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The Real Reason Behind Tulane's Miserable Season

Stop me if you've heard this before, but the Green Wave's offense is horrendous.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

To pick out one reason why a team struggles is awfully myopic.

After all, football is the consummate team sport (work with me here) and every win is the team's triumph and every loss is the team's failure.

But when a team's pratfall is an ugly Cyclops staring it right in the face, it's tough to avoid.

Tulane can look right to its offense as to the reason its season is where it is right now. And as a reason why it might not win another game this season.

The Green Wave is 2-7 entering Saturday's game at Army. Tulane fell to 1-5 in the American Athletic Conference last Saturday following a 7-3 loss to UConn.

Before we go any further, let's take a look at where the Green Wave's offense ranks in the FBS through Week 10 in scoring, total offense and third-down conversion percentage.

Stat Category Average Rank DFL Diff.
Scoring Offense 16.3 123rd 14.7 +1.6
Total Offense 286.6 124th 276.6 +10.0
3rd Down Conversion 32.4% 116th 24.0% +8.4%

Yuck. There is minimal difference between where Tulane is right now and the worst team in each category.

I'm not too big into advanced stats when it comes to football, but the Green Wave's "Success Rate," as concocted by Football Outsiders, is 126th out of 128 teams. Its IsoPPP+ rank is 125th.

There is a catch, though, and it's not for the better. Those numbers include both of Tulane's wins. The Green Wave scored a combined 83 points and compiled 892 yards against FCS Maine (shudder) and UCF (yuck).

Brace yourself: We're taking those wins out of the equation.

In its seven losses, Tulane's offense has averaged 9.1 points and 241 yards.

Let that sink in for a moment.

Here's the thing: If the Green Wave's offense could have strung together three drives without punting or turning the ball over, it probably could have beat UConn and even Navy. Tulane's defense stood on its head in those games, shutting out the Huskies' offense and holding the Midshipmen well below their season average in rushing a few weeks ago.

Green Wave quarterback Tanner Lee said the loss to UConn was probably the worst one of his career.

"It's tough for the defense to play the way they did, because they didn't deserve a loss, so it really hurt," Lee told reporters after going 13 of 40 for 106 yards.

If there's any positive out of the Green Wave's offensive ineptitude, it's that the punt unit — which was already miserable to begin with — is getting a lot of opportunities to work out its kinks. Tulane has punted 66 times this year, which puts it into a tie for third nationally behind Boston College and Kent State.