It’s homecoming week in Tulsa. Alumni are on campus, students are having a good time, and the 3-3 (0-2) Tulane Green Wave is set to come to town.
Tulsa has won the previous 2 meetings vs Tulane, but this year’s Tulane team has a different look. After 4 dismal years under Curtis Johnson, Tulane hired a new head ball coach, Willie Fritz. Fritz has been a head coach ever since 1997, coaching on multiple levels, but most recently with Georgia Southern for 2 years. Fritz brings a business like, no-nonsense style to a talented, but underperforming Green Wave team. So far this season, Fritz’s run oriented attack has shown promise, Tulane has already equaled their win total from last year, and their three losses to Wake, Navy, and Memphis were by a combined 20 points, the largest margin being a 10 point loss to Memphis last week.
Vegas is respecting Tulsa in this game. TU is a 10.5 point favorite vs Tulane this weekend despite the fact that Tulane hasn’t lost a game by more than 10 points all season. Let’s get to my preview.
Last year: The Green Wave finished with a 3-9 record, their sole American win being against winless UCF. Tulsa defeated Tulane on the road last season 45-34. As I mentioned previously, head coach Curtis Johnson was fired.
This year: Tulane is 3-3 total. Although they have been in every game they’ve played, they haven’t had a “good” win all season. Their lone victories came against ULL (2-4), UMass (1-5), and Southern, an FCS team.
The stats: (NCAA rank in parentheses)
Scoring offense: 28.2 ppg (72nd)
Rushing offense: 233.67 ypg (22nd)
Passing offense: 110 ypg (126th)
Scoring defense: 22.7 ppg (37th)
Rushing defense: 141.83 ypg (45th)
Passing defense: 182.2 (27th)
Best players: DT Tanzel Smart (#77) is a stud. He weighs 305 pounds, and is rated as the 11th best DT draft prospect by nfldraftscout.com. RBs Dontrell Hillyard (#26) and Josh Rounds (#25) are very effective running the ball. They both average over 5 yards a carry, and have scored a total of 9 touchdowns this season. Parry Nickerson (#17) is a very talented corner outside.
Uniform advantage: I have to give the edge to Tulane for 2 reasons. 1) Tulane uses stripes very well with their uniforms, (click here to see a video of all their uniforms) 2) They are Nike. You have to admit, these were pretty sweet (Even with the angry wave helmet design).
— Troy Dannen (@TU_Dannen) September 23, 2016
Uniform prediction: It’s homecoming, which means a classic Gold-Blue-Gold look for TU.
Keys to the game: A look at Tulane’s stats gives you a good idea of what they want to accomplish. Run the ball (22nd in yards/game), control the clock (21st in time of possession), take care of the ball (19th in the country in fewest turnovers lost), and like every team, force turnovers (9th in country in turnovers gained). That is a winning formula, and it explains why coach Willie Fritz has been so successful. Tulsa will have to disrupt that formula to get the win. One of the biggest keys in this game will be how each defense defends the run. Tulane’s offense is built on a solid run game; they run a read-option of sorts with QB Glen Cuiellette, and have a committee of running backs. Tulsa has had trouble defending the read-option, but luckily Cuiellette isn’t nearly as explosive as Greg Ward or even Chason Virgil. If Tulsa can slow down the running attack like Memphis did last week, Tulane’s offense should struggle. Offensively for Tulsa, we need a balanced run/pass attack. Memphis had some success on the ground vs Tulane, I feel like Tulsa can too. Dane should come out firing in the passing game, Tulane doesn’t allow a lot of long pass plays, but we should be able to hit dink and dunks with Keevan, Atkinson, Hobbs, and newly discovered weapon Keenen Johnson. Tulane does have a pass defense that ranks pretty high, but I think we have the most talented passing attack that they have faced all season (sorry Memphis). Another key to this game is a quick start for Tulsa, we have started slow the past few games. If we get up 14-0, Tulane may not have the firepower to get back in it.
My thoughts on the game: The more I think about this game, the more worried I get. The Green Wave’s stats are very good, and they have a winning formula. Tulane will not beat themselves; Coach Fritz is very experienced, and their level of risk is very low. Also, psychologically this is a sandwich game for TU. We just got off an emotional rollercoaster in Houston, and it is easy to look past a team that we have defeated the past two years. This is not a game to be taken lightly, but with that said, Tulsa is a better team than Tulane is. If Tulsa executes well, they will win this game. I also think this being homecoming helps TU. While some may think that homecoming distracts the players, I think the large crowd motivates them. Having a large crowd helps the team feel like they are playing for the fans and not just themselves.
Prediction: Tulsa scores on their first two drives, and Tulane can’t ever catch up. Tulsa wins 35-21.