Location: Michie Stadium – West Point, NY
Date: Saturday, October 5
Time: 11:00 a.m. CT
Records: Army 3-1, Tulane 3-1 (1-0 AAC)
Betting Line: Tulane -3; O/U 55.5
All-Time Series: Tulane leads 11-9-1
Last Meeting: Tulane 21, Army 17 (September 23, 2017)
Quick Hits: The Green Wave heads into this game in perhaps the best possible position they could find themselves in. Already 1-0 in conference play, Tulane gets it’s last non-conference tune-up; a game in which they don’t have much to lose and a whole awful lot to gain. Imagine what a victory over this Army team (whose only loss is to Michigan in double overtime) on the road would do for the Wave’s already soaring confidence.
Conversely, the Black Knights also can chalk this one up as a big game. Tulane, as they’ve shown recently, is nothing to scoff at. They’ve quickly become a contender in the American and for an Army team looking for every possible resume-enforcing win it can get, you best believe a victory over a team like the Greenies would mean a lot.
From Tulane’s Perspective: Tulane will have to key in Army “quarterback” Kelvin Hopkins Jr. Hopkins missed last game with a leg injury but is listed as probable for Saturday. Of course, like all the service academies, the Black Knights operate with a run-heavy offense and Hopkins carries the ball far more than he throws it. In fact, he has only attempted 12 passes all season and has toted the ball 39 times. Those 39 carries have gone for 121 yards and three touchdowns. Hopkins is just as dynamic as a ball carrier as anyone but luckily, the Green Wave boasts one of the best run defenses out there.
As a unit, the Tulane D is allowing just under 150 yards and an average of only one rushing score per contest. That’s thanks in large part to an explosive defensive line that has already recorded seven sacks and 22 tackles for loss. Junior Patrick Johnson is a big reason why. A third of the defensive end’s tackles have gone for a loss.
He and the defense will have their hands full with a Black Knights ground game that is averaging almost 300 yards and four scores per game. Senior running back Connor Slomka leads the team with 261 yards and two touchdowns. Right behind him is fellow senior Kell Walker with 161 yards and two scores.
In total, nine different Army ball carries have recorded at least one touchdown this season. They can and will hit you from all angles with a multitude of weapons, so Tulane’s run D will have to play its best game of the season.
The Wave, however, will be able to counter with a bruising rushing attack of their own. Corey Dauphine (202 yards and two TDs) and Darius Bradwell (255 yards) lead the way for a ground game that is averaging 273.3 yards and three scores a game. But Dauphine and Bradwell aren’t the only ones making it happen. Tulane QB Justin McMillan already has four touchdowns with his legs (leads team) and 245 yards on the ground (2nd on team). If Fritz’s offense can match the Army runners blow for blow, then the Wave will have a chance in this one.
Precisely because this will be such a run-oriented game, Tulane’s DBs cannot get lulled to sleep on the back end. The Black Knights would love nothing more than to be able to hit a huge play through the air if guys like Chase Kuerschen and Will Harper are caught napping. Discipline and attentiveness will be the key play-in and play-out for the secondary. Just because Army doesn’t pass often doesn’t mean they don’t at all. They have two passing touchdowns and 194 yards as a team this year.
From Army’s Perspective: Just like we said with Tulane, Army can’t get lazy in their pass defense. McMillan has shown dual-threat talent all season (and last season). He has 610 yards and five passing touchdown already in 2019 and has the right receivers for the job. Darnell Mooney has 231 yards and two scores while Oklahoma State transfer Jalen McCleskey (you might remember him as the hero against Houston) has 140 yards and two TDs. Army DBs Elijah Riley and Javhari Bourdeau will need to be on their toes. Each has recorded a pick this season.
Linebacker Cole Christiansen will have a tall order against a Green Wave ground game that we’ve already established is dominant. Fortunately for the Black Knights, Christiansen is cut out for the task as he leads the team with 39 tackles this year. His success in the middle will go a long way in determining the team’s as a whole in this one.
Offensively, Army will need to find a way to get by Tulane’s ferocious front end. The Black Knights O line has only allowed four sacks all season. It doesn’t seem like much, but considering how infrequently they pass, it’s actually not that great a number. The big boys in the trenches will need to keep the likes of Johnson and Cameron Sample at bay. Holes will be difficult to come by so the Army backs need to hit them as explosively as possible when given the chance.
It feels like a tale of two running games. Whichever one can get more traction is probably going to walk away with the win. If this is true, the game will most likely be decided in the fourth quarter when both defenses are getting worn down. Whoever can hold strong better during the late stages on Saturday has the best chance to come out on top.
Last time these two clashed, it was a battle that came right down to the end. I expect the same this go around as both Army and Tulane are spitting images of each other at this juncture of the fall. Let’s just say this... whoever wins will definitely have to earn it.
Prediction: Tulane 24 - Army 23