Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Tulane @ TCU preview!!!

When the schedule came out, I never thought Tulane would be playing games that counted this late into the season. It is to this collection of young men’s great credit that Tulane is still in the hunt, albeit just barely, for the magic number of six wins. Can you imagine if Tulane can steal this one? There might be some honest to goodness electricity and emotion among the 14,000 in attendance for Louisville.

With whatever creditability I can amass at 7-1 ATS this year; I was kind of surprised at the large spread here: TCU -13 over Tulane. Don’t you kind of sense that Vegas has maybe not quite caught up with the fact that Tulane, particularly the defense, isn’t so dreadful any more? In fact, the Wave might truly be a squarely average and improving C-USA squad? That is not to say Tulane cannot get hammered in this spot- see the substandard Houston effort for example. But are they likely to get crushed? I don’t think so- and consequently getting beat by two scores is a lot of points to lay here.

If TCU’s offense plays like it did last week, this is going to be a hard game for Tulane to win. While the Wave is certainly playing better defense for increasingly large stretches, particularly upfront, I am not sure the Wave can compete physically with TCU play-after-play. USM could not- and I think their line is a lot better than our front. The Horned Frogs had a great push against Southern Miss, and they seemed to have taken a large step in solving their quarterback issue by benching Gunn (sorry Hardball) and playing the ostensibly steadier Hassell. The back Hobbs is a good player- and he’s out, but his back-up gouged the Golden Eagles for 150 yards rushing. I’d be pretty surprised if TCU does not come away with a pretty big number.

But you get 13 points, so I think you can pretty comfortably take the Wave if you can convince yourself of two things: that Tulane is capable of finally playing well on road and that the quarterback Irvin can step up and play.

Let’s look at the latter point first. Tulane is going to get more pressure from TCU’s defensive front than the Academies could bring- but one constant this year has been Tulane’s good to frankly great pass protection- and TCU’s secondary is Tulane-level bad. Plus, Walker, one of their key corners, is out, or at least hurt. We know that Tulane has, for C-USA, a very solid collection of skill position players. So this falls then on Irvin to execute.

Full disclosure: I am an Irvin booster. But it is his first start- and he could struggle. Any chance of upsetting TCU is going to be predicated on possessing the ball through the air- as I doubt Tulane will be able to consistently run it- and frankly that is billed as Irvin’s game. Last spring and summer, Irvin’s quarterbacking awareness and stability are what almost pushed Ricard to the bench. Irvin just seems to get just what is going on out there- and he executes the ball control portion of the offense very well. So I think Irvin will be at least okay-plus. Irvin also has played a little- mostly pretty well- which might address some jitters issues. And I think “okay-plus” and “pretty well” gets it done against TCU’s mess in the defensive backfield. Tulane simply might not lose much playing Irvin this Saturday.

Yes, Irvin might turn it over a couple of times, as I cannot imagine us not putting it up 45 times against this meager collection of defensive backs, but I think Ricard would be turnover prone too in this spot.

Now, the Wave has not played well on the road in league play ever under Scelfo. Maybe they won’t here either. Conversely, the Wave is playing well right now- and has a little momentum. The week off is big this late in the season, particularly from a prep standpoint, getting the back-up QB ready, and getting our endless young players some respite from this grind. Plus, the reprieve might be particularly relevant, as TCU is coming off what was no doubt an emotional, physical win last weekend against Southern Miss. If we are ever going to play well on the road, this is as good a spot as any.

This is a tough game for the Wave to win. Nevertheless, I imagine this game ends north of 28 points each- and since I think the Wave’ll score, take the Wave and grab the points in this spot.