UTEP coach Mike Price offered Tulsa a bit of advice earlier this week.
Since the 7-3 Golden Hurricanes’ chances of playing in the Conference USA title game and Liberty Bowl won’t be affected by Saturday’s contest with 5-5 UTEP Saturday, the Golden Hurricanes should just play their junior varsity and not worry about getting their new helmets scratched up.
Joking aside, Tulsa coach Bill Blankenship acknowledged finding a sense of urgency is a concern.
“Absolutely,” he said of his team clinching a position in a de facto West Division title game next week against Houston with its victory over Marshall last Saturday. “That’s a double-edged sword and I’m very concerned about it.
“With that victory (against Marshall) it made this game not as big a deal in terms of how the conference plays out.
“For us, it’s important how we play. We’re on a good roll and we don’t want to step back and play poorly. (UTEP) is a team that’s had our number and we know that.”
This is far from a meaningless game, however. If Tulsa wins, it still controls its own destiny to finish the regular season unbeaten in conference which would mean hosting the C-USA title game.
A lost would almost certainly mean that even if they did beat Houston next week, they’d have to travel to Southern Miss for the title game.
Also, no team has gone unbeaten in the league since the conference took its current form with a title game in 2005, which was the year Tulsa joined.
“We want to be the first team to go undefeated in conference play,” quarterback G.J. Kinne said. “That’s been one of our goals and that goes through El Paso.”
Blankenship also acknowledge the importance of home field in a title game.
“We just like the fact that we love to play at Chapman” Field, he said. “This is our place and there,s a lot of difference in coming out of our locker room and getting ready to play than someplace else. That’s why in college football, statistically, the home team always has an edge. It’s a big deal to play at home.”