Late February is by far the coldest time of year for college football fans. Bowl games have come and gone, the national championship is long over and now we must wait a arduous seven months before our beloved teams hit the gridiron again.
As we trudge our way through college football Syberia there’s still plenty to talk about though. For instance, it’s always fun to take a glance at next year’s schedules even if there’s absolutely no point in doing so right now. Let’s do just that for all the Green Wave faithful out there.
The road to an AAC title gets more interesting as the conference disbanded its east and west divisions this year in light of UConn’s departure. The teams with the top two records in the standings will meet for the conference title meaning that Tulane would have to finish in the top two overall, not just out of six teams.
Here’s what the Wave’s road to get there looks like...
Sep. 3 - Southeastern Louisiana
They will kick off their 2020 season by making the Lions their first opponent. Tulane is no stranger to hosting area FCS programs in the non-conference portion of the season. Missouri State came to town this last fall and Nicholls State made an appearance at Yulman in 2018. The Wave beat both quite easily but SE Louisiana could be a different story.
This battle-tested bunch has made trips to Ole Miss, LSU and Oklahoma State over the last four seasons and is coming off a very successful 2019 in which they finished 8-5 and reached the second round of the FCS playoffs. I’d venture to say that the 60-mile trek to New Orleans won’t phase them. As always, the Greenies will need to be laser-focused for a possible let-down game right off the bat.
Sep. 12 - at Northwestern
The first road trip of the year will send Tulane up to Illinois to take on a Wildcats team that finished dead last in the Big Ten West a season ago. Northwestern was downright dreadful in Pat Fitzgerald’s 14th season at the helm, going just 3-9 and 1-8 in conference play.
For a program that cracked our “Powerless Five” list a few times in 2019, the Wave coming to town could spell trouble. Seeing as Tulane has recently gone toe-to-toe with the likes of Ohio State and Auburn (and put up a pretty damn respectable fight in Jordan Hare last year) this game could be interesting. It certainly seems to be the Wave’s best shot an snagging a P5 win as of late.
Sep. 19 - Navy
The first conference matchup of the season will bring the Midshipmen to town. Tulane and Navy have had some intriguing meetings over the last couple years. In 2018, the Wave’s dramatic 29-28 victory came off a crazy two-point conversion catch by former tight end Charles Jones. That game, of course, was the one that sealed Fritz’s first bowl game with the Greenies. Last year, though, Navy returned the favor and narrowly defeated Tulane by three in Annapolis.
That’s no guarantee that this year’s edition will be close but don’t be surprised if it is. The Wave and the Mids have formed a nice little rivalry as of late (so much so that some fans on both sides want to introduce a “Trident Trophy” to the annual game). This will serve as the perfect opportunity to snag an all-important AAC win early.
Sep. 26 - at Mississippi State
This P5 matchup will be a bit tougher. The Bulldogs, like the Wave, came out with a 6-6 regular season record last year. Unlike the Greenies, they had to navigate a brutal SEC schedule to do so. They capped their season off with a loss against Louisville in the Music City Bowl and many felt that there was a lot to be desired in Starkville last fall.
If the Wave doesn’t want to be a stepping stone in Mississippi State’s hopeful rebound season, then they will need to bring their A game. This one shapes up to be possibly their roughest game of the year and you throw the fact that Mike Leach is now the head man and it could be ugly.
Oct. 8 - at Houston
There’s no doubt that Coogs fans have this one circled on the calendar. In case you need a reminder as to why you can find it here. The Wave’s landmark win of the season and of Fritz’s tenure came at the demise of this same Houston team last year in jaw-dropping fashion. That means one thing: the Cougars want revenge and they want it badly.
With the game being in Houston this time, Tulane will have their work cut out for them. Head coach Dana Holgorson is entering his second season and wants nothing more than to forget last year’s dismal 4-8 campaign. The Coogs may be without standout QB D’Eriq King now but that doesn’t mean they’ll be a pushover. Vengeance is a scary motivator and if anyone has it, it’s these guys.
Oct. 17 - SMU (homecoming)
The one team that has been Tulane’s bugaboo over the last few seasons as been SMU. Three years ago, the Wave came up inches short on the would-be game-winning touchdown against the Mustangs. In 2018 SMU came in and upset the Wave with a four-point win and last year they sent the Wave home on the heels of a 37-20 loss.
Willie Fritz has never beaten the Mustangs as Tulane’s coach but he’ll get another shot this October. With the game falling on homecoming weekend, you can bet that the place will be rocking. Will it be enough for the Wave to finally get this monkey off their back though?
