The 2020 Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl is set to kick off at 12pm ET on December 31. The game matches Mississippi State and No.24 Tulsa. It is the first meeting between the two teams. We’ll take a look at the matchup here.
No.24 Tulsa Golden Hurricane (6-2)
Tulsa had a very strong season with only two close losses coming in their first and last games. They took Oklahoma State into the fourth quarter before the Cowboys were able to score 13 and beat Tulsa 16-7. The Golden Hurricane ran off six wins in a row after that, several in close affairs, before losing on a game-ending field goal by Cincinnati.
The offense is nothing flashy and very balanced. Zach Smith commands a passing offense that averages a modest 241.1 yards per game. Smith has had his ups and downs so don’t be surprised to see some struggles. The backfield is manned by a three-headed attack from Corey Taylor II, Deneric Prince and T.K. Wilkerson. The three are nearly even in carries and combine for 1,177 yards and 10 touchdowns.
What the offense lacks the defense makes up for. Tulsa’s defense was behind only Cincinnati in the American conference. They force a lot of turnovers and are excellent against the pass allowing just 194.1 yards per game. They’ll be without future NFL player Zaven Collins but should still have a strong showing.
Mississippi State Bulldogs (3-7)
The Bulldogs started off the season with a bang, breaking records and dominating the defending national champs in Baton Rouge. The rest of the season was a struggle. They went 1-7 over their next eight games, the lone win a close 24-17 win over lowly Vanderbilt. The Bulldogs have fought hard over the last month which paid off with a big 51-32 win over Missouri.
Outside of the first and last game of the season, the offense has been a disaster. The Bulldogs were the second worst team in points per game and failed to score a touchdown in two games this year. The quarterback issues have been evident, forcing a switch early on in the season.
Freshman Will Rogers has been the answer at quarterback. After a rocky start the Mississippi native has adjusted well to Mike Leach’s offense. He’ll need to limit mistakes for the one-dimensional offense to be successful against Tulsa.
Defensively Mississippi State has been good. They’ve been effective against both the run and the pass but are stronger against the run. NFL prospect Erroll Thompson leads the team in tackles and seems to be involved on nearly every play. The senior linebacker announced his intentions to 100% play in the bowl game last week.
This game is shaping up to be a defensive battle. Neither offense has much fire power but we have seen games where Mississippi State can break it loose. Should Tulsa keep the passing game in check, the Golden Hurricane should stand a good chance to win a close one.
Tulsa: 21, Mississippi State: 20
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