MOBILE, Ala. (AP) -- Stan Parrish was so impressed by Tulsa's offense in last year's GMAC Bowl, he decided to take a crash course in the system during the spring.
Now, Parrish has been promoted to head coach at Ball State just in time to face the Golden Hurricane in the same bowl game Tuesday night.
"Who would've thunk it?" said Parrish, the Cardinals' former offensive coordinator. "Brady (Hoke) leaves and I'm the head coach. It's just unbelievable. The football gods make things work in strange ways, don't they?"
Parrish spent a day and a half studying the offense with Tulsa co-offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, seeking new ways to use star receiver Dante Love. Malzahn is leaving to run Auburn's offense after this game, Parrish has taken over following Hoke's departure for San Diego State, and the dynamic Love sustained a career-ending spinal cord injury in September.
The two teams have more in common than the few offensive touches Ball State (12-1) still uses from that springtime visit, though. Both lost in their conference championship games to mar historic seasons.
Tulsa (10-3), which fell 27-24 to East Carolina in the CUSA title game, reached double-digit wins two seasons in a row for the first time. The 10 wins matches a school record accomplished six previous times.
"To me, that's of major significance," said coach Todd Graham, who agreed to a new 10-year contract on New Year's Day. "Our program is about winning championships and we've got a chance to win a bowl championship."
Tulsa reached win No. 10 in spectacular fashion last season. The Golden Hurricane romped over Bowling Green 63-7 for the largest margin of victory in NCAA bowl history.
Parrish was among those who took notice.
"This is the best offense we've faced since I've been at Ball State, the most diverse," he said. "It's different. We've got a heck of a challenge in front of us. Just one year ago, I thought Bowling Green had a pretty fair football team and Tulsa ran them right out of that stadium."
Behind the arm of quarterback David Johnson and the running of Tarrion Adams, Tulsa ranks second nationally in total offense (565 yards per game) and scoring offense (47.4 points) and among the top eight in pass efficiency, pass offense and rushing offense.
No wonder Parrish wanted to check out Graham's no-huddle system.
Graham also opened his doors to Boise State, only to have that team placed on the schedule for early next season.
"There's not any secret plans," he said. "It's just like running the ball out of the gun. It's the single-wing. They were doing it in the '60s. There's not a lot of new inventions in the game, but it's how you go about teaching it.
"It was a little unusual, but it's not something I feel concerned about."
As usual, the game that produced the highest scoring bowl ever features two potent offenses.
Adams needs only 93 yards to break Micheal Gunter's school career rushing mark of 3,536 yards, and 149 yards to top his single-season record of 1,464. Then there's wide receiver Mario Brennan (1,112 yards) and freshman receiver/return man Damaris Johnson, who led Conference USA with 2,201 all-purpose yards.
Ball State counters with quarterback Nate Davis, the MAC offensive player of the year, and 5-foot-6 tailback MiQuale Lewis, who has already set single-season school marks with 1,701 yards rushing and 22 touchdowns.
Davis has indicated he will consider skipping his senior season to enter the draft.
"When you're good enough to have that as a distraction, you've got to be able to handle that," Parrish said. "Not all the guys can. We never talk about it -- ever, ever, ever."
Parrish figures all those impressive numbers could add up to a game decided by defense.
"He (Graham) has a high-powered offense and so do I, and probably the defenses are going to win the game," he said. "That's usually how it works."
Ball State rose as high as No. 12 this season before losing to Buffalo in the MAC title game. Now, the Cardinals are looking for lucky win No. 13.
"This would complete a historic season for us," cornerback B.J. Hill said. "We could get that sour taste out of our mouth from the championship game. It would mean a lot to the seniors, going 13-1 and being able to remember this the rest of our lives."
The 62-year-old Parrish was a finalist for the Broyles Award given to the nation's top assistant. He posted a 57-41-3 record as a head coach at Wabash, Marshall and finally Kansas State, where he won only two games in three seasons.
Parrish isn't approaching this game as a chance to get his era off to a good start, but to put a nice cap to Hoke's final season.
Mark Smith is handling Hoke's duties as defensive coordinator.
"I'm just trying to do my best to make this thing work for the kids," Parrish said. "I took the job for the kids. I'm trying to finish it up for Brady. That's the way it's been since the first day I took over."
AccuScore has powered more than 10,000 simulations for every College Football game on ESPN.com, calculating how each team's performance changes in response to game conditions and opponent's abilities. Each game is simulated and the game is replayed a minimum of 10,000 times to generate forecasted winning percentages.
The Motor City Bowl released Ball State to set up a better bowl matchup with Tulsa, and the clash in Mobile should not disappoint. The game features two of the nation's top 15 offenses and standout quarterbacks in Ball State's Nate Davis and Tulsa's David Johnson. Ball State aims for its first bowl win, while Tulsa tries to win its second straight GMAC Bowl. -- Adam Rittenberg