Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Tulane vs. Southern Miss Preview

I have to post my prediction early this week- as I am off to New Orleans tomorrow morning for the game. It is my first look at the Wave in person this season- so I hope to return with some good views of some of the younger players.

The NY Post gives the line as Tulane +13 over USM. Thirteen is a lot of points. I think this game is a referendum on a single question: do you believe the Tulane offense, particularly Ricard, has improved to the point that it can score some points (say 17-20) and protect the defense? If Tulane has the ball for 28 minutes and scores said 17-20 points, I think our defense has improved enough over last year that USM is not coming into the Dome and scoring 30, right? Even if we lose 28-17, the Wave covers that big number.

Unfortunately, I don’t see that happening. First, since I absolutely cannot believe USM thinks Ricard can hurt them, they are going to unquestionably load up the box and take away the run. I think our OL is improved and all that- but with seven-eight guys consistently near the line of scrimmage, no one can run. Which means there will be opportunities for Ricard to throw it- and Scelfo- God bless him- has to let him try. Conversely, USM will blitz and blitz and blitz. Force Ricard to make throws with guys is his face, throws to guys being covered one on one, or soft zones- and Ricard has to makes some of those plays work. In some respectes, he "alone" has to do it. Teams loading up to stop the run and blitzing leave guys open.

I simply don’t think Ricard can yet- and that’s a problem. In late November, I can see us getting to 20 points in this spot. I cannot right now. While I support, sort of, starting Ricard right now- this is one spot where I think him being the pick over Irvin hurts. There are going to be throws to be made this weekend, maybe more so than against MSU. Yes, Ricard has a striking arm and he has hit on some attention grabbing deep balls. But this week our offense is not predicated on the QB necessarily having gorgeous physical tools and/or a lot of down-field passing. It is completing lots of not-so-hard throws to open guys while under pressure- and today Irvin might be the better guy to do that- if just because I don’t think Ricard can right now.

That being said, with Tulane having 25-30 incomplete passes, USM should have a big edge in TOP and rushing yards- and unlike Mississippi State they have a good enough offense to really punish the Wave. We’ll hang around- but ultimately they’ll just wear us out. So I would go with USM and give Tulane 13.

Lastly, all signs point to Ryan Johnson getting his first start this weekend. As I wrote during spring practice- I think this guy is the best-looking DE Tulane has recruited in like forever. So take a minute and watch him this weekend. Those of you who don’t think you can project an underclassman to the NFL particularly need to watch carefully. He still needs to grow- but he already is a ferocious player with very good speed and a great frame. I have been in love with this DL class since the minute it arrived- and this kid is my favorite.