Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Signs of Autumnal Pleasures

The signs that summer is nearing an end are increasingly at hand. As the picture shows, the stars of the nextel Cup are testing at Thunder Valley- prepping for the night showdown at Bristol.

And Tulane has been in camp for almost a week. And, okay, I admit it. Every time I listen to Clay Walker sing "Chain of Love", I start believing just maybe the Wave can get seven! But in my brain, I don’t believe it.

I’m stuck on five wins right now. Now, I get a decent amount of e-mail from folks saying I am under-estimating the Wave. I put them in two categories: the Tulane football team is better than I think- doubtful- and the schedule is much worse than I anticipate. I am coming around on the latter- willing to consider six.

Frankly however, I don’t appreciate why anyone thinks four I-A wins- or five overall- is all that outrageous for this team. Look here- the consensus forecast for Tulane:


The press consensus is seemingly third, some say fourth, in our division- which seems indicative of .500 in C-USA play. I would assume that projects to winning one or two of our I-A “out of conference” games- and a resultant total of six wins.

And I am one game under that consensus- five- which seems more grounded in consensus reality than the folks picking the Wave to win eight or nine. You can argue that those ten press samples are wrong. However, also be fair: realize that you are the crazy person now- not me.

There is a lot of crazy optimism in New Orleans about the football team. And you can certainly believe in eight/nine, with this pitiful slate, if you believe the quarterback, Lester Ricard, is going to both be healthy and explode- despite the fact that just about every skill position on offense is a question mark. It is also not exactly fair to pound the blog about being dubious on Ricard: the quarterback was hurt, and also bad to awful in most of his starts.

If you are being unbiased, you simply cannot count Ricard as an unqualified plus. The defense is simply not a very good outfit- and hasn’t been for years and years, right? Is it really crazy to be very dubious of their ability to play at a level- starting this year, and all of a sudden- that is helpful?

I think where a lot of people are going, well, candidly wrong assessing this team is they are mis-reading the true nature of last year’s club. Tulane is not really a team "coming off a five-win season".

Instead, I would argue the 2004 Tulane was rather a "two-win team”- that got to five by rolling out an amazing three-double digit underdog upsets (to their great credit), plus a win over a I-AA program. Tulane over-achieved and got a little lucky in three games they normally should lose: UAB (clearly better than Tulane), TCU (a career game from a qb no longer attending Tulane), and Navy (Tulane is just not five scores better than the Midshipmen). You can obviously dispute any given game- or argue they were better than ECU- but you cannot deny that five wins probably was not indicative of the Wave’s true level.

But people are “supposing” off that 2004 “five-win” level- when really they ought to be “supposing” off a 2-3 win level.

Still, even discounting SE La, the Green Wave really could be "better" than 7-8 teams on their schedule. That is why to me the Mississippi State game is so important. Get the squad to 1-1- and there are absolutely enough winnable games to get you 7-8 wins. Lose it: fall to 0-2 with eight I-A games to go- including Houston and UTEP... that is trouble. Then they gotta go 6-2 just to finish over .500 in their I-A games. I find that doubtful.

It is do-able, yes. But again, the idea of our defense playing consistently well seven or eight times out of nine games in a row in order to make it happen is troubling. When was the last time that occurred? Throw in an all new wideout situation in a "have to pass offensive philosophy", an consistently erratic quarterback coming off an injury- and I think 4-4/5-3 is more likely than 6-2 in their last eight I-A games.

So you could make an argument that the schedule offers a lot of sorry outfits- but the corollary of that argument doesn't exactly mean Tulane is all that good. Also, the other league members benefit from the same in-league schedule too.