Tulsa quarterback Zach Smith looks to pass during the first half of the American Athletic Conference championship NCAA college football game against Cincinnati, Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)
- Tulsa is a 2.5-point favorite aginst Mississippi State on Friday in the Armed Forces Bowl at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas
- Tulsa All-American linebacker Zaven Collins has opted out of the game to prep for the NFL Draft
- See the odds, spread and analysis on the game below
Tulsa will look to end it turnaround season on a good note when it faces 3-7 Mississippi State at 12 p.m. ET Friday in the Armed Forces Bowl at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas.
Following three straight losing years, Tulsa is 6-2 with its losses coming against ranked teams in Oklahoma State in the opener and Cincinnati in the AAC championship.
Tulsa went 6-0 in the AAC during the regular season and has a 7-1 record against the spread in 2020.
Mississippi State is just 3-7 but playing in this game because the NCAA relaxed its bowl-eligibility minimum of having a .500 record during the pandemic-shortened season. The Bulldogs are 4-6 ATS.
Tulsa vs Mississippi State Odds
|Tulsa||-142||-2.5 (-114)||Over 46.5 (-108)|
|Mississippi State||+116||+2.5 (-106)||Under 46.5 (-112)|
Odds taken Dec. 29 from FanDuel
Tulsa is in a bowl for the first time since 2016. It had losing records each of the last three seasons, going a combined 9-27 and not winning more than four games in any year.
Unfortunately, they will be without All-American linebacker Zaven Collins. He has opted out to concentrate on preparing for the NFL Draft.
The redshirt junior recently won the Bednarik Award, which is presented annually to the best defensive player in the country.
Zaven Collins shoots the gap and brings the back down for a safety. That’s 6’3 256 lbs MOVING! pic.twitter.com/2LA6zFunwQ
— Lorenz (@lorenzz14) December 23, 2020
Tulsa’s defense that is allowing just 4.72 yards a play, the sixth-best mark in the FBS. However, the Golden Hurricane will certainly be affected by not having Collins.
Tulsa dropped a 27-24 heartbreaker to Cincinnati on the road in the conference championship game as a 13.5-point favorite. The Bearcats kicked the game-winning field goal as time expired.
Corey Taylor II led Tulsa with 130 yards rushing, the graduate student’s seventh career 100-yard rushing game and second this season.
Corey Taylor II showed off both his power & his speed on Saturday, racking up 85 yards and 3 touchdowns vs. #25 Memphis!#ReignCane 👑🌀 #HuntForTheCrown pic.twitter.com/V9y00MGZmm
— Tulsa Football (@TulsaFootball) October 30, 2019
He leads the team with 459 yards on the ground and three touchdowns in 85 attempts.
2021 CFP National Championship Odds Tracker
Some Good, Much Bad
Mississippi State’s two best games have been a 44-34 road upset of defending national champion LSU as a 13.5-point favorite in the opener and a 51-32 victory over visiting Missouri as a one-point dog in the regular-season finale.
In between, though, Mississippi State lost six of seven games in Mike Leach’s first season as coach.
Graduate transfer KJ Costello threw for an SEC-record 623 yards against LSU. However, the former Stanford quarterback cooled off considerably and eventually ceded the starting job to freshman Will Rogers.
KJ Costello is the first SEC QB to ever throw for 600 yards in a single game. Welcome to a Mike Leach offense Mississippi State
— George Jarjour (@gjarjour) September 26, 2020
Rogers has completed 69.6% of his passes for 1,828 yards and 10 touchdowns with seven interceptions. The picks are part of 26 turnovers committed by Mississippi State this season – including four against Missouri – which is second in the nation to Duke’s 39.
Freshman Jaden Walley has become Rogers’ favorite target with four straight 100-yard receiving games, including 129 yards on five catches against Missouri. He is the first true freshman in the FBS with four 100-yard games in a row since Western Michigan’s Jaime Wilson in 2012.
Jaden Walley just made @SportsCenter pic.twitter.com/OHiGJN0LNd
— that SEC podcast (@thatSECpodcast) November 29, 2020
Mississippi State true freshmen have accounted for 146 receptions, the most of any FBS team.
On defense, cornerback Emmanuel Forbes is tied for the SEC lead with four interceptions, two of which he has returned for touchdowns.
The First Time
Tulsa and Mississippi State are meeting for the first time. The Golden Hurricane, though, has lost its last six games against SEC opponents since beating Florida in 1979 and will be without its leader.
Mississippi State has more to play for here. Leach is using a lot of underclassmen and they get an opportunity to make a good impression ahead of the 2021 season. It is also easy to wonder if Tulsa has recovered emotionally from the heartbreaking AAC title game loss.
Pick: Mississippi State +2.5 (-106)
John Perrotto has been covering and writing about sports for various outlets for over 40 years. His work has appeared in the likes of USA TODAY, ESPN.com, SI.com, Forbes.com, The Associated Press, Baseball Digest, and more. John is based out of Beaver Falls, PA.