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A look at Tulsa's defense

You can read the breakdown of Tulsa's offense here.

While Tulsa has an impressive offense, their defense is equally impressive this season. In 12 games this season they've given up on average 19.5 points per game. While not an eye-popping statistic, it does rank 2nd in the Conference USA. They also only give up 287.8 yards per game, which is the best in the conference. If Utah is going to penetrate this defense, they will definitely need to bring their A-game. That means Ratliff will have to put together a performance identical to what he did against BYU a few weeks ago.

Here's a defensive break down of Tulsa.

Tulsa's Total Defense
Points Per Game Yards Per Game Pass Yards Rushing Yards Int
19.8 287.8 1,830 1,624 7

Tulsa's pass defense ranks 1st in the Conference USA and it's something Ratliff will have to overcome. If the Utes are going to be successful on offense, they will need a balanced offense that runs and passes the ball effectively. If Ratliff struggles and Utah can't get anything out of its running game, they'll most likely falter on offense and Tulsa should take advantage and pull out a victory. However if the Utes can chip away at their run defense, then go to the air and connect, Utah should be capable of putting points up on Tulsa's defense.

A better look at Tulsa's pass defense.

Tulsa's Pass Defense
Att/G Comp/G % Pass Yards Per Game TD 1st Downs
25.9 13.8 53.1 152.5 13 79

What jumps out at me here is Tulsa's ability to keep quarterbacks at around 50% passing. That's best in the conference and if Ratliff is held to that number, it's a good bet he'll have a bad night. Another statistic that really concerns me is how few first downs Tulsa allows. They're the only team in the C-USA that have not give up 100 or more first downs this season. To contrast, the Utes have had 114 first downs this season, which is third in the Mountain West Conference.

Here's a look at Tulsa's run defense.

Tulsa's Rushing Defense
Rush RushYds Avg Rush Per Game Rushing Yards Per Game TD
389 1,624 4.2 32.4 135.3 5

Tulsa has a solid run defense, yet it looks like teams opt more for the pass against Tulsa than they do the ground game. When teams do run on Tulsa, they average 4.2 yards per carry, which isn't terrible. That ranks T-5th (with 3 other teams) in the C-USA. If the Utes can average 4.2 yards per carry and keep ramming the ball down Tulsa's throat, they should be in good shape on offense.

This defense could cause the Utes problems, but it isn't the best they've seen this season. I believe TCU and Colorado State both have better defenses, and the Utes pretty much rolled them on offense. Yet I'm still nervous about Ratliff's performance. If he struggles, like he did against Boise State and Wyoming, the Utes will go down and go down hard. Yet he hasn't had a poor game since that Wyoming one and that was nearly two months ago. This should be a good game and I expect it to be fairly high scoring, but if Utah is going to win, they'll need a balanced offensive attack. Can a runner step up and lead Utah to its 6th straight bowl win?

Here's hoping Utah goes 8-5, which would be a respectable record.