Oct. 24 - at UCF
The Greenies fought tooth and nail against the Knights last fall and, even though UCF isn’t quite what they were in their 2017 hayday, they are still a formidable opponent. The fact that Tulane took them down to the wire last year was impressive; the Wave only lost by three.
Near successes don’t count, however, and this year Tulane will have to travel to Orlando for the rematch. A win over the Knights won’t come easy but would go miles for the team’s confidence if they were able to pull it off. UCF, on the other hand, is looking to climb back into the national spotlight. We could have a good one on our hands as October nears its end.
Oct. 31 - Temple
Another team that got the better of Tulane last year was Temple. The Owls took down the Wave 21-29 in Philly last fall but the game actually felt more lopsided than eight points. Tulane wasn’t able to muster up much until the closing frame when it was already too late.
A Halloween home game could be just the thing the Greenies need to avenge last year’s defeat. Temple isn’t a team that the Wave gets to see very often and, as conference races will be heating up, a win over the Owls would go a long way in setting up another very important November in New Orleans.
Nov. 7 - at East Carolina
Tulane hasn’t faced off against ECU since the 2018 season and when they did, they had to hold on until the very end. The Pirates have always been one of those sneaky teams for the Wave; the one that on paper they should beat easily but for whatever reason they can’t seem to shake them until the end.
With the game being in Greenville this year, that script may easily play out yet again. This early November conference tilt could be the fork in the road for Tulane in terms of where they’ll end up come December. A win may set them on the right path to an AAC title game appearance while a loss could derail the entire season (depending on where they stand). However you cut it, this one will most likely have a lot riding on it.
Nov. 14 - Army
Army and Tulane are no strangers to facing off even though they don’t share a conference. In the last ten seasons, the two have met five times. The Wave, of course, took last year’s contest in somewhat surprising fashion over in West Point, so if nothing else, the Black Knights will have the revenge factor here.
It’ll be a little odd to have a non-conference game so late in the season but that’s good for Tulane. A loss here won’t devastate things if the Greenies find themselves in a tight AAC race (which they very well might). But a win would boost morale and confidence at a crucial point in the season.
Nov. 21 - at Tulsa
Over the last three or so years it’s felt like Tulsa is on the verge of breaking out. Last year they finished 4-8 after a 3-9 go of it in 2018. Those records, though, aren’t indicative of how close the Golden Hurricane hung around in some games. Against Tulane two years ago they put up a good fight, only losing by a touchdown and last year’s 12-point loss in New Orleans wasn’t nearly as bad as it was projected to be.
With Philip Montgomery coming into his sixth season as Tulsa’s head coach it seems like sooner or later push will come to shove and there’ll be an explosion of production. What does that mean for Tulane? The same thing it’s always meant: don’t overlook these guys. Who knows what Tulsa’s record will look like by this point but one thing is for certain... they will give the Wave a test.
Nov. 28 - Memphis
Ahh, the best for last. By best here, we mean hardest. Memphis handed Tulane its ugliest loss of the year a season ago when they, and more specifically Kenny Gainwell, thumped the Wave on primetime TV. Gainwell gashed the Tulane defense for over 300 total yards (rushing and receivng). Even though that wound won’t be fresh by then. it’s still deep and the Greenies haven’t forgotten it.
Gainwell will be back for a Tigers team that won the conference a year ago by downing the very talented Cincinnati Wildcats in the AAC championship. The path to the conference’s title my very easily again go through Memphis and if that’s the case, Tulane is going to be in deep water this final week. Who knows, this could be the game that sends someone to the AAC championship and keeps someone else out of it. There’’s going to be a lot at stake here... thank goodness its in New Orleans.
So there it is, the entire slate. Obviously it’s way too early to gauge the exact ins and outs of these matchups but we can at least get an idea of the main bullet points. The Wave scheduled well in it’s non-conference portion of the season. It’s always good to test yourself against P5 talent (and let’s not kid ourselves, that Northwestern game is quite winnable). But there’s also some quality G5 opponents. Plus a little FCS tune-up game is always nice to get the fans going in Week 1.
The AAC portion is going to be a bumpy ride but it always is. Road games at Houston and UCF are scary but so is that season finale at home against Memphis. All those are going to be huge in determining the outcome of this season and if Tulane can’t steal even one of those, it could be a very cold December. The path, of course, isn’t easy but now it’s clear. Expect another fun ride in 2020.