If things go chalk as we’ve outlined in Parts 1 and 2 of our season breakdown for Tulane then November will be a very meaningful month in New Orleans. Both the non-conference and middle portions of the slate will be a slog and the final four games shape up to be no different. If the Green Wave wants to take that next step as a program, though, it’ll will have to find a way to navigate that final stretch.
November 6 - at UCF
The yikes factor doesn’t go down much here. Tulane has the honor of facing the conference’s top two QBs in back-to-back weeks as Dillon Gabriel and the Knights await after Cincinnati. UCF may have been knocked from their stoop atop the conference but they haven’t gone anywhere. Gabriel led the AAC in passing efficiency, yards per game and total offense produced in 2020 and has no plans of letting up this year. If Tulane can’t thwart him somehow, someway — they will not win this game.
But of course, Gabriel isn’t the only one the Wave needs to hone in on. Receiver Jaylon Robinson is back again and if you blink you might miss him. One of the fastest guys in the conference, Robinson finished behind only Marlon Williams last year in catches (55) and receiving yards (979). This year there’s little doubt he’ll be the number one guy and his speed will be a problem for Tulane. There are no two ways about it, the Greenies are going to have their hands full with the Knights high-powered offense.
That just means that Pratt and his own offense will have to be up to snuff. UCF’s defense knows how to get takeaways. They led the AAC in turnover margin last year with +12 and with guys like linebacker Eriq Gilyard it’s easy to see why. Gilyard forced three fumbles a season ago and finished second on the team in total tackles with 59. Just chalk him up as another red flag.
The Prediction: We just spent three paragraphs raving about this Knights team and with good reason. They excel at almost everything they do. But what I’m about to say next might put some of you into a flurry because Tulane is winning this game. It will be undeniably the biggest upset of Fritz’s tenure in New Orleans but somehow, someway the Green Wave are leaving Orlando with a victory. It’s going to be nail-bitingly close but put it in pen, it’s happening.
Final: UCF 27 - Tulane 30 (OT)
November 13 - Tulsa
If there’s one team Tulane wants to dish a tasty plate of revenge on this year it's Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane took last year’s contest on an overtime pick-six and one can imagine that sour taste still resides in the mouths of the Green Wave players and fans. Defeating Tulsa will be no easy task though (noticing a pattern about the latter half of the season?).
This team played for the AAC title last fall and took Cincy down to the wire. Davis Brin looks to lead the offense after serving as backup to Zach Smith and has himself a nice set of receivers to help the cause. JuanCarlos Santana returns to the mix after a 500-yard season in 2020 as does his counterpart Josh Johnson. Johnson was one yard away from a 500-yard campaign of his own and had six touchdowns.
The defense, despite losing star Zaven Collins, is bringing back some key pieces as well. Last year’s leading tackler Justin Wright will be back and could make life hell on the Tulane ground attack. It’s no guarantee that if the Wave wins it will be through the air but odds are pretty good that’s how it’ll pan out. Wright notched 9.5 tackles for loss last season and tacked on two sacks meaning that if the offense wants to stay ahead of the chains, they’ll need an answer for the junior linebacker.
The Prediction: Tulane is going to be emotionally gassed from their huge win over UCF a week prior and it will result in sloppy play early on. Tulsa will jump out to a 10-point lead before the Wave finally kicks it into gear. Pratt will find his rhythm in the second quarter and pull his team into a tie heading into half. From there the defense will take the baton and carry it home. A few turnovers in the second half will set up scores and ice the game the late. No overtime this year.
Final: Tulane 24 - Tulsa 17
November 20 - South Florida
We never like to use the word “easy” but let’s just say that this game should be a nice break in the action for Tulane. The Bulls are coming off a less-than-impressive 1-8 campaign in which they didn’t win a single AAC game. Yes, we know it was Jeff Scott’s first season as head man and we also know that 2020 was a hard year all around but on paper, the Green Wave should win this game.
Offensively Tulane is much more talented. Pratt should be able to out-duel expected USF starting QB Cade Fortin. And if for some reason he can’t, the ground game should have enough in the tank to get it done. Defensively the Bulls ranked near the bottom of the conference in most major categories. There shouldn’t be much of an issue for Fritz’s offense here.
On the other side of the ball, the Wave should be in equally good shape if everyone comes to play. A strong defensive front with Johnson and Dorceus paired with the linebacker duo we’ve mentioned is a recipe for thwarting a USF offense that didn’t even rush for 1,500 yards last season and failed to throw for 2,000.
The Prediction: The Green Wave will come out swinging and they won’t look back. Pratt spreads the ball around and makes it look easy, accumulating three passing touchdowns by halftime. From there the ground game takes over and smothers out the Bulls’ chances. By the fourth quarter, it’ll be little more than going through the motions if the starters are still out there. Tulane takes it with minimal trouble.
Final: South Florida 13 - Tulane 34
November 27 - at Memphis
Tulane’s final test will be against a Memphis squad that, if we’re being frank, we don’t exactly know what to make of. Brady White is gone and that’s tough news but it’s not as if the Tigers have no one left. Calvin Austin III returns at receiver after a 2020 in which he logged 11 touchdown catches and 1,053 yards, both team bests. If he’s there Memphis has a chance. How well will the Green Wave DBs be able to hold up? That could be the question that decides this game.
Right now, though, the offensive advantage has to go to Tulane still. White’s absence at QB will be felt, especially if Pratt is slinging it. The Tigers defense could have their hands full with a Wave offense that’s clicking by season’s end (if everyone remains healthy). Not to mention, Memphis lost one of their premier defenders in Dorcues to Tulane this offseason. If nothing else it’ll be a big game for him.
All in all, you’ve got to believe that the Wave should have this one. Sure it’s a road game and sure the last game of the season can bring some wild things with it but there’s still no reason to believe they can’t handle this. If a berth in a bowl game or a conference championship is on the line here, we don’t see the Greenies letting up at all.
The Prediction: It’ll be close early and the offense will make a costly mistake that gives Memphis an early lead and momentum. The Tiger crowd will be into it. Michael Pratt will be set up to have his moment. He’ll shake off the slow start to lead Tulane’s offense down the field time and time again. Field goals and touchdowns will pile up and Memphis won’t be able to keep pace. Austin secures a touchdown late to put the Tigers within striking distance but the Green Wave defense will close it out to escape with toughly-contested win.
Final: Tulane 28 - Memphis 24
Projected November Record: 4-0
Projected Season Finish: 9-3 (7-1 AAC)
Projected Standing: 1st (AAC West Division)
Final Thoughts: The expectations are high and many people think Tulane may have one of the best teams it has fielded in a long, long time down in the Big Easy. The excitement is well-founded too because on paper we’d be hard-pressed to disagree with that sentiment. Pratt’s an up-and-comer with lots of room to grow, the defense is anchored by some of the best big guys and linebackers in the conference and the offense has potential to fire on all cylinders in ways we haven’t seen in a while. There’s no doubt the Green Wave can compete for a spot in the AAC title game, they’ll just have to run a gauntlet to do it.