The Tulsa Golden Hurricane travel to Ohio Stadium for the first time since the 2016 season, searching for their first win of this college football campaign when they take on Ohio State. Tulsa is coming off a close 28-23 loss at Oklahoma State.
The "oh so close" misfortune Tulsa had in 2020 seems to be continuing, as Tulsa went 6-3 but lost three games by a combined total of 14 points. This season, Tulsa fell to FCS UC Davis 19-17 in Week 1 before the loss at Oklahoma State.
Adding to the frustration this season is that Tulsa actually outperformed Oklahoma State in total yardage (347 to 313) and time of possession (31:33 to 28:27) but just did not have enough to win the game. Tulsa quarterback Davis Brin completed 19 of 27 passes for 224 yards while rushing for 37 yards. Tulsa was also aided in the scoring department by linebacker Justin Wright, who returned an interception 55 yards for a touchdown.
Ohio State sits at 1-1, nursing its wounds and psyche after losing the home opener to Oregon 35-28. Following the game, Ohio State head coach Ryan Day said, "I felt like it was a game that we were never in control of. It felt like they ran the ball, and we didn't do a very good job of running the football, and we weren't able to convert on fourth downs. And because of that, we're always kind of playing catch up. We must learn from this. You have to grow from this and we still have a lot of football left, and figure out where the execution issues were, and get them fixed."
The game was the first in Ohio Stadium with fans in attendance since the 2019 season, a 28-17 win over Penn State on Nov. 23. The loss to Oregon also snapped a 23-game home winning streak, which was the third-longest active streak in the country.
Tulsa at No. 9 Ohio State
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 18 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Ohio State -26
When Tulsa Has the Ball
Tulsa's passing game has been struggling, as Brin is without a touchdown through the air so far this season. Tulsa may want to try to duplicate what worked well for Minnesota and Oregon in their games versus Ohio State, and that is to run the ball. Tulsa ran for 123 yards against Oklahoma State, although Brin was the leading rusher at just 37 yards. If Deneric Prince (16 att., 34 yds., TD) and Anthony Watkins (4, 28, 1) can effectively run the ball and control the clock, the frustration for Ohio State's fans with the defense will only grow. Prince had a good game against UC Davis in the season opener (16, 179, 1), so he may be someone the Buckeyes will key on in this contest.
Ohio State is at a crossroads defensively, having given up 269 yards on the ground in the loss to Oregon. The Buckeyes have given up 30 or more points to their opposition in their first two games, which is the first time that has happened in Ohio State's illustrious history. Defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs is under fire from the fans, recognizing that things have to change and improve for the Buckeyes to get back into the College Football Playoff conversation.
When Ohio State Has the Ball
Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud had a strong second game, completing 35 of 54 passes for 484 yards and three touchdowns. The yards were the second-highest single-game total in school history. In addition, the Buckeyes had three receivers with more than 100 yards for the first time in school history. Chris Olave had 12 catches for 126 yards, Garrett Wilson had eight for 117, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba had seven for 145.
Despite the gaudy passing numbers, head coach Ryan Day is concerned about the offensive imbalance. Miyan Williams (14 att., 77 yds.) and TreVeyon Henderson (12, 54, 1) were the primary rushers, but overall Ohio State struggled to effectively establish a consistent, productive running game.
Defensively, Tulsa is led by safety Kendarin Ray and linebacker Yohance Burnett. Ray and Burnett lead the Golden Hurricane in tackles, with 19 for Ray, and 16 for Burnett. Tulsa has racked up an impressive 18 tackles for a loss. If Tulsa can confuse Stroud, who has shown reluctance to run the ball so far, the Golden Hurricane may be able to put the Buckeyes in long-yardage situations that could frustrate their offense.
The Buckeyes have their collective backs up against the wall, feeling the pressure after a bitter home loss for the first time since 2017. It remains to be seen what Ohio State will do defensively against Tulsa, but look for the Buckeyes to come out focused and determined to show the college football world that it may be premature to write them off as contenders for a spot in the College Football Playoff.
Prediction: Ohio State 42, Tulsa 21
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— Written by Chip Minnich, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He also is podcasting for Buckeye Scoop. Follow him on Twitter @ChipMinnich.