Location: Yulman Stadium - New Orleans, LA
Date: Saturday, October 30
Time: 11:00 a.m. CT
Records: , Tulane 1-6 (0-3 AAC), Cincinnati 7-0 (3-0 AAC)
Betting Line: Cincinnati -23, O/U 62.5
All-Time Series: Tulane leads 11-6
Last Meeting: Tulane 21, Cincinnati 37 (October 6, 2018)
Quick Hits: The #2 Bearcats are having a season that is even topping the success of last year. Currently Cincinnati finds themselves in what would be a playoff position and are the first ever G5 program to hold such a position in the rankings. Coming off a closer-than-expected win over Navy last week, Cincy will have their eyes on a much more comfortable outcome against struggling and banged up Tulane squad.
The Green Wave are in the midst of one of their most disappointing starts in recent memory. Tulane, expected by many to be a dark horse in the American this year, has still yet to top an FBS opponent and are on the verge of losing out on bowl eligibility. Last week’s lopsided loss against SMU did more than damage the team’s already-spiraling record, though. Quarterback Michael Pratt suffered a nasty hit against the Mustangs and his status for Saturday is now uncertain.
From Tulane’s Perspective: Tulane is now facing the #2 team in the country for the second time this season as Oklahoma was also second when the two teams met up in September and this game somehow feels even more mismatched than that one was. The Bearcats are scary good and the Green Wave are scary bad in a lot of areas right now with defense being the foremost concern.
The Wave defense has given up over 400 total offensive yards in six of their seven games this fall with last week’s contest being one of the worst at 612. Opposing passers have been able to throw for roughly 300 yards per contest against the unit this season and that spells really bad news with one Desmond Ridder coming to town. Ridder has had a great year thus far, throwing for 1,620 yards and 15 touchdowns. Somehow, some way Tulane’s defense must slow him down or they won’t have a chance.
Defensive back Macon Clark will have a tall task trying to lead the Green Wave secondary against receivers like Alec Pierce and Tyler Scott. Clark, the team’s leading tackler, does have a pick and three tackles for loss this season but he alone cannot save Tulane. Youngsters Jadon Canady and Kevin Henry will need to step up on the back end as well.
It isn’t just Tulane’s defense, however, that might be in for a long day. The offense could struggle majorly if their starting quarterback can’t play. In the event Pratt (1,607 passing yards and 16 touchdowns this season) can’t go, Kai Horton will, in all likelihood, get the nod. Horton has seen very little action and it’s hard to believe that the unproven freshman will be able to go toe to toe with a Cincy defense that has ballhawks like Deshawn Pace and Arquon Bush.
If Horton is in then Tulane will need to rely heavily on their run game that’s been quiet for the majority of the year. Cameron Carroll and Tyjae Spears could see their numbers called a lot on Saturday but will they have enough? The duo has combined for 553 yards and five scores and each has proven they can serve as viable passing-catching targets as well. Regardless, it will be a tall order.
From Cincinnati’s Perspective: This game plan is simple, at least on paper: show up, play to your abilities for 60 minutes and leave New Orleans with another win. There really is no reason to doubt the Bearcats in this one. Even before Tulane’s epic slide from relevance, we had Cincy picked to win this game. Luke Fickell has done a sensational job with the Bearcats and this game should just be another stepping stone.
As mentioned earlier, Ridder is one of the best QBs in the AAC and, if Pratt can’t go, Cincy will have a clear QB advantage in this matchup (and they may regardless). Ridder is averaging 8.2 yards per pass attempt and has an impressive 63.6 completion percentage. What’s more is that he’s only tossed three interceptions all season. While he should have little trouble against the Green Wave’s struggling secondary, he should have a healthy respect for the likes of the previously-mentioned Clark and Larry Brooks.
Cincinnati's run game, too, should have the edge. Jerome Ford is tearing it up with 13 touchdowns and 795 rush yards during this, his sophomore campaign. For a point of reference, Cincy’s next leading rusher behind him is Ridder who has 124 yards and three touchdowns.
The Bearcats defense is equally ferocious. Led by star linebacker Deshawn Pace, the defense is surrendering under 200 rush yards per contest. Pace himself has already notched four turnovers (three interceptions, one fumble recovery) and is second on the team in tackles with 54 total. He’ll make things happen as he has done all season.
Also shining on defense is cornerback Arquon Bush. Bush, expected by many to be high NFL draft selection next year, has three interceptions (career best for a single season) and five defended passes to his name in 2021. He could feast on Saturday in Pratt doesn’t play.
Final Thoughts: Through and through Cincinnati should dominate this game. The Bearcats are loaded and, while Tulane has talent there, it hasn’t shown up to its potential so far this season and now beat up, it would be difficult to imagine them doing so now. Willie Fritz’s team is in big trouble and the Bearcats seem poised to put them on blast on Saturday. It feels as though Tulane’s only sliver of hope rests with Pratt playing and if he can’t then it’ll be a long, long afternoon.
Prediction: Cincinnati 45 - Tulane 17