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Opponent preview: Tulsa’s defense

The Golden Hurricane ranks among the top 25 nationally in both yards and points allowed per game.

NCAA Football: Southern Methodist at Tulsa Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

STARKVILLE, Miss. — The Mississippi State football team will face the No. 22 Tulsa Golden Hurricane on Thursday in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas. Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. CT and will air on ESPN.

Tulsa has the nation’s No. 24 defense in allowing an average of 340.8 yards of offense per game. The Golden Hurricane defense ranks 21st in passing defense (194.8 yards per game), 45th in rushing defense (146.0) and 23rd in scoring defense (20.8 points per game).

Tulsa’s defense also ranks tied for No. 7 nationally with 10 fumbles recovered, averaging more than one fumble recovery per game. The Golden Hurricane also ranks tied for 10th with 8.0 tackles for a loss per game, 15th in red-zone defense (73.3%) and 14th in opponent third-down conversion percentage (32.8%).

Tulsa has been terrific on the defensive side of the ball, but it will be without star linebacker Zaven Collins. The redshirt junior had 54 tackles, four sacks, 11 12 tackles for loss and four interceptions, two of which sealed victories for Tulsa. He won the Bronko Nagurski Award, which is given annually to the nation’s top college defensive player. Collins announced he will not play in the bowl game as he prepares for the 2021 NFL Draft.

The Golden Hurricane’s top leading tacklers are redshirt sophomore safety Kendarin Ray and redshirt sophomore linebacker Justin Wright with 57 and 55 tackles, respectively.