GMAC Bowl Preview:

Posted: January 6, 2009 in college football

You want offense with your bowl games? Tired of games in the 20’s? That likely changes tonight in the GMAC Bowl from Mobile, AL as small-school scoring stalwarts Ball State Cardinals take on the Tulsa Golden Hurricane in the appetizer game before the main course of the national championship.

Coaching changes provide a heavy subplot to the offensive numbers – Ball State Head coach Brady Hoke accepted the head gig at San Diego State, an upgrade in weather if not in potential recruiting. Ball State wanted to give offensive coordinator Stan Parrish the head job (formerly head coach of Kansas State before Bill Snyder v1.0) but I wonder how much of that brilliance is due to QB Nate Davis, RB MiQuale Lewis and even the injured Dante Love over the past couple years. Davis believes in Parrish and has said he plans to stay for his senior year.

Tulsa offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn took the same title at Auburn and leaves his no-huddle turbo attack to once co- now solo OC Herb Hand. Head coach Todd Graham just signed a ten-year extension with the university and is committed to the speread offense. [ESPN]

After the jump, more cool facts to impress the ladies at the watch party and a breakdown of two amazing running offenses.

Cool facts to impress the ladies at the watch party

Fiscal conservatives may ask why GMAC kept its sponsorship of the game despite asking for federal bailout money (Chrysler may be pulling all golf sponsorships), but I would question why you would want a business in trouble to stop marketing their services and investing in advertising, but that is just me. [Right Side News]

Tulsa is the smallest school in the FBS with just over 4,000 students enrolled. Cliff Clavin approves of this info nugget.

When Ball State has the ball

(Our #13 offense versus our #87 defense)

This is likely where the game will be won, especially if Tulsa can step up the pressure and stop the run – however unlikely and without historical precedent that may be. Tulsa likely shudders at the tape of Cardinal RB MiQuale Lewis gashing defenses for a nations-best 22 rushing TDs since TU stands at #105 in allowing almost 8 yds/rush (105th out of 120). Lewis likely benefits from the talent of QB Nate Davis at the helm, as the threat of him stretching the defense keeps opponents from bringing a safety close to the line. Davis’ overall numbers are down in 2008 versus 2007 but one could argue he is more effective. I expected TE Darius Hill to be a huge performer after Dantel Love’s neck injury, but he has been steady at best as the Cardinals have leaned on the running game.

Tulsa will likely have to schematically commit to stopping Davis or Lewis, but has not shown the capacity to do either even against worse offenses like ECU. Tulsa pass efficiency defense is #110 in the country at 148.6, essentially allowing a below average bunch of QBs to collectively look like #15 ranked Todd Reesing or Brian Johnson. OUCH. Big edge to Ball State.

When Tulsa has the ball

(Our #3 offense versus our # 26 defense)

This will be a fun matchup as most defenses perform worse than normal against the Tulsa attack – Tulsa by far leads the nation with more than 77 plays per game and that tempo is very difficult for defenses to adapt. Give the Cardinals a bit of an edge as they have had three weeks to prepare rather than one.

It still will not be easy – Tulsa again sported a 3:2 run:pass ratio where the pass sets up the run. No one stands out on TU because they spread th opportunities around, but QB David Johnson performed admirably up until November when the interceptions started to flow (nine before, nine after). But looking at the offense as a whole, they lead the country in yards/play (7.3) and are second to neighboring Oklahoma in pts/gm (47). RB/TE Charles Clay may be one of the best dual threats in the game, and senior halfback Tarrion Adams leads the rushing attack averaging over 100 yds/gm. Deep threat ne plus ultra Brennan Marion injured his knee in the CUSA title game and is listed as doubtful, but there are lots of options to make up for the slack.

I would argue that TU has yet to play a defense of Ball State caliber. UCF, Arkansas and ECU slowed down the Malzahn attack a little bit, and it boils down to holding Tulsa under 30 points gives you a great chance to win. You may remember that Tulsa, on this same field and bowl last year put a 63-7 whooping on Bowling Green – that is always a threat but the Cardinals are much better equipped to pressure the LOS and slow down TU than the Falcons were. Slight edge to Tulsa regardless.

Other stat to know

Snapshot of the turnover margin gives an edge to Ball State, but look under the covers and it suggests a bigger edge to the Cardinals. in 13 games, BSU is +8 and TU is -8. The burning memory in MAC fans brains is likely the five cough-ups against Buffalo which was completely out of character for Nate Davis and company – expect that to have been a point of emphasis for the new Coach Parrish in game prep and create a solid edge for Ball State

What Vegas says

Game opened at Ball State a 2.5 pt fave and a 77 total, but has moved to BSU -3 and 75 so that extrapolates to a 39-36 Cardinal win. Jason Whitlock likely approves (Kansas City Star columnist, measured civil rights activist and BSU football grad). [The Big Lead interview].

Probably useless trend here, but BSU is 9-2 ATS in the last three seasons against non-MAC opponents. That likely reflects when they play up (Nebraska and Michigan almost-wins) but not as much when they play like competition. [The Spread]

What Mullins says

Weather could be nasty in Mobile which could affect the scoring, and both teams have coaching turmoil but I will say that Ball State is less so since Parrish is a long-time coaching veteran.  Ball State also has better specialists in the kicking game. Tulsa in general and QB Johnson in particular have been sloppy lately also.

Ball State 38 Tulsa 30

  1. Mike says:

    Just passing by.Btw, you website have great content!

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