Friday, August 30, 2002

2002 Tulane Football Preview

I don't think it is possible to think rationally about Tulane football and not remove one's glasses and rub one's head.

It is hard to be optimistic. When your most confidence inspiring player is your kicker, you know the potential is there for a long season.

College football is ultimately a product of three items: players, coaching and schedule. Ultimately this year is a referendum on the Scelfo era. These are his players now, his program. Its hard to characterize Scelfo as a good coach or a bad coach- he sort of does what can be expected. Every year the team has won about as many games that ought to have been expected. It is hard to recruit at Tulane, and accordingly he doesn't get many good players. Nevertheless, a slip back- any two/three win season means that next year's 2003 campaign will probably be his last.

C-USA has undergone a personality change over the past five years, which is largely responsible to the success Coach Bowden (don't get me started on this sainted man- I admit to being a complete Bowden apologist) had at Tulane. Bowden figured out the key to beating Southern Miss, the reigning conference tyrant at the time, was not to slug it out with them, but rather to spread the field and put the ball in the hands of your best player(s) again and again. Now the whole league does it, and its sort of the old WAC redux. Louisville, I swear, must have photocopied Bowden's playbook. Cardinal players then spent hours coloring it in.

Tulane obviously embraced this philosophy in a big way, and has been blessed with a series of quarterbacks literally as good as any in the country. And again, any strength this team has will have to come from the offense. The tailback Moore is a stone player, the new quarterback gives every indication he is too, and bless their hearts, Tulane always seems to have a few skill people step up and play better than expected. I guess if you throw the ball 50 times a game, two guys by default are going to catch seven balls for 90 yards. And if you can throw it, you can run it- at least a little bit- in the spread field- even with an inexperienced, undersized offensive line. Losing Ramsey, truly a class act, is a blow.... but you got to think they'll be able to score.

Sigh.....talking about undersized players, we move to the defense. I know they return a lot of starters, but many of them just can't play. This is a small group up front. They compensate for that by not being particularly athletic or fast in the secondary- other than Elpheage. They really miss a lot of tackles for a bunch of guys who absolutely cannot afford to miss a lot of tackles. Tulane hasn't had a really good linbacker since Stant left. They're on the field constantly too- as the Wave runs no semblance of ball control on offense.

The schedule is tricky. Southern is a lay up, but three straight on the road- followed by Texas? That is regretable. Hard to see them winning many of those. All indications are that Houston and Memphis stink- so let's give the Wave one of those four. They ought to win at Monroe (USL- truly a wretched situation there). Home games: Cincinnati, UAB, Navy,and Army....probably get two here, maybe three...but c'mon, they are absolutely not good enough to get all 4. At TCU and Southern Mississipi they are multiple touchdown underdogs. So put me down officially for five I-A wins, or six counting Southern. It is pretty much the same situation as last year: the offense looses some at QB and OL, the defense a bit better w/ the returning starters and coaching change. A wash really.

However, unlike last year, there is some potential upside to the win total. Last year's schedule was brutally arranged (at least we don't open @ BYU and @ LSU- or play Lousiville), this year's breaks better (Army, Cincinnati, Navy, UAB would be probable losses on the road, but they could get three of four at home). And if some things break their way: the QB plays well consistently, Moore has a monster year, the defense really does improve due to the experience and the change in coaches, they could get to eight.