Location: Yulman Stadium – New Orleans, LA
Date: Saturday, November 2
Time: 2:30 p.m. CT
Records: Tulane 5-3 (2-2 AAC), Tulsa 2-6 (0-4 AAC)
Betting Line: Tulane -10.5; O/U 60
All-Time Series: Tulsa leads 11-4-0
Last Meeting: Tulane 24, Tulsa 17 (October 27, 2018)
Quick Hits: There’s two ways about it, Tulane has work to do and not just between the stripes on the gridiron. Coming off two consecutive losses that each fall on different ends of the heartbreak spectrum, head coach Willie Fritz now has the tall task of keeping his team in the right mental head space as they prepare for Tulsa, a team that by no means will be an easy win. Navy drilled a game-winning field goal last week to drop Tulane to 5-3 (2-2 AAC) and now a rebound is of the utmost importance.
Then there’s the Golden Hurricane. This tenacious bunch took Memphis to the absolute brink on Saturday but, like the Green Wave, lost on a last second field goal. The only difference was that it was their own. Kicker Jacob Rainey’s brutal day was capped by missed would-be game winner that has Tulsa sitting at a dismal 2-6 (0-4 AAC). One more loss will certainly knock them out of bowl contention (if they aren’t already).
From Tulsa’s Perspective: We’ve been saying it all season long: Tulsa is better than their record indicates. They took then- No. 24 SMU to triple overtime, put up a respectable fight against Oklahoma State and game Memphis everything it could handle last weekend. While that doesn’t do a lot for their six losses, it does have to give them some confidence heading into New Orleans this Saturday against a struggling Green Wave team. They need to use that confidence.
It all starts with quarterback Zach Smith. Smith threw for over 300 yards last week against the Tigers and has 11 touchdowns on the year. He’s already eclipsed the 2,000-yard mark as well. With receivers like Keylon Stokes who has a team-high 695 yards and four TDs on 44 catches, Smith has all the reason in the world to be confident going against a Tulane defense that surrendered 454 yards against Navy.
Stokes will be joined by fellow receivers Sam Crawford Jr. and Keenan Johnson. Crawford has 502 yards and two touchdowns while Johnson is averaging 11.8 yards per catch. Let’s just say, Smith will have his pick of the litter when it comes to offensive weapons.
Tulsa’s ground game is nothing to be scoffed at either. They are led by junior running back Shamari Brooks who has 688 rush yards and five scores. He may have a tall order, though, trying to navigate Tulane’s stout run defense that is giving up just 172.5 yards per contest.
Defensively, the Golden Hurricane will undoubtedly look to senior linebacker Cooper Edmiston to continue being the game-changing force he is. Edmiston leads the team in tackles with 70 total. He and Zaven Collins have been a nightmare for opposing offenses this fall. Collins has 64 tackles to his name along with a fumble recovery, a sack and two defended passes. If Tulane’s offense is disrupted, Collins and/or Edmiston are probably the reason why.
Finally, on special teams, all the focus will be on Jacob Rainey. As we already mentioned, Rainey had a rough outing last week, missing three of his five field goal attempts. Tulsa is hoping the ugly day was a fluke and not a norm. If this game comes down to a kick, however, it could get interesting.
From Tulane’s Perspective: Justin McMillan needs to recapture his early-season magic. Over the last two weeks, the Green Wave’s signal caller has tossed five picks and only four touchdowns. Before then he had only thrown two interceptions all season. McMillan did have a solid showing on the ground last Saturday against Navy, rushing for two scores but all around he needs to be more consistent. Keeping Tulsa’s defense guessing will go a long way in snagging a much-needed win and the best way to keep them guessing is with McMillan’s dual-threat capabilities.
Another thing that will help in the Wave’s victory pursuit is if they can get back one, if not both, of their dynamic running backs. Darius Bradwell and Corey Dauphine have both missed significant time as of late due to injury. Bradwell, who has 325 yards and a touchdown this season, has been inactive for the last two weeks with a leg issue and is currently questionable. So is Dauphine who was injured in Tulane’s loss to Memphis. The speedster will be missed sorely again if he can’t suit up this weekend as he is responsible for 377 yards and four touchdowns.
The Greenies need to prepare as if they will be without the duo. That means sophomore Amare Jones will need to step up. Last week, Jones only ran for 31 yards. If he cannot help McMillan get it done on the ground, then a one-dimensional Tulane team will be in for a long day.
Also needing to help McMillan out will be receivers Jalen McCleskey and Darnell Mooney. Mooney leads the club with 509 receiving yards and five touchdowns while McCleskey has 297 yards and two scores. They will have work to do against Tulsa DBs Reginald Robinson III and Brandon Johnson. Both Robinson and Johnson have knocked away five passes and have combined for 78 total tackles. Robinson has snagged the Golden Hurricane’s only interception this season as well.
Tulane’s own defense will have its work cut out for it also. After giving up a whopping 386 rush yards against the Midshipmen, something needs to change up front. Linebacker Lawrence Graham had a big day with 10 tackles against Navy and will need to continue his dominant play. That being said, guys like Patrick Johnson and Cameron Sample need to help more up front and both have the ability. Johnson leads the team with seven tackles for loss and three sacks. Sample, meanwhile, has 3.5 for loss and 30 total.
Final Thoughts: This game really is a must-win for Tulane. A loss would plummet their once-5-1 record to 5-4. While a chance to play for an AAC title seems lost, another defeat could put bowl eligibility... something that was at one point almost for-sure... in jeopardy as well. The good news: they’ll be in the friendly confines of Yulman. The bad news: this is a Tulsa team that’s desperate.
And if you’re Tulsa, you’ve got to come into this one swinging away with nothing to lose. The Golden Hurricane won’t be the only wounded animal on that field. Tulane isn’t looking hot as of late so who’s to say an upset isn’t in the cards here?
Prediction: Tulsa 21 - Tulane 30