Photo courtesy of Tulane athletics

After back-to-back bowl wins and winning seasons, Tulane will look to take the next step under fifth-year head coach Willie Fritz.

The Green Wave had finished 7-6 in each of the last two seasons after four straight losing campaigns. There is uncertainty surrounding 2020, but we begin our series looking at each of the Green Wave’s scheduled contests.

It begins with a Thursday night opener against Southeastern Louisiana.

The Match-Up

Who: Tulane Green Wave (0-0) vs Southeastern Louisiana Lions (0-0)
Where: Yulman Stadium, New Orleans, LA
When: Thursday, Sept. 3, (TBA)
TV: N/A
Radio: Sports 1280 AM New Orleans

Nothing for Granted

If there is a recurring theme for the year 2020, it’s that nothing should be taken for granted. This is especially true for sporting events. Most of the sports this year have been delayed or cancelled as part of government-imposed restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19. If and when this game is played, anything can happen. That is called the spirit of competition.

Tulane is coming off two of the best consecutive seasons the football program has seen in quite some time. There is reason for Wave fans to be very excited about where this team can go. That road starts with a home game against FCS foe Southeastern Louisiana.

Meet the Lions

The Lions are a cut above the garbage heap that was Tulane’s last FCS opponent, Missouri State. In 2019, Southeastern Louisiana went 8-5 (6-3 Southland) and advanced to the second round of the FCS playoffs before losing at Montana.

This is a good FCS team and will not be intimidated by the task at hand. Tulane has never lost to an FCS school and will be looking to squash any hopes of an upset bid early in the game. Most will be happy if the student-athletes from both schools just get the chance to play this game.

Southeastern Louisiana Offense vs. Tulane Defense

Southeastern Louisiana runs your generic up-tempo shotgun spread offense. The Lions utilize quick passes: slants, swing passes, bubble screens, and speed sweeps. The Lions will mix in some inside counter/trap out of gun-heavy formations.

They’ll throw in some quarterback power runs in short yardage situations and take shots downfield if they find favorable match-ups on the outside. If you like watching college football, you have seen this offense no less than 1,500 times. Still, the Lions were effective. They ranked second in the FCS last season, averaging 484 yards per game and 12th in scoring at about 36 points per contest.

On defense, Tulane will try to use its team speed and size advantage up front to frustrate the Lions and put their offense behind schedule. After recording 14 sacks all of last year (118th in the FBS), the Wave will be looking to apply more pressure. Sacks and tackles for loss will be key to prevent the Lions’ offense from getting into a rhythm.

Tulane’s corners and safeties will probably play some form of press coverage to try to take away the short passes. Southeastern Louisiana will likely not get very far in this game by running the ball or stringing Tulane’s defense out wide. Look for the Lions to take their chances downfield early and often.

Tulane Offense vs. Southeast Louisiana Defense

Southeastern Lousiana’s defense was below average in the FCS last year, ranking 85th of 124 teams in total defense. However, it was not bad against the run, ranking 21st in the FCS in rushing defense. The Lions allowed just 123 yards per game on the ground. Those are serviceable numbers even when you factor in that they didn’t play many teams who ran the ball a lot.

Stopping the Wave’s run-heavy attack will be a difficult task for this group though. For the Lions to have any chance in this game, their front seven can’t be pushed around or allow running back Amare Jones and the rest of Tulane’s talented backfield to get into open space.

The Wave will be breaking in a new starting quarterback and replacing their top two receivers from last year. Look for likely starting quarterback Keon Howard to build chemistry with his wide receivers by taking advantage of a Lions’ secondary that was 74th in the FCS for passing efficiency defense.

Prediction

This game should be a bloodbath even in a post-dystopian society. Southeastern Louisiana will be extra motivated for this game to take down an in-state FBS opponent, but it faces an uphill battle and will have to do it without Chason Virgil, the leading passer in the Southland Conference in 2019.

Prediction: Tulane 49, Southeastern Louisiana 20