This fall in New Orleans is shaping up to be an exciting one. Tulane’s 2018 regular season schedule is chalked full of familiar foes plus a couple clubs they’ve never seen before. There will be rematches left and right, a non-major school coming to town for (what we expect to be) a thrashing, and a trip to Columbus. Yeah, this season is going to be a lot of fun, a lot of excitement, and filled with a lot of memorable moments. But one thing it won’t be is a walk in the park. Allow me to explain…
The Path to the Postseason
Aug. 30th vs Wake Forest
Tulane will start its slate with a rematch of a 2016 contest in which the Demon Deacons narrowly squeezed out a 7-3 victory. We certainly won’t see single digits this time around though as the Green Wave offense has improved mightily in the last two seasons. The unit which will be led by senior quarterback Jonathan Banks is more than capable of putting up potent numbers on opposing defenses. In the final three games last season they averaged 449.3 yards.
That being said, Wake Forest will be no pushover. The Deacs are coming off an 8-5 bowl season and are returning 15 starters including wide receiver Greg Dortch. Dortch racked up 722 yards as a freshman last season so he has the potential to be a headache for a Tulane secondary that will be playing its first game in the post-Parry Nickerson era. The Deacons might do some serious damage through the air.
Don’t underestimate the homefield advantage in this one though. A Thursday night contest under the lights of Yulman Stadium might just be the difference maker for the Wave. Expect it to be close and high scoring. This feels like one of those games that will come down to the last drive (or play). Merek Glover hits a field goal late and the Wave starts 2018 off on the right foot.
Tulane 27 – Wake Forest 25
Sept. 8th vs Nicholls State
Get ready to watch the Wave really roll come week 2. The stage will be set for an old-fashioned beatdown. The program plans on honoring its 1998 undefeated team during this game, something that will undoubtedly get the fans hyped. By the way, Nicholls State is an FCS school and while I know this sort of game has the potential be an upset nightmare for some teams but this Tulane squad should have things under control. It will be their second home game in as many weeks and, barring any major injuries, this should be one of those contests that we’ll see backups taking reps by the third quarter.
We shouldn’t forget that the Colonels did make the FCS playoffs last year and will be coming in with a “we’ve got nothing to lose” attitude. Because of this it will be important for the Wave to set a tone early. Tulane will score quickly and then pile on. If they can avoid turnovers and mental errors, 50 or even 60 points isn’t out of the realm of possibilities. I don’t always like to speak too soon on games like this in the light of last year’s Baylor-Liberty fiasco (among numerous others) but I see some pretty smooth sailing in this one.
Tulane 48 – Nicholls State 13
Sept. 15th at UAB
Something about this game just screams bad news to me and I can’t quite place a finger as to why. Maybe it’s because it’ll be the first road trip or maybe it’s because this UAB club rose from the dead a year ago (no, literally they didn’t have a program in 2015 and 2016). Needless to say, they have a lot to prove. The last time Tulane met the Blazers, the teams combined for 100 total points. Of course six years has since passed but last year UAB earned a berth in a bowl game and finished just one game out of first in the Conference USA western division. These guys will be out for blood all season and that could mean a long day for the Wave.
It’ll be a dogfight. If Tulane hopes to come out with a victory they will have to avoid turnovers. There can’t be any costly mistakes like fumbles; something the Green Wave had a particular problem with a season ago. Fumbles or not though, just don’t like the way this game shapes up.
Tulane 17 – UAB 20
Sept. 22th at Ohio State
Just like the last one, this game has bad news written all over it. Unlike the last one, I can tell you precisely why and I’m sure you don’t need me to spell it out for you, but if you’ll just indulge me.
The Buckeyes, despite being in the midst of an ugly investigation involving head coach Urban Meyer, enter the season ranked as the nation’s No. 3 team according to the Coaches Poll. The defending Big Ten champs will most likely be led by QB Dwayne Haskins who is a dangerous pro-style player. He can make things happen all over the field.
If the Wave are to have any success at all in this projected slaughter, then they will have to find an answer for Ohio State’s defensive line which many, including myself, consider to be one of the nation’s best. Buckeyes defensive ends Chase Young and Nick Bosa will give Tulane’s offense fits all game. The Green Wave can’t be intimidated by a full Ohio Stadium and the perennial national championship contender standing on the opposite sideline or the game will be over before it begins. That’s a lot easier said than done though.
Oh, and did I fail to mention that this a program that feels extremely slighted for being left out of the College Football Playoff last season and will be doing anything to show the committee why they deserve a shot this year? Also, let’s just say Meyer does get canned following this investigation. Now you’ve got an even angrier Buckeyes team with two reasons to seek revenge. Essentially, don’t be shocked if Ohio State is running the score up late. Yikes. I just don’t see how it isn’t going to be a dreadfully long afternoon in Columbus.
Tulane 10 – Ohio State 55
Sept. 28th vs Memphis
The Green Wave will begin conference play at home, which is always nice. The Tigers will be no easy task though. Last year Memphis lost a wild AAC Championship game in double overtime to the undefeated and self-proclaimed national champion UCF Knights. They were also ranked for the latter half of the season and were insanely productive putting up an average of 45.5 points a game… yes an average.
The name of the game in this one will be keep pace. The Tigers are going to score and score often meaning Tulane’s offense will have to be able to match their opponents blow for blow. They cannot, I repeat NOT, turn the ball over. You never want to do that in any game of course, but giving an offensive unit like Memphis’ extra opportunities will be fatal. Defenses beware because these two are going to light up the scoreboard at Yulman.
