Thursday, October 07, 2004

Tulane @ East Carolina Preview

I have been on a bit of a roll picking the Wave lately. 2-0 this year and I believe five of the last six dating back to last year. So far in 2004, I have picked against them twice- and the Wave has failed to cover. We are faced with a similar call this week. ECU is -4 over Tulane in the New York Post this morning. Remember, there is no shame in being a four point ‘dog to CBS Sportsline “next-to-worst” team in I-A- but there is probably some shame in losing the actual game.

I thought the Mississippi State game was largely about the Bulldogs and their game effort as opposed to Tulane; I think the sort of opposite is true here. The Pirates have stunk, stink, and will stink. The Wave is the football team that has the chance to improve this Saturday and pick up win #2.

Candidly, the line is indicative of the zero confidence Vegas has in our passing game to literally generate anything other than dreadful turnovers. But this is the first I-A game this season I approach with a little confidence.

I imagine ECU will attack us on defense very similar to the Southern Miss plan. They’ll stuff the box with like a million guys- trying to take away the run- and let Ricard feed them seemingly endless turnovers and incompletions. But I expect we’ll be able to run it anyway. Jovon had had two very solid games in a row and the line blocked very well against a dependable USM rush defense. No matter what ECU does the Wave will have a big game on the ground: 150+ yards.

Also, I tend to think we’ll be able to protect Ricard too. Our pass protection was respectable against USM for large stretches. I don’t think ECU can cover our wide outs consistently- particularly the slot/TE-style players we can and will throw at them in bunches. The point is all the conditions are there: a productive rushing attack, good protection, guys that ought to be open and a bad defense- for a QB to have a good day. If Ricard is going to get it, Saturday is going to be good a day as any.

Accordingly, I think we might get something out of passing game finally. I just hope Scelfo let’s our kid “play” quarterback. These “confidence building” throws and this limited offense needs to stop now. He’s never going to be an 18-for 25, 280 yards kind of guy anyway. Ricard’s a lot of good things- but “a real polished thrower” ain’t one of them. I’ll take 14-for-25 with a turnover or two- if he can generate a few thirty-forty yard plays down the field- with that arm and our capable wide receivers.

So I am secure that Ricard will play his best game this year. The fall back to this position is that I think this is a spot, for the first time, where Scelfo will go and get him if the Wave struggles. This game is different than MSU and USM. We probably weren’t going to win those games even with Teevens calling the plays, right? But this game is almost a “must have”, if the Wave entertains any hope of five wins or so, so I think he might be more aggressive with Irvin. I feel Irvin ought to be playing anyway- so this is kind of a free plus in some respects. If they can protect Irvin and run the ball, he’s ought to be a QB that can really exploit that. He is an 18-for-25 kind of guy- and frankly he just might manage the offense better right now. Let’s put it this way, if you see Irvin, Scelfo will immediately move away from this “run-first” offense Tulane currently runs.

Of course, I always turn to the Skull of Mike IV for his insights on our defense. It has mighty powers. The Skull senses the Pirates are more than controllable on offense. Our offense ought to possess the ball pretty well, and anyway I don’t believe the Pirates rush the football well enough to really wear us out. Look, our defense is not great, and unfortunately Teevens is busy with the Irish this week and not available to fix it this week- but I do not think ECU is scoring, say, four touchdowns in this spot. In fact, they might not get to 20-24 points.

If the game is in the teens: 17-14, 20-14, etc. you totally have to love the Wave getting four. They don’t really have to do much to cover, right? Plus, I like a lot of intangibles here. The Wave has only played once in four weeks- they ought to be rested, healthy and well-prepared. East Carolina isn’t exactly an intimidating place to play. And the biggest intangible of all: the Pirates are real awful.

I actually think Tulane wins this game outright. It feels a lot like the UAB game last year- a game where we went on the road, played solid defense, ran the ball effectively, got a few plays out of Losman, and let the Blazers pretty much hand us the game. I am confident that if Tulane plays said defense, runs the ball and gets anything out of Ricard, the Pirates will do their part and screw up again and again. Look for ECU to turn it over a few times and commit at least two terrible penalties. Take the Green Wave and take those four points.