Thursday, November 04, 2004

Tulane-US Naval Academy Preview

Well, since Mr. Bush won the election, it appears our nation is still going to have a Navy. So it looks as if the Midshipmen will in fact show up in New Orleans Saturday. The official line of “Prediction Thursday”, the New York Post, has put Navy -12.5 over Tulane.

Last week I took my first tumble, dropping the ATS record to 5-1. Damn me for picking the Wave.

Now, this week. Okay, for a moment pretend you are the head football coach at the United States Naval Academy. You peer around at the awesome collection of naval antiquities that litter your office, the pungent odor of sweaty socks drifts in through the door. What are you worried about here? Well, for one thing, that the Wave offense gets hot again and goes for forty-plus in our climate-controlled, artificial turf Dome- and that your methodical offensive approach struggles to keep up.

Navy frankly doesn’t score a lot of points; they have not reached 30 yet this year against I-A opposition (ed.- I have been assured they did crack it against defensive stalwart I-AA Delaware). And I don’t think they are particularly interested in coming in here and reaching for those gaudy offensive numbers that C-USA teams shoot for. They want to possess the ball and possess the ball- and not give Ricard multiple chances to suddenly find himself and then go for 300 yards passing and 35 points. Navy would consider their day a success if, entering the fourth quarter, they have 24 points and have held the ball for 26-28 out of 45 minutes via their imposing rushing/ball control attack.

So, Tulane must, must score the ball early to have any chance. If our defense is out there for those 27 minutes- that means bad trouble and multiple Navy scores late against our “prone-to get-worn-down” front. But if Tulane can score, get fourteen or so first half points, they have an excellent chance to cover this spread.

First, it will mean Tulane is protecting the defense- which frankly will really need support against a Navy outfit that, let’s face it, is going to just kill us rushing the football. Second, Navy is probably not scoring 35-40 points if they don’t have the ball a lot. While the Midshipmen are very good on offense- but the nature of that offensive attack is not quick-strike. They need raw possessions and resultant time of possession to pile up big point totals. And to cover a 12.5 spread, you normally need to score at least 28.

So that is the question, can the Wave score this week? Since I think the Wave individual offensive components- Jovon, the offensive line, the wide outs- range from “okay-plus” to “pretty good”, the actual execution of the offense falls squarely on the quarterback: Ricard.

Ricard. Ricard. Ricard.

If Ricard can makes some throws, coupled with the fact that if Tulane commits to handing the ball to Jovon and pals 25 times they’ll get 100 yards rushing, I can see us getting to 20 or so here. And then you have to take the Wave, right? Navy is just not scoring five touchdowns here if they only have the ball 30-32 minutes. Can Ricard contribute that much?

I don’t know the answer. If you take away the three turnovers, Ricard did not really throw the ball all that badly against Houston. But you can’t forget them- constantly turning the ball over is the central fact of the Ricard experiment- and I imagine Ricard will very likely turn it over a bunch of times again. The only thing I can add here, is that if Ricard makes some horrid plays- like he did early against Houston- I think this might be the first time Scelfo might be tempted to play Irvin for sustained action.

As a result, I am leaning toward the perception that either Ricard plays adequately or Scelfo gives us a second fighting chance toward adequacy by playing Irvin. Accordingly, I think the Wave scores some here and Navy won’t score an utterly insane amount. So I am taking our kids for the third time this year and grabbing +12.5 for the ultimate backdoor cover. I sense I’ll need every single point though.