Location: Nippert Stadium – Cincinnati, OH
Date: Saturday, October 6
Time: 11:00 a.m. CT
Records: Tulane 2-3 (1-0 AAC), Cincinnati 5-0 (1-0 AAC)
Betting Line: Cincinnati -7, O/U 49
All-Time Series: Tulane leads 11-5
Last Meeting: Tulane 16, Cincinnati 17 (Nov. 4, 2017)
Quick Hits: Green Wave fans can breathe a sigh of relief as quarterback Jonathan Banks, who left last week’s game with a calf injury, is probable for Saturday. It’s not as if Banks’ replacement isn’t a suitable one though. Justin McMillan is a perfect 3-for-3 with one touchdown. If Tulane needs to turn the offense over to him they will be in good hands. Head coach Willie Fritz announced before last week’s win over Memphis that both Banks and McMillan are in a competition for the starting job so McMillan could see some time in this one regardless. A pair of Green Wave tight ends, Charles Jones and Kendall Ardoin, are currently questionable with undisclosed injures.
The Bearcats will likely again be without one of their running backs in sophomore Gerrid Doaks who has not seen any game time yet this season. He missed the first two weeks of the season with a groin injury and now is suffering from a shoulder issue. Last season as a freshman, Doaks had 513 yards and two touchdowns. Offensive lineman Garrett Campbell may also miss the game with a leg injury.
From Cincinnati’s Perspective: The undefeated Bearcats have had a promising start to their 2018 campaign to say the least. A large part of that can be attributed to their smothering defense that has only allowed a total of 61 points over their first five games (2nd in the FBS). Defensive tackle Cortez Broughton has been a nightmare for opposing offenses and will look to continue his impressive senior season against Tulane. Broughton currently leads Cincy in sacks (4.5) and tackles for loss (9.5). If he can have a big day getting off the snap, the Green Wave’s high-caliber triple option attack could be in for a rough day.
Offensively the Bearcats will lean on freshman quarterback Desmond Ridder who is having a sensational start to his career. Ridder is completing 67% of his throws and has 888 yards along with eight touchdowns through five games. He has only thrown one pick this season; something Cincinnati fans should be happy about seeing as Tulane’s defense has six interceptions coming in.
Ridder will have a variety of targets to choose from. Tight end Josiah Deguara is leading the team with 247 receiving yards and will undoubtedly be a big part of Cincy’s game plan on Saturday. Deguara is averaging 13.7 yards per catch and has three touchdowns. Receiver Khalil Lewis has also been reliable for the Bearcats offense. The senior has 193 yards on 15 catches and a touchdown.
What really can propel Cincinnati to victory though is their running backs. Michael Warren II has done his part and more in helping the Bearcats get by without Doaks. Warren has 10 touchdowns this season (he’s averaging two per game) and he’s been their main workhorse. His 106 carries this season leads the team as does his 541 yards. Their next leading rusher is Ridder at 250 yards. Warren’s performance is vital to Cincy’s offensive production and he will see lots of action again this weekend.
On special teams, the Bearcats have the talents of James Wiggins who is averaging 25.7 yards per runback (six returns). He hasn’t broken one for a touchdown yet but if Tulane’s coverage unit isn’t on their toes this Saturday could very easily see his first.
From Tulane’s Perspective: The Wave is riding high off their improbable victory over Memphis last week. In a game that not many pegged them to win, Tulane’s offense netted nearly 500 total yards and found the end zone five times. If they want any chance against one of the nation’s better defenses they’ll need a repeat performance from last Friday.
That starts with the quarterback position that has experienced a little turbulence as of late. Before last game Fritz made clear that backup Justin McMillan would have his shot at the starting job and would be competing with the team’s mainstay Jonathan Banks for it. Banks performed well against Memphis but left late after suffering cramps which allowed McMillan his chance to shine which he did. Banks is probable to play on Saturday and if he does, look for Tulane to run their RPO attack that worked so well last week. In the win against the Tigers, Banks only threw for 127 yards but carried it 11 times. If he continues to call his own number like that, Cincy’s defense could be left guessing a lot.
Banks will have reliable runners beside him as well. Corey Dauphine continues to impress for the Green Wave. The Texas Tech transfer knows how to gouge a defense. On 37 totes he is averaging over 10 yards per touch. Tulane will rely heavily on Dauphine and teammate Darius Bradwell (381 yards, four touchdowns) to anchor their ground game. To match the Bearcats’ own, these two will have to again have a big day.
Tulane’s receivers are nothing to scoff at either. Darnell Mooney seems to consistently lead the team in yards each week and doesn’t appear to be showing any signs of slowing down. Even in spite of a few ugly drops last week, Mooney still managed nearly 100 yards and a score. The Bearcats secondary could have their hands full with him and Terren Encalade. Encalade has remained relatively quiet after the first game this year but the senior is more than capable of showing up when need be.
On defense, the Green Wave will want to see the line continue to build on their monster game a week ago. Defensive ends Cameron Sample and Patrick Johnson each have three sacks and will need to find a way to wreak havoc in the trenches again in order to slow down Cincy’s potent rushing attack. Linebacker Zachary Harris who leads the team with 33 total tackles will have perhaps the toughest job. He will need to keep a close eye on Warren, the versatile Ridder and his favorite target Deguara over the middle. Harris will play a big role in trying to prevent Deguara from having another 100+ yard game like he did against the Huskies.
Finally, Green Wave kicker Merek Glover will have some personal demons to get past in this game. It was last year’s bout in New Orleans in which Glover missed a field goal late that very easily could have given Tulane the win. Instead, the Wave lost that game by one point and you can bet that Glover has had this one circled on his calendar.
Final Thoughts: It’s difficult to peg what these teams can actually be as far as the American is concerned. Both are 1-0 in conference play but Tulane’s victory is much more impressive than Cincinnati’s beatdown of UConn. I still can’t figure out if the win over Memphis was a fluke or an indicator of things to come for the Wave. Saturday’s contest on the road against an undefeated opponent will go a long way in helping us figure out exactly what this Green Wave club is all about. It could very easily be a dogfight.
Prediction: Tulane 31 – Cincinnati 28