It’s time to party in New Orleans like it’s 1998.
For the first time in 24 years, the Tulane Green Wave wield a ranking next to their name. Tulane checked in at No. 25 in the AP Poll released Sunday afternoon, just one day after the Green Wave attained bowl eligibility and improved to 6-1 — their best start since an unblemished 1998 season.
With 115 points from the 63-member panel, Tulane edged Purdue by 20 points for the final spot in the poll. The Green Wave are one of two AAC teams to crack the current rankings, joining recent AP Poll staple Cincinnati which landed at No. 21.
It’s been an incredible bounce back season for a Tulane team which went through plenty of adversity in 2021. Last year, Willie Fritz’s team faced an uphill battle to start the season as it was deprived of its first two home games due to the effects of Hurricane Ida. Tulane moved its practices to Birmingham and spent roughly a month in that city, operating away from its home base in New Orleans. The result was a 2-10 record, but Tulane became stronger after the trials of last season.
The Green Wave were the last remaining undefeated team in the AAC at 3-0, notching a season-defining road win against an otherwise unbeaten Kansas State squad in Week 3. Tulane recorded four key fourth downs stops to stifle the Wildcat offense and escape Manhattan, KS with a 17-10 victory. Although the Green Wave stumbled the following week at home against Southern Miss, resiliency was demonstrated just six days later in a primetime road environment in Houston.
Operating without starting quarterback Michael Pratt, Tulane lost backup quarterback Justin Ibieta in the first quarter against the preseason AAC favorite Cougars. Despite the shortage of depth at the position, third-string Kai Horton checked in to lead a game-tying drive and deliver the winning overtime touchdown pass to defeat Houston. Pratt has since returned to the lineup to engineer the Green Wave to a 2-0 start in AAC play, defeating East Carolina and South Florida by two touchdowns each in back-to-back weeks.
Now at 6-1, Tulane is bowl eligible for the fourth time in the last five seasons under Fritz. The Green Wave are one victory shy of matching their highest win total under the seventh-year head coach and two wins away from tying their winningest season of the 21st century (faring 8-5 in 2002).
The Green Wave control their own destiny for a New Year’s Six bowl as well. Tulane’s looming schedule features the other two 1-loss AAC teams — hosting 5-1 UCF on Nov. 12 and taking a road trip to 5-1 Cincinnati on Nov. 25. Qualifying for the New Year’s Six requires a conference championship, and to get there, Tulane must secure one of the top two league records in the AAC.
According to Tulane blog Fear The Wave, by checking in at No. 25 in the AP Poll, Tulane snapped the fifth longest active drought without a ranking in college football. Only North Texas, New Mexico State, Rice, and Wyoming have watched more time pass between their last ranking and present day than the 386 polls Tulane waited through.
Tulane returns home to Yulman Stadium to host Memphis next Saturday in its first game as a ranked team in nearly a quarter century.