Location: Yulman Stadium – New Orleans, LA
Date: Saturday, October 31
Time: 11:00 am CT
Records: Tulane 2-4 (0-4 AAC), Temple 1-2 (1-2 AAC)
Betting Line: Tulane -4; O/U 59.5
All-Time Series: Temple leads 4-1
Last Meeting: Temple 29, Tulane 21 (November 16, 2019)
Tulane will be looking for its first win of October against Temple in New Orleans this Saturday. The Green Wave just completed one of their toughest stretches of games in recent years, playing SMU, Houston, and UCF, in their previous three match-ups. If Tulane wants to salvage this season, they have to take advantage of their three very winnable upcoming games, starting with the Owls this weekend.
While this will be Tulane’s seventh game of the year, due to COVID, Temple has only been able to play a conference schedule and as a result their Saturday contest with the Greenies will only be their fourth game of the year. The Owls are coming off a tough loss to Memphis last weekend, where they were within one score of beating one of the conference’s preeminent programs late into the fourth quarter.
Anthony Russo, Temple’s senior starting quarterback, will be questionable for Saturday’s game after sustaining an injury to his throwing shoulder against Memphis. In that game Russo attempted 63 passes. If the three-year starter cannot go for Temple, that will be a huge advantage for a Tulane secondary that has struggled mightily throughout the month of October. The Green Wave will continue to ride the arm of true freshman gun-slinger Michael Pratt, who has gotten significantly better in every game that he has played this season. Pratt has thrown for seven touchdowns and only two interceptions so far on the year.
From Tulane’s Perspective
Tulane is 0-3 so far in the month of October and 0-4 to date in AAC play, two stats that head coach Willie Fritz is obviously not pleased with. The Green Wave’s weak link has surprisingly been its defense over the past three games and in particular its secondary. Coaches on the staff and around the conference projected the Tulane defense to not only be the team’s strong point, but to be on of the dominant units in the AAC.
The Tulane defense ranks 84th out of 101 FBS teams that have played so far this year in total defense. Jack Curtis’ unit has given up 6.09 yards per play after only giving up 5.6 yards per play in 2019. This was a group that returned star defensive linemen Patrick Johnson and Cameron Sample. While the line has held up, the secondary has looked anemic so far in 2020. Throughout his career Willie Fritz has emphasized that his defensive units should go out of their way to generate turnovers, yet Tulane’s secondary only has three interceptions on the year, 0.5 per game.
If Tulane wants to get back to its winning ways on Saturday, safety Macon Clark and cornerback Jaylon Monroe will have to step up their level of play and not let Temple receivers Randle Jones and Jadan Blue beat them too often in their pass coverage. Also, senior safety Chase Kuerschen should look to play more of a factor in thwarting the Owls passing attack at Yulman Stadium.
Tulane’s biggest question mark coming into the season was whether a new quarterback would be able to competently command the offense. Since Michael Pratt entered the fray again Southern Miss on September 26th, quarterback play has no longer been an impediment for the Green Wave. The true freshman Pratt has turned out to be a much better thrower and runner than Tulane offensive coordinator Will Hall thought he was getting. Pratt has thrown for 690 yards and rushed for four touchdowns over his first three collegiate starts. The most encouraging thing with Pratt is that he has taken a mammoth step forward in his progression as a football player in each game that he has played in. His ability to quickly adjust to the speed of FBS football after only appearing in four games is a testament to Pratt’s intellect, willingness to learn, and sheer athletic ability.
After losing their top two running backs to ACL injuries, Corey Dauphine and Tyjae Spears, sophomore Cameron Carroll and senior Stephon Huderson have done a nice job of carrying the Wave’s ground game. Carroll and Huderson have combined for 738 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns so far on the year. With the advent of Tulane’s passing attack over the past few weeks, the front of the field has opened up for Carroll and Huderson since there are no longer eight defensive players stacking the box on most plays against Tulane. The Green Wave should try and incorporate junior running back Amare Jones into their game-plan a bit more against the Owls. After having a breakout 2019, the Frisco, TX native has not been a factor in Tulane’s offense thus far in 2020.
From Temple’s Perspective
Temple’s star senior quarterback, Anthony Russo, is questionable for the Owls’ Saturday matchup with Tulane in New Orleans. After throwing for over 2,500 yards in his sophomore and junior seasons, the Doylestown, PA native was off to a tremendous start in 2020. Through his first three games, Russo has thrown for 863 yards and 9 touchdowns. If Russo is not able to go on Saturday, look for Iowa State transfer Re-al Mitchell or redshirt sophomore Trad Beatty to get the start. While neither quarterback has seen any action so far this year, Mitchell was ranked the 27th best dual-threat quarterback in the nation coming out of high school.
Temple’s rushing attack has been mediocre up to this point in the season. Temple has averaged 141.7 rushing yards per game over their first three games of the year, which ranks 63rd out of 101 FBS teams that have played so far this season. Temple’s go-to running back is Re'Mahn Davis, a sophomore out of San Francisco, CA. Davis has averaged 4.3 yards per carry in 2020 and has one rushing touchdown on the season.
Temple’s wideouts have been superb so far this year. Randle Jones and Jadan Blue have combined for 462 receiving yards and six receiving touchdowns through Temple’s first three games. Jones had 12 receptions against Memphis last week while Blue accounted for 13 catches and 113 receiving yards against the Tigers. Be on the look-out for tight end Aaron Jarman to play a significant role against the Green Wave on Saturday. While Jarman will only be making his third career start against Tulane, with David Martin-Robinson and Darius Pittman out of action for the Owls with injuries, whoever is under-center for Temple on Saturday will be looking to hit Jarman on out routes when he is open in the flat.
Temple’s defense has given up an average of 370.7 yards per game over their first three match-ups of the year while only surrendering 5.25 yards per play to their opponents. Against Memphis, the Temple defensive line had a hard time getting pressure on quarterback Brady White. In last week’s game, the Owls’ defense had zero sacks against Memphis. The Owls will look to apply more pressure on Tulane’s true freshman quarterback, Michael Pratt, and force him into making errant throws. In their game against Memphis, Temple was missing graduate linebacker Isaiah Graham-Mobley and redshirt freshman linebacker Yvandy Rigby to injuries. If the Owls can get those two guys healthy for Saturday, that should go a long way to stopping Will Hall’s high octane offensive attack.
Temple’s junior linebacker, Audley Isaacs, and senior safety, Amir Tyler, have both stood out so far in 2020. Isaacs and Tyler have combined for 26 tackles this year. Along with senior linebacker, William Kwenkeu, these three players will look to stop a Tulane offense that has been racking up 379 yards per game and 5.38 yards per play so far this season. In particular, Temple’s defense should keep an eye on Tulane running back Stephon Huderson, who has taken advantage of increased playing time due to players ahead of him on the depth chart sustaining season ending injuries. Huderson has 220 rushing yards and 2 rushing touchdowns in his last two games.
It looks more-and-more likely as the week goes on that Anthony Russo will not be playing against Tulane on Saturday, and if he does he will not be 100% healthy. Tulane’s pass defense has been abysmal lately, so Russo sitting out this weekend would be welcome news for the Green Wave. If Tulane can move the football on offense like they have over their past three games and if their defense can finally slow down an opponent’s passing attack, even marginally, the Greenies should get their first conference win on Halloween in NOLA this Saturday.
Prediction: Tulane 34 - Temple 24