Photo courtesy of Tulane athletics
For the first time in program history, Tulane will have the opportunity to earn its third consecutive bowl win on the strikingly blue “smurf turf” of Boise for the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
Thankfully for us viewers, Tulane will be wearing white jerseys and helmets to avoid any headaches. Let’s break this match-up down and discuss what the Green Wave will need to do to even their all-time bowl record to 7-7.
- Opponent: Nevada Wolf Pack (6-2, 3rd in the Mountain West)
- Time: 2:30 p.m. CT
- Location: Albertsons Stadium in Boise, Idaho
- TV: ESPN
- Forecast: Partly cloudy, high of 39 °F, low of 21 °F
- Line: Tulane -2.5
- Uniform: White Angry Wave helmets, white jersey, green pants, white cleats
- Tulane vs. Nevada all-time record: 1-0 Tulane, only match-up was in 1992
This is not Nevada’s first rodeo in Boise. Nevada is 0-3 in the Potato Bowl. It most recently lost to Ohio when the bowl had a MAC tie-in.
Nevada is going to be looking for redemption against a Tulane team that just lost three very important coaching staff members. They are offensive coordinator Will Hall, defensive coordinator Jack Curtis, and offensive line coach Cody Kennedy.
While installing multiple new coaching staff members on such short notice will prove to be quite the challenge, the Wave have done it before with much success. Flashback to 2018 when Tulane had earned its first bowl bid since 2013: Hall was hired as the offensive coordinator at the conclusion of the regular season. Hall jumped on board in time to coach in the Cure Bowl against Louisiana.
The rest is history. Tulane’s offense crushed the Ragin’ Cajuns to the tune of 41 points and nearly 500 yards of offense. Assuming the newly-hired offensive coordinator Chip Long can quickly adapt and install a game plan, a coaching change should not rattle Tulane too much. With playmakers like Michael Pratt, Stephon Huderson, Cam Carroll, and Deuce Watts on the roster, it won’t be hard to create a potent offense at the last minute.
Points, Points and More Points
Speaking of potent offenses, this game has shootout written all over it. Nevada has averaged nearly 30 points per game. The Wave have averaged 35.4 points — good for 21st in the nation.
For Nevada, it’s been the passing game that has led to such impressive numbers. The Wolf Pack offense averages a whopping 325 passing yards per game and 2.8 touchdowns through the air.
This is good news for the Wave, who average 219 rushing yards per game — good for 17th in the nation. If Tulane can keep up its rushing production for this game, Nevada’s passing attack will be forced to stay on the bench and watch as Huderson and Carroll gash Nevada’s front seven.
Something else to keep in mind is that this is the coldest game the Wave will be playing this year. In fact, it’ll the be farthest north they’ve played since 1935 when they played at Minnesota. With the forecast projected to be mid-30s in the afternoon, this will no doubt have some effect on Tulane’s players, who have been accustomed top playing in warm, humid conditions for most of the year.
It’s very likely that a lot of these players, especially those from Louisiana and other warmer parts of the United States, haven’t played four quarters in 30-degree winter weather before. The big question of the day will be if Tulane’s game plan will take this drastic drop in temperature into account and if so, how head coach Willie Fritz and the rest of his staff will execute this plan.
How much of an effect it has is unknown, but it’s not something to completely ignore.
Battle of the Young Signal Callers
While the fresh coaching staff will be a small hump to surmount, the biggest obstacle for Tulane will be containing Nevada sophomore quarterback Carson Strong. It’s an apt name for a quarterback who’s thrown for 22 touchdowns to only four interceptions. His 2,587 yards passing leads the Mountain West.
With the Wave’s defense allowing 279 passing yards per game, Nevada’s game plan is going to be simple: let Strong do his thing with the football and get it to his top receiver, Romeo Doubs. Doubs has 53 catches, 960 yards, nine touchdowns. He leads the Mountain West in all three categories.
While Strong has an imposing 6-foot-4 frame, his lack of mobility may be something the defense will be able to cash in on. Strong has no positive rushing yardage and no rushing touchdowns.
Conversely, Tulane’s Michael Pratt has been able to score using his legs seven times. He’s rushed for 212 yards this season. While Strong may have the passing numbers on his side, Pratt has shown time and time again that if he can’t find his target, he will use his legs to extend the play and move the chains.
This is going to be especially important on third down. That’s where Tulane has only been converting 34% of the time. That ranks 103rd in the country eighth in the American Athletic Conference.
Third down has been the only glaring weakness on offense for the entire year. If the Green Wave is able to get this number closer to 50% on Tuesday, they could be in for a big offensive day. To be successful, they’ll look to avoid 3rd-and-long situations.
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Tulane’s spread-style offense is very conducive to Pratt extending plays outside of the pocket. That’s where Strong has been playing in a mostly pro-style offense. It’s going to be two very different offensive styles and each defense will need to adjust accordingly.
Thankfully, the Wave’s defense has been fantastic at containing and pressuring quarterbacks who play in a pass-heavy, pro-style offense. East Carolina and Temple, who run similar systems, combined to average just over 300 yards and only 12 points against Tulane.
For Nevada, it’s no surprise that it will have to take Pratt’s mobility and pocket awareness into account. The young quarterback will spread the defense out using his strong arm and his deceptively powerful legs.
Considering the potency of Nevada’s passing attack and the Wave’s offense as a whole, we’re likely in for a high scoring affair. Pratt will have two touchdowns through the air and add one with his feet. Huderson will end his senior year with a bang, adding another one the ground.
With the cold air and new surroundings, expect a slow start for Tulane that bleeds into the second quarter. However, the Wave will manage to rally behind Pratt and come out on top.
Prediction: Tulane 35, Nevada 31