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12 Up, 12 Down: Tulane Green Wave

The Bulls will try to bounce back on Saturday against an AAC West foe trying to make a late push towards bowl eligibility.

Tulane v Cincinnati Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Opponent: Tulane Green Wave

2018 Record: 3-5, 2-2 AAC

Head Coach: Willie Fritz, 3rd Season (12-20)

Date/Time/Location: Saturday, November 3 at 3:30 p.m., Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL

How To Watch/Listen: CBS Sports Network, 820 AM, Bulls Unlimited, iHeartRadio

Series History: USF won the only matchup between the two schools last year 34-28 in a game that got too close for comfort towards the end.

Background

After getting their souls snatched from them by D’Eriq King in a 57-36 at Houston last week, USF will try to regroup this Saturday when returning home to face another AAC West adversary in Tulane.

After getting hosed out of bowl eligibility against in their season finale at SMU last year (#BanksWasIn), many expected the Green Wave to take a step forward in year three of the Willie Fritz era this fall.

That hasn’t been the case.

Tulane has fallen just short of the mark multiple times this year with a season-opening overtime loss to Wake Forest coupled with one-score losses to UAB and SMU.

Improving to 3-5 with a 24-17 win at Tulsa last Saturday, the Wave are once again entering November fighting for a bowl, needing to win at least three of its final four games to do so.

They’ll try to take a step closer against a USF team that looks vulnerable at the moment.

Tulane Depth Chart

USF Depth Chart

S&P+ Breakdown

Team S&P+ (Overall) S&P+ (USF O vs. Tulane D) S&P+ (USF D vs. Tulane O) S&P+ (ST)
Team S&P+ (Overall) S&P+ (USF O vs. Tulane D) S&P+ (USF D vs. Tulane O) S&P+ (ST)
USF 41 23 74 99
Tulane 95 65 110 29

S&P+ has USF holding a sizeable advantage over Tulane across the board except for special teams.

To refresh your memory, Tulane runs an option-based offense out of the shotgun where instead of instead of eating up clock like their counterparts at Navy and Army, they like to go no huddle to push the tempo and prevent opponents from making the necessary substitutions.

SB Nation’s Wake Forest site Blogger So Dear did a good job breaking down the offense before their season opener.

When Tulane Runs...

Unit Rushing Efficiency Run Explosiveness Opportunity Rate Stuff Rate
Unit Rushing Efficiency Run Explosiveness Opportunity Rate Stuff Rate
Tulane Offense 91 21 88 60
USF Defense 109 48 95 67

S&P+ indicates that while the Green Wave rushing offense hasn’t been efficient in staying on schedule this season, they can break off explosive plays at any given time.

Tulane is averaging 203.8 rushing yards per game on merely 4.5 yards per carry as a team. Juniors Darius Bradwell and Corey Dauphine have shouldered most of the load on the ground for TU this year, combining for 1,138 yards and 12 touchdowns on the year.

Blocking for the tandem has been a relatively experienced offensive line with left guard Dominique Briggs and right guard John Leglue serving as the resident seniors, left tackle Tyler Johnson and right tackle Keyshawn McLeod on the edges as juniors and sophomore Corey Dublin snapping at center.

Of course, there the Bulls’ defense will have to account for quarterback Justin McMillan, who ran for the go-ahead touchdown in their win at Tulsa last week. We’ll get more into McMillan in a second.

During their disastrous defensive performance at Houston last Saturday, the Bulls’ defense gave up 255 rushing yards on 5.3 yards per carry. While the Green Wave don’t quite pose the same attack that the Cougars did a week ago, the team will still have to play disciplined assignment football with the threat of the option.

When Tulane Passes...

Unit Pass Effieciency Pass Explosiveness Pass Completion Rate Sack Rate
Unit Pass Effieciency Pass Explosiveness Pass Completion Rate Sack Rate
Tulane Offense 117 38 119 126
USF Defense 29 73 27 21

Tulane made a switch at QB during their game at Cincinnati a few weeks ago when benching Jonathan Banks for the aforementioned McMillan.

Transferring from LSU right before the season, The Cedar Hill, Texas, product has gone 24-of-48 this season for 288 yards through the air and three touchdowns. Charlie Strong said during his Monday press conference that even with the option, McMillan will be more of a passing threat against the Green and Gold defense.

The primary receiving options for the visitors from New Orleans will be Darnell Mooney and Terren Encalade, both of whom have been targeted over 50 times this season by TU quarterbacks.

As for the USF secondary, they’ll try to recover from one of the worst efforts in recent program memory. The unit allowed 12 plays of 15 or more yards last week, four of which coming on third downs.

Fortunately for the Bulls’ D, the Green Wave rank in the bottom ten in both third-and-long and third-and-short percentage so if there were any opportunity to prove that they could get off the field, it’s this week.

When USF Runs...

Unit Rushing Efficiency Run Explosiveness Opportunity Rate Stuff Rate
Unit Rushing Efficiency Run Explosiveness Opportunity Rate Stuff Rate
USF Offense 15 14 28 33
Tulane Defense 46 66 46 73

The tandem of Jordan Cronkrite and Johnny Ford is proving to be an effective one-two punch for USF as the rush offense currently ranks 28th in the nation per S&P+.

The duo has combined for just under 1,400 yards on 7.6 yards per carry and 14 touchdowns between the two.

Also clocking in with seven rushing touchdowns is Blake Barnett, who himself has been an effective runner with 335 yards on six yards per carry. We’ll see if in these last weeks, the offense can finally get the likes of Elijah Mack, Duran Bell and Trevon Sands back from injury.

The Tulane front seven has held steady as a top 60 unit, limiting the success of opposing teams on standard downs. They rank 34th in the nation in defensive line havoc rate.

Players to watch in the box are linebackers Zachery Harris and Lawrence Graham as well as defensive ends Cameron Sample and Patrick Johnson.

When USF Passes...

Unit Pass Efficiency Pass Explosiveness Pass Completion Rate Sack Rate
Unit Pass Efficiency Pass Explosiveness Pass Completion Rate Sack Rate
USF Offense 24 83 53 74
Tulane Defense 83 97 39 54

Lost in last week’s 21-point loss was the fact that the USF passing game had one of its most efficient outputs of the season, staying mostly on schedule with a 63% success rate on passing downs.

We’ll see if Barnett can maintain that level of production with Randall St. Felix, Tyre McCants and Mitchell Wilcox all on the field and healthy.

Tulane’s secondary clocks in at 97th in passing defense S&P+ but have made big plays by ranking 13th in DB havoc rate.

Senior Donnie Lewis Jr. is the leader of the secondary with 29 tackles, eight pass breakups, three interceptions and 2.5 TFLs on the year. Safeties Roderic Teamer Jr., Will Harper and Barge have all shown their ability to creep up into the box and help stop the run with a combined 9.5 run stuffs this season.

Predictions

S&P+ projects USF as a 13.7 point favorite with a win probability of 79% for Saturday. This is also the final game that the advanced stats projects the Bulls as an outright favorite this season.

I think this game will actually be closer than that. As alluded to before, Tulane is a team desperate to reach bowl eligibility this season and with East Carolina, Houston and Navy still left on the schedule, this game becomes a must-win in order to reach that goal.

When you add in the confidence that McMillan gained following his first win as a starter last week, the Bulls could find themselves in a struggle late into the ballgame...so like basically every game this year.

I nearly predicted a full upset here, but I think the Bulls will be ‘Bout It Bout It’ and survive late.

USF 34 Tulane 30