Tulane 31 – Memphis 45
Oct. 6th at Cincinnati
The Bearcats pose an intriguing matchup for the Wave. Head coach Luke Fickell is entering his second year at the helm in Cincinnati and will be looking to improve on a lackluster 4-8 season. They will be led by senior signal caller Hayden Moore along with running back Gerrid Doaks. Doaks led the team with 513 yards a season ago despite missing the final game with a shoulder injury.
I expect Tulane’s defense to crowd the box in an effort to keep Doaks bottled up and force the Bearcat offense to become one-dimensional. If they can do this effectively, then they should be alright. I see the Wave coming out of their second game in Ohio with a much better result than their first.
Tulane 24 – Cincinnati 17
Oct. 20th vs SMU
Every team has one game on their slate that’s their make or break. Last year’s showdown with the Mustangs ended in heartbreak as Tulane came up literally inches short of a victory that would have most likely punched their bowl ticket. Oddly enough, this season’s bid for a bowl appearance has the potential to be largely defined by the Wave’s game with SMU again. Tulane will be coming fresh off a bye week and returning to New Orleans to play in front of their home crowd. Any minor injuries or fatigue the team may be suffering from by mid-October will have the opportunity for much-needed rest.
Tulane will come flying out of the gates for that very reason. A quick score will set the tone early and Banks and company will gash a defense that was fairly consistent in giving up 30+ points a game last year. The difference maker in this game could easily be the Green Wave’s own defense. If the group can allow the team to jump out to a decent lead early on, the Mustangs will be in trouble.
Tulane 34 – SMU 27
Oct. 27th at Tulsa
Last year Tulane put up its season high in points against the Golden Hurricane with 62. This go around won’t be in New Orleans but it will hardly matter. In 2017 Tulsa ranked near the bottom in points allowed (121st) with 37.5 and they have done little to instill confidence that that has changed. Tulane’s dynamic offense can and should put up some big numbers in Oklahoma.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Green Wave will attempt to shut down any sort of passing game. The Golden Hurricane only threw six touchdowns last season and racked up eight picks. It will be a big day for the secondary and Tulane will walk away with another lopsided win against a dismal Tulsa team.
Tulane 43 – Tulsa 14
Nov. 3rd at South Florida
It’s hard to imagine that these two clubs have only met once seeing as they’ve each been in the American for several years but with the way last year’s game went, maybe Tulane is glad for that. Last October, the Bulls stormed into town ranked 16th and showed why as they tore through the Green Wave defense for 505 yards and 5 touchdowns.
The good news for Tulane is that USF has since lost the guy that was a large part of that offensive onslaught. Sensational quarterback Quinton Flowers is no longer with the Bulls and who have yet to name a definite replacement.
South Florida, donning those flashy new Adidas uniforms, will come to play. In a contest where big opportunities may be at a premium, look for that one game-defining play to make the difference. I’m not sure how I feel about Tulane’s chances in Tampa.
Tulane 17 – USF 21
Nov. 10th vs East Carolina
Everyone loves to get more than they paid for and that’s what happened last year when the Pirates hosted the Wave. Now I’m not saying to necessarily count on overtime again, but don’t be surprised if it happens either. This ECU team, for all its follies, has been Tulane’s kryptonite in seasons past. After all, last November’s narrow win was just the fourth all time for the Green Wave against the scrappy bunch from Greenville.
At this point in the season, more than likely, Tulane will be on the bowl bubble and every inch will be huge so expect the home crowd to be raucous. The defense will rise to the occasion and force the Pirates into difficult-to-manage situations. Mistakes will follow and the Green Wave offense will capitalize on those mistakes. ECU will hang around but ultimately I like the way this matchup looks.
Tulane 35 – ECU 27
Nov. 15th at Houston
Tulane fans are still relishing the sight Terren Encalade scampering down the field for a 64-yard touchdown with six minutes to go. It was the play that of course helped the Wave pull off their biggest upset of the season and you can bet that the Cougars haven’t forgotten it. Despite losing three of its top receivers, Houston is still scary. Quarterback D’Eriq King will most likely be spearheading the dangerous offense and that could spell trouble for the Green Wave. King had a completion percentage of 64.7% in his 10 games last year.
I fully expect Houston to come out swinging. A Thursday night game on ESPN will have the Coogs fans riled up and the team is going to use it to their advantage. Tulane will make a bonehead mistake early and have to play catch up for most of the night; not an ideal situation in an environment like this. In the end Houston will prove to be too much and avenge last year’s defeat.
Tulane 20 – Houston 30
Nov. 24th vs Navy
Last year’s bout with Navy was a weird one. The game featured two fumble return touchdowns and a bizarre safety that turned out to be the difference. What’s more is that the contest itself was extremely early for a conference game. That being said, I fully anticipate that this year’s matchup will be the polar opposite in almost every way.
With it coming so late in the season, Tulane will be doing everything it can catch the committee’s attention and I just can’t see the Mids being in the same position. This is why the Wave will be firing on all cylinders in this one. The silly mistakes of last year’s meeting won’t repeat themselves and Tulane will leave no doubt about their position in the bowl landscape.
Tulane 28 – Navy 21
Let me just preface this by saying that I do believe Tulane has improved from a season ago and you can put me on record here: the Green Wave will end this bowl drought. I have them going 7-5 and being at least competitive in almost every game. When all is said and done, it will come down to how well the team’s upperclassmen can fill vacant leadership roles. It doesn’t fall solely on their shoulders to carry this squad but they are where it all begins.
What I cannot stress enough about this Green Wave team is their motivation and the tunnel vision they have toward these postseason aspirations. Tulane wants a bowl game and they want it badly. Don’t forget, they lost four of their games last year by a combined 12 points. A team that’s been given an entire offseason to reflect on something like that is not one to overlook. Whatever 2018 brings, count on this for certain: it’s going to be a wild ride for fans in the Big Easy. Roll Wave!