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2017 Week 3 Preview: Tulsa Golden Hurricane at Toledo Rockets

The offenses should not disappoint in this potential shootout.

Ohio v Toledo Photo by Andrew Weber/Getty Images

Two city schools that start with 'T' in states that start with 'O.'

Tulsa and Toledo actually share more similarities than just their name brands. The two teams fared similarly at the end of the 2016 season, finishing 10-3 and 9-4 respectively. In fact, the two programs played similar offensive styles a year ago, creating an even more eerie resemblance to each other.

Dominant passing offenses? Check. Both teams finished in the top 20 in passing touchdowns last season. Toledo quarterback Logan Woodside and Tulsa quarterback Dane Evans both eclipsed the 3,300-yard mark through the air in 2016.

Versatile rushing game? Check, once again. Toledo's two-headed backfield of Kareem Hunt and Terry Swanson thrived last year with a combined 2,058 rushing yards and 14 total touchdowns. Tulsa's duo of James Flanders and D'Angelo Brewer rushed for 1,629 and 1,425 yards, finishing with a combined 25 rushing touchdowns.

Both teams featured strong receiving corps and often won by way of their offenses.

In fact, Tulsa's offense was so powerful, it became the first program in FBS history to finish with a 3,000-yard passer (Evans), two 1,000-yard rushers (Flanders and Brewer) and two 1,000-yard receivers (Keevan Lucas and Josh Atkinson).

To wrap up the history lesson, these two teams sported magnificent offensive units a year ago, and some of the remains still exist on the teams' rosters. For Toledo, Woodside still takes snaps under center, Swanson currently leads the backfield, and returning wideouts Cody Thompson and Jon'Vea Johnson help open up the Rockets' passing game.

Tulsa's graduations hit harder. Evans, Flanders, Lucas, and Atkinson all completed their time in the heartland of Oklahoma, clawing from a 2-10 record and firing out a double-digit win season to close out their college careers.

Get to know Tulsa

The Golden Hurricane were snubbed out of the final 2016 AP rankings with a 10-3 record and a Miami Beach Bowl victory. The three quality losses were at the hands of Ohio State, Houston, and Navy. If Golden Hurricane football records were displayed in a graphical format, Tulsa reached a local maximum in 2016 containing loads of senior talent on the roster. The team is not nearly as strong as last year, as evidenced by the Golden Hurricane's dreadful 59-24 loss to Oklahoma State.

But last week, Philip Montgomery's team showed that it still lives and dies by its juggernaut of an offense. In the only FBS vs. FBS matchup to surpass the 100-point total this season, Tulsa defeated Louisiana 66-42 in the Golden Hurricane's home opener. The AAC member's offense mobilized down the field with ease, accumulating 667 total yards and an astounding nine touchdowns in the shootout.

The average scoring drive lasted 9.1 plays and Tulsa only called the punter onto the field twice in the victory. The offense faltered once in the first half, fumbling the ball on one possession. However, the high-octane unit amended the turnover situation by scoring 38 points on its other six first half possessions.

Scoring 66 points will win nearly 100-percent of football games (that don't involve a Big 12 team), but Tulsa's defensive ineptitude may raise some red flags. The Golden Hurricane yielded 42 points and nearly allowed 600 total yards of offense to a Louisiana team that went toe-to-toe with an FCS program the week before. The Ragin' Cajuns carved through the Tulsa defense with a balanced air and ground attack.

Toledo's offense works best when establishing a run-pass balance, featuring capable athletes in both elements of the game. Here are several Rockets' offensive stars, followed by Golden Hurricane players to keep an eye on in Saturday's matchup:

Players to Watch

Logan Woodside, QB, Toledo

Woodside's start to 2017 is reminiscent of former Western Michigan Zach Terrell's opening act in 2016. Both quarterbacks serve(d) as the leader of a preseason Mid-American Conference favorite. But since their teams found early success, the MAC powers relied less on the passing game to start the year, therefore taking away the quarterbacks' throwing reps in favor of risk-free running plays.

Woodside tossed an FBS-high 45 touchdowns last season in 13 games. This season, the senior quarterback only has two passing touchdowns, complemented with zero interceptions. He has attempted 58 passes, completing 38 — resulting in a stellar completion percentage of 65.5%. Terrell, likewise, thrived off of accurate passing, and Woodside seems to be following a similar route in 2017.

Toledo's emergence in the running game, with a three-back system has relieved a lot of pressure off of Woodside, and the Rockets offense still continues to succeed.

Woodside has led Toledo to a 2-0 record this season, throwing for 546 yards as the team's star player. When called upon, he is as capable as a passing threat as any quarterback in the nation. In order to compete with Tulsa's offense, Jason Candle might finally turn to Woodside and his arm to dictate the Rocket offense on Saturday.

Toledo's triumvirate of running backs

Heading into the year, Terry Swanson was supposed to fill in for the absence of former halfback Kareem Hunt (who is already dominating in the NFL with the Chiefs after just one career appearance). When Hunt missed time due to injury in 2015, Swanson nearly attained 1,000 yards on the ground, finishing the 10-2 season with seven rushing touchdowns.

Although Swanson starred against the Nevada Wolf Pack with a 102-yard performance in Week 2, Toledo's backfield proved to contain much more depth than just the senior in the No. 2 jersey.

