Monday, November 19, 2007

Not Too Bad People

Well, I missed another one this week- as Tulane just rolled 45-31 past the Rice Owls. Now, I can assure you, I get no angina whatsoever from Tulane winning football games. None. At the Eagles’ game yesterday, I glowed like a light bulb (partly due to Bourbon- try Woodford Reserve next time you're out), listening to those Pitt and Penn State fans grouse around me.

The win at Rice- particularly coupled with the consecutive win over UTEP- is a good one for a mid-major rebuilding wholesale: literally (Katrina) and figuratively (new coach and quarterback). If Tulane can beat bottom quartile programs consistently- and winning two in a row convincingly is a trend of sorts in that direction- then that is powerful evidence the Green Wave is not a bottom quartile program either. Plus, you gotta think recruiting at 3-5 in C-USA is a lot easier than something like 1-7.

I wholly rejected the premise that there was not three-four I-A win talent on this roster (here and here); my angst with the Toledo regime on field was predicated on that fact. I was surprised they beat UTEP- but I’m not surprised they’ve taken solid steps to save the season. I wrote in my preview that all those folks in the press picking Tulane eleventh, twelfth, twelfth were being lazy- that the Wave was NOT a bottom 25 team last year- and ought not be, with a similar talent level- again this year.

Scelfo, with a similar group, won four I-A games- a decent 4-6 in games ex-LSU and ex-Auburn. Short of an unexpected win next week- they’re just not going to get to the “Scelfo standard”- period. It makes the ‘nauts crazy to have standards and logical, concrete comparisons- but they’re not about accountability. They’re about Ba’al worship.

I’m not churlish. For the on-field stuff, if you now want to move Coach up to a gentlemen’s “C” now: great, very fair. Frankly, it would be peevish to not acknowledge the season looks better now than it did when November started. Toledo has done a better job- which is all I asked for: clean up the penalties, find a way to turn Forte into actual points, get the quarterback position coached up or change the mix (really anything than passively absorb failure), etc. The idea of playing the seniors last week seemingly was brilliant- the team obviously took a real emotional lift from that stunt: spark and verve!

But it also would be trenchant to not acknowledge that, while the team is up, it is up- albeit not marginally- from something like “a real mess that committed endless key fouls and procedure penalties”.

Going forward… I dunno. The League stinks- winning six games with an I-AA softie thrown in there would not require a miracle. And I am convinced that a Tulane coach doing even an average job should win 4-7 games and get to a bowl game now and then.

But I am into managing expectations here. Today, there are only two plus C-USA positions on the whole roster: the tailback and defensive line. It is a long way until the next campaign- but what unit projects as a C-USA plus for 2008?

I guess maybe the o-line: really, a nice surprise this season, right? Some would say the quarterback (beats me though? Hard for a quarterback to come in and be a plus in our big number League from his first start)- maybe the new tailback (some are high on that collective too).

Say they get two of those three spots as pluses- seems fair- but largely where they are now. Thinking back to teams in this League that made leaps of three-four wins in a single off-season, they almost always entered the off-season with two plus positions from the previous campaign (one almost always the quarterback too) and added another plus unit or two.

But it is all rank speculation until we see the new quarterback line up in the spring. It is just hard to win five or more in this League without good, high number quarterback play- and it is also hard to get that sort of consistent play from a guy making his initial starts.

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