Location: Hancock Whitney Stadium – Mobile, AL
Date: Saturday, September 12
Time: 6:30 pm CT
Records: South Alabama 1-0 (0-0 Sun Belt), Tulane 0-0 (0-0 AAC)
Betting Line: Tulane -8; O/U 52.5
All-Time Series: South Alabama leads 1-0
Last Meeting: South Alabama 41, Tulane 39 (September 7, 2013)
Quick Hits: The Jaguars are riding the heels of a surprising opening night victory over Southern Miss last Thursday. After finishing the 2019 season with a dismal 2-10 record, South Alabama was not a team many expected to make much noise this year. They will host Tulane in their first home game of the new campaign and are looking to start a season 2-0 for the first time since 2011.
Tulane will be starting their 2020 season after their originally scheduled first game was canceled. Last year the Wave went 7-6 and won the Armed Forces Bowl marking the first time the team has won back to back bowl games. Their campaign for a third will begin with the Jaguars whom they’ve only faced once in program history.
From Tulane’s Perspective: When the Green Wave unveiled their 2020 schedule last winter, South Alabama was probably the furthest team from the minds of most Wave fans. The most turbulent offseason in recent memory, though, forced Tulane to revamp what was originally a pretty tough non-conference schedule. Instead of P5 competition like Mississippi State and Northwestern, the Greenies will instead be facing the likes of Southern Miss, an old rival they faced in last year’s Armed Forces Bowl, and this week’s opponent: South Alabama.
In order to start the season off on the right foot, Tulane will need new starter Keon Howard to pick up where Justin McMillan left off last season. Howard, who served as McMillan’s backup last fall, will take control of the talented offense that head coach Willie Fritz has constructed.
Unfortunately for Tulane, though, they will be without one of their most prolific playmakers this season in running back Corey Dauphine. Dauphine, who was coming off a very productive 2019 season that saw him rush for 575 yards on 72 carries, tore his Achilles tendon earlier this month and will be out for the season, bringing a heartbreaking end to his college career.
No Dauphine will be mean that it’s time for Amare Jones and Cameron Carroll to take the mantle. Jones has proven to be one of the offense’s most dynamic weapons as both a potent runner and pass catcher out of the backfield. Last season he mustered up nearly as many receiving yards (367) as he did rushing yards (371) and was responsible for six total touchdowns. Carroll, too, played a significant role rushing for 372 yards and four touchdowns in 2019.
Let’s not forget that Howard can also tote the rock if needed. In his college career (much of which to this point came with the Golden Eagles) he has carried the ball 110 times and that’s good because Tulane may very well need a cavalcade of runners to topple a Jaguars defensive unit that surrendered just 95 total yards on the ground to Southern Miss last week.
Howard will have help through the air as well though. Despite losing the explosive Darnell Mooney, the Wave should be alright. Over the offseason Fritz was able to entice grad-transfer Mykel Jones over from Oklahoma. Jones has the chance to be an immediate game changer for Tulane. He comes to the program with 495 receiving yards to his name (but remember he was an afterthought on a Sooners team that had CeeDee Lamb).
Jones will likely be lined up against junior CB Davyn Flenord who had some moderate trouble with Golden Eagles receivers last Thursday. As a unit, the Jags struggled much more with the pass than the run, allowing over 300 passing yards on 22 catches. This could spell a big night for Jones and may serve as the make-or-break matchup in this one.
Defensively Tulane boasts one of the best defensive lines in the AAC and they will need to show why on Saturday. Defensive end Patrick Johnson is one of the conference’s best with 14 sacks in his college career as well as 23.5 tackles for loss. He and the line will yet again need to be stout against South Alabama and, more specifically, quarterback Desmond Trotter who finished with 299 passing yards and 41 rush yards against Southern Miss. Getting to Trotter will be key in slowing down the Jags offense that looked sharp last week.
From South Alabama’s Perspective:
In order for the Jaguars to remain undefeated in this early season Trotter will need to replicate his performance from last week. South Alabama’s sophomore QB averaged over 11 yards per pass against Southern Miss and threw for two touchdowns. As mentioned earlier, Trotter nearly eclipsed the 300-yard mark as well. He will need to pick his way through a Tulane secondary led by senior Chase Kuerschen. Kuerschen has four interceptions in his career as well as four passes defended.
Trotter should be just fine, though, if receivers Jalen Tolbert and Jalen Wayne can also have repeat performances of their first game. Tolbert was dynamite for the Jags against the Golden Eagles, nabbing six catches for 169 yards and both of Trotter’s touchdowns while Wayne hauled in six more passes for 101 yards. The duo alone accounted for over half of South Alabama’s total offensive yards on the night.
Running back Carlos Davis looks to be the workhorse again this week after an 85-yard performance last Thursday. He may have a tough time against the Green Wave’s stout defensive line that gave up under five yards per carry last season.
On the defensive side of the ball, South Alabama will be looking to penetrate the backfield as well as they did against USM. They got to quarterback Jack Abraham for two sacks last week and they notched five total tackles for loss. That will be major against Tulane’s talented backs. Junior linebacker Nick Mobley could play a huge role in this department. Last week Mobley got in on 15 tackles.
Final Thoughts: This has the feel of a game that Tulane should win but after the Jags’ performance in Week 1, no one should be sleeping on these guys. With Howard set to make his first start with the Wave, expect South Alabama’s defense to queue up on the senior signal caller early and apply pressure. If the Jaguars can stymie the Green Wave rushers, then there’s a real chance they snag another impressive victory. However, stopping Tulane’s rushing attack, even without Dauphine, is a lot easier said than done.
Prediction: Tulane 34 - South Alabama 28