After nine games, the UConn football team has lost more times than it has won, but the outlook for the season has swung back into a positive place after a convincing win over East Carolina. Now, with a chance for a postseason berth still on the table, the Huskies need to take care of business on the road against Tulane.
The Green Wave (2-6, 1-4 American Athletic Conference) are not your average six-loss team. All losses have come against good-to-very good teams: Duke and Georgia Tech in the non-conference slate, and a conference gauntlet of Temple, Houston, Navy and Memphis. Like UConn, Tulane has played competitively against some of those better teams, so the final scores may not tell the full story.
Tulane features a strong defense, particularly its defensive line, which Bob Diaco said is among the best on the schedule all year, comparing them to Missouri and BYU. That could pose a major challenge for UConn's embattled offensive line.
Offensively, the Green Wave have not been particularly formidable. They are 120th in the country in scoring offense and 119th in S&P-plus offensive efficiency. If UConn's defense can build on its dominance from the East Carolina game, it should be able to keep Tulane's scoring to a minimum.
But every opponent presents its own unique challenges, and playing on the road is always tough, so it would be foolish to assume a UConn win this weekend. In many ways, this Tulane team reminds me of USF.
UConn needs to prove it can string together a couple of good performances, because the USF game was a major letdown after beating UCF. A big weakness for Diaco's squad thus far has been consistency and discipline on the field. Even in wins, UConn has committed unforced errors and penalties which can kill drives, change the complexion of a game and cause losing.
The Huskies were struggling with field position, blocking and in the passing game against East Carolina. Those issues were masked by a stellar performance from the UConn defense and Arkeel Newsome's 90-yard touchdown run. If Tulane can find a way to stymie UConn's running game, and keep the offensive line off-balance throughout, the Huskies may have a tough time scoring enough points to get the win.
Every single win is important, but a fifth one with two games left after it would mean that the Huskies are playing meaningful football through a full season for the first time since 2012 – when a 23-20 win over No. 19 Louisville gave UConn a chance to qualify for a bowl game if it could beat Cincinnati in its finale. UConn really limped out of bowl contention that season, though, losing four straight after a 3-2 start, and failed to get that sixth win.
This year, UConn has a chance to storm into bowl eligibility by beating a nationally-ranked team. First, the Huskies must make a trip to Yulman Stadium in New Orleans (4 p.m., ESPNews) and take on Tulane's Homecoming crowd in a game that could be pretty close.