Monday, December 06, 2004

Louisville = Real Good

Well, that is that.

Louisville’s matter-of-fact thumping of the Wave, 55-7, raised my ATS mark to 9-1 concerning Tulane. Not too shabby.

Correspondingly, I did pick against the Wave in this spot. Again, right now Tulane is not in this Cardinal team’s league. Louisville is an outstanding football team, an outfit that probably would have gone 7-1, 6-2 in the SEC.

The offense was disappointing and Irvin really struggled. Oddly, I am sort of okay with it. Lousiville is impeccably designed to make Tulane look bad on offense. Typically, a team runs the spread offense to equalize a talent discrepancy. Your line can’t protect reliably? It is okay, because they don’t need to block very long with all those 3- and 5-step drops. Your running backs don’t need to be quick or strong- as you artificially create space for them. Your receivers do not have to get open consistently- because if you have five of them out there- someone by accident almost has to be open. And the quarterback is really never asked to make a difficult throw. It replaces talent with a premium on decision-making and execution.

But if you face a superior defense like Louisville features, a truly top-quality outfit based on speed as opposed to bulk, and then they can sort of cover and close those holes and get pressure. Honestly, Louisville’s back seven is in the same league quick-wise as Virginia Tech or Florida. And then you can look real bad real quick. Lots of incompletion consistently turns the down and distance equation against you. You cannot unfailingly fall back on possessing the ball via the rush. Throw in a freshman quarterback making his second start…. well, you might have some problems.

I was actually all right, again just a little, with the defense. Tulane will never play an offense better than the one they played Saturday. Not LSU. Not Auburn a few years from now. The Wave largely got hammered, like everyone else Louisville played. However, unlike last year, when Tulane also played a ton of young guys down low, you can definitely identify a bunch of guys on the defensive line who looked like, with another year of good I-A nutrition and weights, could compete down low against any offensive line in C-USA. Yes, Tulane was outclassed in the secondary- but hey, Louisville has done that to absolutely everyone- including the Miami Hurricanes for large stretches.

The defense does have a long way to go- particularly in the secondary- where Tulane is terrible. Even our good corners can’t cover the second or third receiver or tackle anyone. But for the first time since Bowden left, there is a crop of guys upfront who project to play at a high level in this league.

Figuring Tulane started 1-4, this 5-6 mark is not all that bad. Scelfo might have the same number of down years as his immediate predecessors, but he has raised the bar for a disappointing year to five wins this year- that has to say something positive, right? More importantly, for the first time since 2001, Tulane can reasonably project to be better next year than last.