Thursday, December 02, 2004

Tulane vs. Louisville Preview

Well, here the Wave is.

Despite injuries and hard times, the 2004 Green Wave still has a chance to make this a season to remember. Regardless of the outcome, I think the goals any reasonable observer would have set pre-season have been met: a nice competitive team, a “plus” quarterback situation for seemingly at least three years to come, and a team that surely ought to be better next year. Our seniors have a solid campaign to go out on; I admit I never thought they would a play a game for a winning season. I honestly will miss those guys. Another marvelous collection of young men who honored our school with distinction and effort. Roll Wave!

Now, I will be frank (get it?)- and at 8-1 ATS I can afford to be. This game scares the heck out of me. Vegas agrees- listing the Cardinals a whopping -29 over Tulane. I sort of agree, the Wave could play magnificently here- and still lose by forty.

Louisville is good. Scary good. Undoubtedly, the best team in C-USA in years. There is talent every place. Both sides of the football feature top-quality lines- and those of you who think Tulane’s defensive secondary and running back are quality might want to watch Louisville’s versions extra intently. QB Stefan LeFors has seventeen touchdown passes and only two interceptions. He has a 75 % completion percentage- candidly, how is that even possible?

Like Cincinnati and Houston and TCU and yes, even Miami, I am skeptical our defense can do anything to these guys. I sense it is a “pick a number affair”; Petrino can score as much or as little as he wants. Tulane has improved immensely on defense- but if the Hurricanes weren’t ready for this, I doubt the Wave is. I mean, even the simple questions are vexing: how on earth can Tulane cover these guys? Tulane could wish for bundles of turnovers- but Louisville just does not do that sort of thing. This is a superior, disciplined offensive outfit- and a Cardinal team that has nine wins for a reason.

So to have any chance,
the Wave is simply going to have to outscore the Cardinals.

I actually think Tulane will score. Our offense is better than Cincinnati’s crew. But, to win this, you’re talking about having to hang a UAB-style number up there- against a Louisville team with a very good defensive line and the best secondary in C-USA history. Their corners can cover and Rhodes is a fantastic safety. We probably cannot rush the ball at all here- but Tulane might protect more than a little, and the quarterback and receivers can play. So we can score some- but 24 would be a real achievement- and even that is probably not enough to be competitive after the half.

I also don’t buy this Louisville looking past us nonsense. They’re 9-1. Focus has not been an issue for the Cardinals all year long- it is a little much to expect them to start being lazy now. Much like our team in 1998, this Cardinal train is just rolling: people don’t get hurt, players are having career years together, etc.

This year, Louisville is true BCS–quality. Tulane is still largely a pedestrian C-USA team, albeit improving rapidly. However, for us to even be in this past the half would require both a defensive and offensive performance well beyond what the Wave has played this year. I just don’t think the Wave is ready for this spot yet. Give the lines another year to grow, the quarterbacks another year to mature, get some help at tailback and defensive back- and we’ll give this sort of team all kinds of heck next year. But this year... Tulane will acquit themselves well, but probably still get beat pretty thoroughly. So to run my own slate to 9-1 ATS, I am taking Louisville- and giving Tulane the 29.