2008 GMAC Bowl Preview
Ball State (12-1, 8-0; MAC) vs. Tulsa (10-3, 7-1; C-USA)
January 6th, 2009 @ 8:00 PM (EST) – ESPN – Mobile, Alabama
The final bowl game before the National Championship is decided will be the GMAC Bowl, which features two of the best non-BCS conference teams. Both Ball State and Tulsa have been ranked in the top 25 this season and both were favored to win their respective conference championship games before being upset. This game came about thanks to some maneuvering by both teams so that each could find themselves in a tougher matchup. That resulted in Ball State’s release from the Motor City Bowl and gives us a fantastic appetizer to the National Title Game.
Ball State has had an exceptional season. They finished the regular season undefeated and no team came within a touchdown during that run. However, it all came crashing down in the MAC Title Game when five turnovers, including two fumble recoveries returned for touchdowns, ruined their perfect season. Both fumble returns came when Ball State was in field goal range. To make matters worse, head coach Brady Hoke resigned to rebuild San Diego State, leaving former offensive coordinator Stan Parrish in charge. Luckily, the Cardinals feature superstar junior Nate Davis at quarterback and can score with anyone. Normally, I would hold a coaching change against a team in a bowl game but Parrish’s promotion from within combined with the lateness of this game makes me believe that Ball State will play very well despite the turmoil.
Tulsa also had a great season. The Golden Hurricane featured one of the most dangerous offenses in the country and jumped out to an 8-0 start, giving them dreams of a BCS berth. However, Tulsa dropped three of their last five games, including the C-USA title game and will now look to end their season on a positive note. Tulsa’s main culprit in their losses was turnovers: They combined for 15 in their three losses and were held under 30 points in each game. Simply put, if Tulsa scored 30 points this season, they won. If they didn’t, they lost every time. Their defense was also better than expected, allowing over 30 points only three times, though one was an absolutely pounding by Houston where the Golden Hurricane allowed seventy points! Quarterback David Johnson has thrown for over 3,800 yards and 43 Touchdowns and will look to make up for a 5 interception performance against ECU in the C-USA title game.
There will be points in this game. No wait, let me correct that: There will be a TON of points in this game. The two quarterbacks have combined for the highest total of passing yards in any bowl game this season! However, both defenses haven’t performed terribly this year either and will do their best to at least limit the opponent’s scoring. This game will come down to turnovers. Both teams lost their final regular season game because of a huge number of turnovers and will look to protect the football. In the end, I trust Ball State’s Nate Davis with the football a little bit more and I like the Cardinals’ defense a little bit better (no one scored more than 30 offensive points against them all season). This game is going to have a plethora of points but in the end I think that Nate Davis will cap off his great college career with a shootout victory over a very game Tulsa team in the GMAC bowl.
GMAC Bowl Pick: Ball State 48 - Tulsa 45
by Matt Baxendell
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