Tulsa’s road slate looks tougher than its home schedule

The University of Tulsa could be favored to win almost all of their home football games this season.

And the Golden Hurricane could be favored to lose all but one of the road games.

Tulsa must travel to play No. 5 Ohio State on Sept. 10, then Fresno State on Sept. 24, then No. 13 Houston on October 15, then Memphis on Oct. 29, Navy on Nov. 12 and the final road game is at Central Florida  on Nov. 19.

TU will be heavy underdogs against Ohio State an Houston and the Hurricane were picked to finish fourth in West Division of the American Athletic Conference behind Houston, Navy and Memphis – all away games.  The only road game in which TU will be heavily favored is against UCF.

But Tulsa gets San Jose State, North Carolina A&T, SMU, Tulane, East Carolina and Cincinnati. The Cincinnati/TU game should be a toss up but the other five could easily wind up in the win column for Tulsa.

“I think our schedule is tough,” said Coach Philip Montgomery. “The West Division is extremely strong.

“I don’t think there’s a bad team on our schedule.”

No. 5 Ohio State was 12-1 last year, with its only loss to Michigan State 17-14. The Buckeyes were one game away from making the four-team national playoff.

Houston was 13-1 last year with a 38-24 Peach Bowl win over Florida State.

Memphis won eight in a row to start the season last year but lost four out of the last five, including a 31-10 loss to Auburn in the Birmingham Bowl. Memphis lost their quarterback to the NFL and their coach, Justin Fuente, to Virginia Tech. Navy went 11-2, including a 44-28 win over Pittsburgh in the Military Bowl.

San Jose State was 6-7 last year with a 27-16 loss to Georgia State in the Autonation Cure Bowl. Fresno State was 3-9.

Montgomery has a lot going for him in his second year at Tulsa, including a seasoned quarterback in Dane Evans and a team that is learning his system.

He estimated that only about 75 percent of the offense was available last year but the whole package is ready this fall.

“We made a lot of progress in the spring,” Montgomery said.

He likes what he has seen so far in fall drills.

“I thought defensively we’ve been flying around and playing really well,” Montgomery said. “I think our back seven, that was as quick as I’ve seen them in a long time. I’m really proud of what we’re doing there.

“I like our length and our speed back there (in the secondary) and our aggressiveness. I think those guys have really been competing for the ball at the point of attack. There’s not a lot of windows out there and they’re opening and closing real quick, so it’s good to see that. I think our linebackers have done a great job of expanding and working, and then sticking the run when they’ve got to. I thought our D-line played extremely well yesterday. Jerry U (Uwaezuoke) is really playing well. Hayden Carman is playing well, (and so is) Jeremy Smith. But, I think overall defensively we’re leaps and bounds ahead of where we were last year at this time.”

The offense is taking shape as coaches try to figure who will start on the line.

“I think the combination of guys we’ve got up front are really starting to come together,” Montgomery said. “I like the moves we’re making with them right now. I think our running backs have been really, really good. Dane (Evans) has made really good decisions until that last one right there at the end of that team (portion). But he’s operating like a fifth-year guy and that’s what we want.

“Receiver-wise is where we’ve got to get better. We’ve got guys coming off injuries that are just kind of still knocking the rust off. Most of them are just trying too hard, trying to make every play instead of just being smart and sitting down when they need to sit down. I love the progress that we’re making, but we’ve still got a long way to go.”

Rainy weather and summer heat have affected the drills but Montgomery welcomes the adversity.

“I think with the change of schedule, and having to bump things around that kind of took some of the juice out of the first day of pads, just because you’re all revved up for it this morning, and then weather happens like it does,” Montgomery said. “It’s Oklahoma, it’s going to change, so just hold on. We still had good energy and still got what we wanted out of it.”

Montgomery has seen a difference between this year and his preseason in 2015.

“They know what to expect when they come out here on the field and what it’s going to be about. From that standpoint it’s better. But I think all first days look great,” said Montgomery. “Everybody has butterflies. Everybody is anxious. Everybody is excited about the season starting. The anticipation of this day – you just sit there and talk about it all summer long, so when it finally gets here, it’s like your birthday. You hop out of bed, run down the stairs, and everybody is celebrating.”

Tulsa opens the 2016 season on September 3, when Tulsa hosts the San Jose State Spartans in a 6 p.m. game.