Thursday, September 02, 2004

Preview: Tulane v. Mississippi State

Well, here we are, right?

Poor Scelfo. Not only does he have to game plan a road win against an emotional opponent, but also Coach has to design it knowing the singular thing he can count on is that Mississippi State will be the 12th out of 13 opponents in a row to rush for 200+ yards against us. How many teams last year won a game conceding 200 yards on the ground? Heck, is it even possible?

Clearly, by putting the visiting Wave up as only a 6-point underdog, Vegas certainly thinks it is do-able. I mean, when was the last time a consensus 8-10th place finisher in C-USA went on the road to an SEC school- and was not a double-digit underdog? This line is convincing evidence of one thing- Mississippi State is thought by the “smart guys” to be pretty damn horrible.
One thing I took from last year that Tulane can compete in, even win, road games, as semi-big underdogs, if they play their A-game offensively AND their opponent:

- not only turns it over a whole bunch of times but also repeatedly in the red zone

- plays a totally uninspired or sloppy half

- does not feature a real dominant offensive line

I think that is sort of true about Saturday night too. The Wave has to play a competent offensive game, and kind of give Mississippi State every chance to press a little: miss a field goal here, throw a bad pass there, try and do too much on a 3rd and 13, take a key dumb unsportsman-like penalty, etc.
I sense this isn’t a game about Tulane so much. Our offense isn’t going to score 28 points in this spot- so I am more concerned about them not turning it over. Our defense probably isn’t going to stop them consistently- particularly on the ground- so we need the Bulldogs to stop themselves a few times with a bunch of turnovers. Some penalties would unquestionably help. We win the turnover differential by two, or MSU has 90 yards or so in penalties, I guarantee MSU is in some real trouble.

Last year, the UAB and USM games, teams better than MSU is this year, showed us that this largely same group of Tulane players is capable of a heady, emotional road effort with near-zero terrible mistakes. However, that is an awful lot to expect right off the bat- with both a young team and particularly a QB making his first start.

I woutotally would not be surprised to see the Wave win it. Still,if you forced me, I’d say go with the Dawgs and give Tulane the six points. But had the line been Tulane plus seven, I probably would go the other way.