Setting the table:
Tulane enters Saturday's contest riding high after a shocking 36-33 overtime win over East Carolina. After winning just two games all of last year, Tulane is already eyeing win No. 6 of the 2013 season.
The Green Wave (5-2, 3-0) has placed itself right in the thick of the Conference USA west division race and a win over Tulsa Saturday would secure the tiebreaker over the defending champs.
If Tulsa wants to keep its conference title hopes alive, this game might be a must win. In what will likely end up a three-team race, the Golden Hurricane already lost the tiebreaker to Rice and really can't afford to do the same to Tulane.
With a win, TU (2-4, 1-1) can get the leg up on Tulane and focus its collective effort on tracking down Rice in the season's stretch run.
Scouting the Green Wave:
Tulane isn't all that flashy and won't wow you on film, but the Wave does have a few standout players that have made the difference this season. Receiver Ryan Grant had a big game last season against Tulsa and has led the way for Tulane all year long. Grant has 46 grabs for 611 yards and six touchdowns already this season, while No. 2 receiver Justyn Shackleford has done a pretty nice Abe Lincoln impression, hauling in four scores of his own.
Quarterback Nick Montana misses last week's upset win with an injury, and the New Orleans Times-Picayune is reporting that the junior is questionable for Saturday. The son of NFL legend Joe Montana is having an excellent season for the Wave, throwing for 1,116 yards with 10 touchdowns and only four picks. If the University of Washington transfer can't go, Devin Powell will get the nod. Powell threw for 224 yards with two scores and one pick in his spot start against the Pirates.
Defensively, there's been a struggle for consistency for the Wave. They allowed 41 points to South Alabama and 52 to Syracuse; both in losses to a lowly opponent. Even last week they allowed 543 total yards to East Carolina including a whopping 480 through the air.
How Tulsa can win:
Quarterback Cody Green played perhaps his best game as a Golden Hurricane two Saturdays ago against UTEP. TU was staring down the barrel of 1-5, but Green's 14/17, 226-yard and three touchdown performance carried Tulsa to a crucial victory.
If TU wants to get the ball rolling, Green has to do that every week. He has showcased his talent and proven his capability, but for the last six games of Green's college career, the key word is consistency.
Part of the key for Green is ball security and decision making. Tulsa has committed at least one turnover in 37 straight games, by far the longest streak in the FBS. Bill Blankenship talked about the importance of protecting the ball against a team that's so good at taking it away.
"They've got a little swagger about them; they're very opportunistic," Blankenship said. "They've been able to get 20 takeaways. Defensively, they're really flying around."
The only issue with all this is Cody Green's leg. Blankenship has not yet announced whether Green will be healthy enough to start Saturday or if backup Dane Evans will get the nod. Evans appears to be capable but there's no doubt Tulsa would miss Green's leadership.
If the Golden Hurricane plays a clean game, they'll have a good chance. Tulane is going to want revenge for last season's 45-10 blowout at Chapman Stadium, while both teams know this game has huge conference title ramifications.
In fact, Tulane is going to want revenge for a lot. Since Tulsa's arrival to Conference USA in 2005, there haven't been many more one-sided matchups in all of college football. In those eight previous meetings, TU is 8-0 and hasn't scored fewer than 31 points. Overall, Tulsa has outscored the Green Wave by a whopping 346-99 margin during that stretch.
Tulane may be hot, but I'll take history. Tulsa wins, 31-27.