Sophomore Art Thompkins is the smallest of the three. At just 5-feet-8-inches tall and 180 pounds, Toledo utilizes Thompkins as the team's speed back. After seeing the field scarcely in 2016, Thompkins is becoming more involved in the Rockets' offense. Although he is the only member of the trio to not post a 100-yard rushing game, he impressed in Week 1 against Elon with 99 yards on 15 carries. The Pittsburgh native followed his season debut with 54 yards at Nevada in Week 2.

The youngest of the three is redshirt freshman Shakif Seymour. Seymour burst onto the scene in Toledo's 47-13 victory over Elon with a 102-yard, one-touchdown outing in his first game of his collegiate career. Seymour continued to function within the offense against Nevada, earning 14 carries last Saturday.

In terms of carries, Swanson ranks first with 38, followed by Thompkins (27) and Seymour (25). In the yards department, Thompkins leads with 153 yards, Seymour has contributed 150, and Swanson has earned 137 thus far. Swanson appears most often in the end zone though, contributing four touchdowns, in comparison to Seymour's one.

Chad President, QB, Tulsa

Mr. President implemented his own executive act in Tulsa's offense: he gets to decide whether to run or pass at any moment.

The first-year starting quarterback immediately established himself as a dual-threat option in the road loss to Oklahoma State on August 31. President finished with 69 rushing yards in the contest, following it up with a two rushing touchdown day against Louisiana. Through the air, the sophomore quarterback has thrown for 421 yards and one touchdown through two games.

With just two collegiate starts under his belt, President is still adjusting to the difficult position that is a quarterback of a "Power Six" school. Few Tulsa quarterbacks will mimic the footsteps of Dane Evans (10,782 passing yards and 80 touchdowns in his three years as the team's primary starter), but President appears to be a valid replacement for the Golden Hurricane legend.

D'Angelo Brewer, RB, Tulsa

Brewer already has found a spot in the early-2017 record books. The senior halfback bullied the Louisiana defense en route to an FBS-high single-game 262 yards last Saturday. Brewer achieved this feat on 38 carries, carrying the ball into the promise land three times for touchdowns. After a forgettable performance in Stillwater, the returning 1,400-yard back showed he is more than capable of leading Tulsa's offense in the post-Evans, post-Flanders era.

Toledo's run defense limited Nevada to only 109 yards rushing in the 37-24 decision in Week 2, showing promising capability of stuffing the run. The sturdy Toledo defense that looks to counter Brewer is captained by senior outside linebacker Ja'Wuan Woodley, who has produced seven tackles, one sack, and one interception for the Rockets in two games.

Key to the Game

Get Stops, Don't Allow the Big Play

This strategy applies primarily to the Toledo offense. The Rockets' offense has not matched the firepower of Tulsa's offense, scoring more often after long drives than explosive plays. Toledo's one incredibly long score this year transpired against Elon on a 99-yard kickoff return touchdown by receiver Diontae Johnson.

Meanwhile, Tulsa has scored from 55, 50, and 69 yards out, consistently ruining defenses with the occasional big play. Entering the Glass Bowl as underdogs, Tulsa must use this characteristic to its advantage, aiming for the home run ball on passes and creating high-risk, high-reward opportunities in the run game.

Toledo's defense one-upped Nevada for the majority of last week's game, forcing fumbles and punts whenever Nevada attempted to gain offensive momentum. Tulsa can easily acquire this much-needed momentum by frequenting plays to the end zone, attempting to beat Toledo with down the field play calls. If this method works, the Golden Hurricane can be well on their way to 50 points once again, forcing Toledo to provide answers on the offensive side of the ball.

If Toledo limits these opportunities, the Golden Hurricane offense may struggle in the manner that they did at Oklahoma State. Brewer couldn't produce anything in the rushing attack and President was highly inaccurate in his first career start. Toledo's defense is mature enough to handle a scoring powerhouse like Tulsa, providing a significant advantage to the Rockets at home.

Game Notes

Tulsa travels to the Glass Bowl in Ohio for a non-conference battle against Toledo. The game kicks off at 7 p.m. EST, and the Rockets open as 8.5-point favorites. This event is streamable on ESPN3, part of WatchESPN's online programming.

The teams are scoring at a similar rate. Tulsa is putting up 45 points per game compared to Toledo's 42. But there is a stark contrast in the defenses. Toledo only allows 18.5 points per game versus to Tulsa's alarming 50.5 mark.

The current series is tied 1-1, but both matchups occurred before Super Bowl I, the moon landing, and especially long before the creation of the Internet. Toledo won the first matchup in 1962, but Tulsa avenged the loss by edging out the Rockets in 1964. Saturday's competition will determine who owns the bragging rights in the renewed non-conference "rivalry" from the 1960s.

Prediction

Toledo's defense is on a different level than Tulsa's, and that will be the deciding factor in this one. There is no doubt that Tulsa is capable of pulling off the upset due to the team's high-octane offense and ability to score in a multitude of ways. But unlike Louisiana, Toledo features a competent defense that can respond and adjust to Tulsa's up-tempo offense.

The Rockets also win the quarterback edge with Logan Woodside. Given Woodside's receivers and running backs, Toledo's offense is more than capable of obtaining 40 or 50 points at the Glass Bowl on Saturday evening. Expect a somewhat high-scoring shootout, but the Rockets will eventually land on top of the Hurricane.

Prediction: Toledo 48, Tulsa 38