The University of Tulsa announced its 2011 Football Schedule that features four nationally ranked teams.
TU's first year head coach, Bill Blankenship, may have the most challenging start of any new Division I head coach opening at pre-season #1 Oklahoma on September 3rd.
The final USA Today poll had three of Tulsa's 2011 opponents ranked among the top-10, including No. 6 Oklahoma (No. 6 AP) No. 7 Boise State (No. 9 AP) and No. 10 Oklahoma State (No. 13 AP). All three schools could possibly be ranked in the top-10 at the start of next season. In addition, Conference USA opponent UCF finished the year ranked 20th nationally in the USA Today poll and 21st in the Associated Press rankings.
The Hurricane finished the 2010 campaign ranked 24th nationally in the final Associated Press poll after posting a 10-3 season record.
"We've known that this is the non-conference schedule we would be facing. I think it's a tremendous opportunity. You can certainly look at it a lot of different ways. Ultimately, what we're looking for is an opportunity to prove ourselves with BCS opponents and we get that with in-state opponents as well as one of the top teams nationally in Boise State," said Blankenship. "Those three games are certainly the marquee matchups, but I think that does a disservice to the rest of our schedule if that's all you look at. The fact that we come back with Conference USA Eastern Division teams we haven't seen in two years gives us a chance to see those teams. UCF has been really strong, and we also have Marshall and UAB back on the schedule."
Tulsa's schedule also includes a total of six post-season Bowl teams from this past season –– Oklahoma (Fiesta Bowl), Boise State (MAACO Bowl), Oklahoma State (Alamo Bowl), SMU (Armed Forces Bowl), UTEP (New Mexico Bowl) and UCF (AutoZone Liberty Bowl).
The Hurricane will open the season against the University of Oklahoma on September 3rd in Norman. The Sooners have already being projected as the nation's number one-ranked team by various media outlets. OU finished the 2010 season with an overall 12-2 record, while winning the Big 12 Championship and the Fiesta Bowl.
A week later, Tulsa opens Conference USA play on the road against the Tulane Green Wave (Sept. 10) at the Superdome in New Orleans. It marks the fourth consecutive season that Tulsa has opened league play on the road.
"I would guess our players don't know anything different. We've done it (opening the C-USA slate on the road) successfully for three years in a row now," said Blankenship. "The fact our guys have done that and navigated it is a positive. It's probably not ideal, but I think the thing we did a good job of last year was being a team that finished well. The idea of getting some more home games toward the end of the schedule can be exciting."
Tulsa will move to non-conference action for the next three weeks beginning with a home contest against Oklahoma State on Sept. 17th. It's the first time since the 2000 season that the Cowboys have visited H.A. Chapman Stadium.
A trip to Boise State follows the OSU Cowboys the next weekend as the Hurricane faces the Broncos on Sept. 24th. Tulsa and Boise State were co-members of the Western Athletic Conference from 2001 to 2004, but the two teams last met in the 2008 campaign when the nation's fifth-ranked Broncos pulled out a 28-21 victory at Chapman Stadium in front of a sellout crowd of 30,000 fans.
Tulsa closes out the non-conference schedule a week later as the Hurricane hosts North Texas on October 1st. Tulsa leads the series against the Mean Green, 17-6, and captured a 56-26 victory in the last meeting in 2008.
After an open week, the Hurricane begins seven straight weeks of Conference USA action, as the schedule has Tulsa on a home and away rotation throughout the league slate.
East Division foe UAB is back on the schedule after a two-year layoff and visits Tulsa on Oct.15th. The Hurricane has won the previous two meetings in the series, including an entertaining 38-30 victory in a 2007 meeting at Chapman Stadium.
Tulsa puts a four-game series winning streak on the line against the Rice Owls on Oct. 22nd in Houston, Texas. The Hurricane won last year's home game by a score of 64-27 and has won seven of the last eight meetings.
Tulsa returns home to face the SMU Mustangs a week later on Oct. 29th. SMU and Tulsa shared the West Division title last year, but the Mustangs participated in the C-USA Championship game by holding the tie-breaker. SMU closed out the season with an overall 7-7 record and an appearance in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl. The Hurricane will look to avenge last year's 21-18 road loss against the Mustangs.
A week later, Tulsa goes on the road to face the defending C-USA Champion UCF Knights (Nov. 5) to kick-off the month of November. UCF finished with an 11-3 record including a 10-6 win over Georgia in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl.
Tulsa and UCF are tied 2-2 in the series, as each team has garnered one of their wins in the C-USA Championship game. Tulsa defeated UCF 44-27 in the 2005 title game, while UCF claimed a 44-25 win in the 2007 championship game.
Marshall, as is UAB and UCF, is back on the schedule after Tulsa's two-year layoff from playing these East Division opponents. Tulsa hosts the Marshall Thundering Herd on Nov. 12th. The two teams have met only twice before, both as members of Conference USA, as Tulsa claimed both victories.
Tulsa meets UTEP for the final road game of the season as the Hurricane visits El Paso on Nov. 19th. Tulsa holds an 11-8 series edge against the Miners and has posted a 5-4 road record in the series.
Tulsa will close out the regular season on Thanksgiving weekend against league rival Houston, as the two teams will meet on Nov. 26th. Houston has a narrow lead in the series 19-17. The Hurricane captured a 28-25 road win over the Cougars last year, but will be looking to avenge a last second home loss from two years ago.
"I believe this is a great home schedule. Certainly Oklahoma State comes to Chapman Stadium, but we finish at home with Houston, who has been one of the marquee teams in Conference USA, and we've done a good job of developing a rivalry with SMU as well. If you're picking the conference schools, I think we have a quality home schedule and then throw Oklahoma State and North Texas into the mix and I would think to fans, it's very attractive," said Blankenship.
2011 Tulsa Football Schedule Sept. 3 at Oklahoma Sept. 10 at Tulane* Sept. 17 OKLAHOMA STATE Sept. 24 at Boise State Oct. 1 NORTH TEXAS Oct. 15 UAB* Oct. 22 at Rice* Oct. 29 SMU* Nov. 5 at UCF* Nov. 12 MARSHALL* Nov. 19 at UTEP* Nov. 26 HOUSTON*
BOLD CAPS indicate Home Games * Conference USA Games
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