Thursday, September 03, 2009

Brace Youself For A Golden Hurricane

Time to kick-off the seventh year of Prediction Thursday! ATS record: 42-20 (plus one push and one scratch).

For our first Prediction Thursday of the year, the New York Post puts our Green Wave +13.5 over Tulsa- suggesting an improved Wave! I’m sympathetic to that. Like just about everyone, I think Tulane will be better than last year’s 2-10 disaster. And that improvement goes beyond a churlish “it almost has to be”.

That being said, even if you have the Wave at over .500 for the season, this is a game you have to be carrying in your “trouble bucket”. Even an 8-4 Tulane team probably loses this game, right?

I read a lot of analysis here and other chat boards about how Tulane can take advantage of this or that Tulsa change or flaw. It is probably all correct. My problem is getting past the more basic questions: can we block these guys? can our defensive front seven hang with these guys?

Frankly, Tulsa is in a different class than the Wave. The Golden Hurricane came in here last year and dumped an obscene 489 yards rushing on the Wave (although Tarrion Adams is gone). With their myriad of skill position changes, I doubt the 'canes will match that total again. But they scored 56 without really throwing the ball at all- what if that changes and they roll out the whole attack? With our defensive line/linebacker issues, I can’t see how Tulsa doesn’t hang a crazy number on our Wave again.

Let’s put it this way- if I asked you one thing the Wave should be able to do tomorrow, I think we’d all agree rushing the football is at the top of the list (Anderson is a legit C-USA cartoon number contributor). But, if I were to follow up that question with which outfit will rush for more yards... well, that is a problem.

I think the improvement Tulane will show this year will come from three areas: roster spots 23-44 (special teams now and some depth in November), improving quarterback, a healthy tailback. Unfortunately, two of those three don’t help here: this isn’t a game about squeezing out a score or play on specials, too early for depth to matter much, and an arguably season-long improving quarterback will be at his “least improved” in game one. Anderson will help of course.

Worse, the one area that didn’t improve- the defense- is going to be front and center.

The Wave did show early last year that their intact roster can play at a level well above the crew that finished the season. But unlike Alabama and East Carolina, the Wave is not going to catch a team just trying to move past the game intact. Tulsa will be loaded for bear- working out the offensive kinks, intent on putting on a show for the television. If this were week eight, with the Tulane quarterback well into an improvement mode, complementing Anderson and a Tulsa team merely facing a routine game test, I’d be inclined to say Tulane can score 28 here, so take the points and root for the clock.

But I can’t shake the impression this a bad time to catch Tulsa- so I’ll take Tulsa and give the Wave 13.5

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