they wanted to be remembered."

After going 6-5 in 2005, Bowling Green started 4-3 in 2006, but lost five in a row to finish with its worst record since 2000.

This is the third straight bowl game and fourth in five years for Tulsa, which lost to Utah in the Armed Forces Bowl last year after beating Fresno State 31-24 in the 2005 Liberty Bowl. The Golden Hurricane finished the 2003 season in the Humanitarian Bowl, losing 52-10 to Georgia Tech.

Tulsa and Bowling Green have met once, with the Golden Hurricane winning 45-10 at home in 1989.

This is the second season that the GMAC Bowl was scheduled amidst the BCS bowls after New Year's Day, giving its participants an opportunity to play in a bigger spotlight leading up to the Jan. 7 BCS national championship game between Ohio State and LSU.

"We think it's a great bowl and an opportunity on Jan. 6 to be the last bowl before the BCS game," Graham told the GMAC Bowl's Web site. "It's great national exposure for our program."

by: Staff Writers - Email Us

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