This year’s Miami Beach Bowl is a tale of two teams going in different directions. After getting pummeled by Ohio State, Tulsa has won eight out of its last 10 games. The Golden Hurricane’s two losses were by a combined nine points to Houston and eventual American Athletic Conference West Division champion Navy.
Central Michigan started the season on a tear, including an improbable win at Oklahoma State early. Unfortunately after that the Chippewas lost six of their remaining 10 games.
While this game does look lopsided on paper, both teams have shown the ability to play with anyone on their schedule. This will be the third meeting between these two schools, but the first since 1987.
Miami Beach Bowl: Central Michigan vs. Tulsa
Kickoff: Monday, Dec. 19 at 12:30 2:30 p.m. ET
Where: Marlins Park (Miami)
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Tulsa -11.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Central Michigan’s Cooper Rush vs Tulsa’s Pass Defense
Rush is definitely the x-factor for the Chippewas. The Chippewas’ senior quarterback has shown an ability to spread the ball around and check down, especially when flushed out of the pocket. CMU has seven different receivers with at 10 receptions, including three with 40 or more. Rush also is fairly accurate (61.1 percent), something else the Golden Hurricane will need to prepare for.
Tulsa has shown vulnerability against the pass this season. Ranked 90th in the country in passing yards allowed per game (248.3 ypg), the Golden Hurricane should expect Central Michigan to take to the air to try and exploit this apparent weakness.
2. Central Michigan’s Defense Can Keep the Score Low
While the Chippewas have had trouble scoring, especially over the last five games (21.2 ppg), their defense has been able to keep them in most games throughout the season.
Central Michigan was only truly blown out once, against MAC champion and undefeated Western Michigan 49-10. Take away the 49 points Virginia put up on the Chippewas and they’ve only allowed an average of 28.2 points per game in their four other losses.
However, with a low-scoring offense the magic number for Tulsa seems to sit at 30. If the Golden Hurricane, who are 11th in the FBS at 41.4 points per game, can reach that number it may be tough for Central Michigan to compete.
3. James Flanders and D’Angelo Brewer Can Hurt You
Tulsa enters this game with not one but two capable running backs. Both Flanders and Brewer have rushed for more than 1,300 yards this season. While neither is that big of a threat in the passing game it really doesn’t matter. Stopping both this season has been a tall task, as evidenced by the fact Tulsa is eighth in the FBS in rushing at 261.8 yards per game.
Central Michigan enters the game ranked 56th against the run, allowing 161.3 yards per game. With Flanders averaging 127 rushing yards per game and Brewer 110, stopping both will be near impossible.
Expect Tulsa’s offensive game plan to be the exact opposite of Central Michigan’s. A heavy dose of Flanders and Brewer could make for a long day for the Chippewas.
Tulsa’s pass defense is definitely suspect and Central Michigan should be able to take advantage of a secondary that has given up plenty of yards this season.
However, it the Golden Hurricane are able to control the flow of the game by keeping the ball on the ground with their top-10 rushing offense, the Chippewas’ chances of scoring will be greatly reduced.
Each team’s offensive strength appears to pose an issue for the other’s defense. This could make for an interesting matchup.
But in the end Tulsa will reach that magic number of 30 points, something Central Michigan has only done three times this season in games in which it was won in regulation.
Prediction: Tulsa 44, Central Michigan 28
— Written by Jeremy Simon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and editor-in-chief of BlueGoldSports.com, a must visit for any and all West Virginia Mountaineer fans. Follow BlueGoldSports.com on Twitter @Blue_GoldSports.
(Top photo courtesy of Getty Images)