This week, Football Study Hall's projections have UConn as 4.5-point favorites over Tulane, with a 60% chance of winning today on the road. The Huskies are ranked 93rd in the country in overall efficiency while the Green Wave are 115th.
While UConn's defense is ranked 30th in the country in scoring defense, the S&P+ efficiency ratings rank it more towards the middle, at 63rd. With Tulane's offense among the worst in the country, both in scoring (120th) and efficiency (119th), UConn will have a marked advantage when Tulane has the ball.
UConn ain't nothin' special offensively, though, ranking 108th in efficiency and 113th in scoring. The Huskies put up 31 points against East Carolina, but were helped by an utterly dominant performance from the defense and a long touchdown run from Arkeel Newsome.
UConn will need more of the same today, and could use a better boost from the special teams in the field position battle in case Newsome doesn't have a field-flipping 90-yarder in him. Average field position for the Huskies against ECU was at their own 23-yard line, and would have been a lot worse without three late interceptions. Field position has been a challenge for the Huskies all season.
Tulane's defensive prowess is underrated by the numbers, in my opinion, at 90th in efficiency and 116th in scoring. As you will see in our Q&A below, the Green Wave have suffered from some of the same problems that UConn has faced as a defensively strong team- where the defense holds up nicely to start a game but the offense puts them back on the field too often, and quickly, leading to an opening of the floodgates. UConn's offense will be the second-weakest among FBS opponents Tulane has faced so far this season, behind only Central Florida.
Newsome, by the way, was awarded for his efforts last Friday night with the Gold Helmet award, given to the top Division 1 football player of the week in New England.
How to Watch
TV: 4pm, ESPNews (Mike Corey, Rene Ingoglia)
Radio: WTIC 1080 (Joe D'Ambrosio, Wayne Norman, Kevin Nathan) | WHUS 91.7
Series: These two programs met for the first time last year, with Tulane taking a 12-3 victory at home.
Fun Fact: After this weekend, UConn Football will have traveled 12,118 miles for its five road games.
Q&A: JP Gooderham of Fear the Wave
We had a chance to connect with J.P. Gooderham, who runs the Tulane site Fear the Wave. He was kind enough to share his input on Tulane's quarterback situation, difficult schedule, and, of course, conference realignment. You can check out our Q&A with him as well as other great work on his site here.
1. After seeing Tulane battle with Navy and also early against Memphis, it looks like Tulane and UConn are actually very similar teams in the way both have stayed competitive against good teams and with both being stronger on the defensive side of the ball. Would you say that is accurate?
FTW: Totally agree with you here. As lopsided as some of the scores have been, they are sort of deceptive. Tulane trailed by 10 at the half against Duke, 10 against Temple, 2 against Memphis, and so on. The short story has been that the Tulane defense can keep the team in games, but the lack of offensive production eventually keeps them on the field for too long, and something has to give.
2) What is your quarterback situation going into this game?
Tanner Lee will be back as the starter for this one. He lost two starts to a concussion and injured finger, but he should be ready to roll.
3) The Green Wave have lost six games, but all six have come against very strong competition, with a very challenging non-con and AAC slate. Fans tend to want the best teams possible on the schedule, but this one looks like it might be overly challenging, especially for where Tulane Football is right now. Do you feel like Tulane has benefitted from this schedule or has it hurt them?
Some coaches will say those types of stretches (including back-to-back-to-back games against unbeaten Temple, Houston, and Memphis) can toughen a team up, but I think the reality is that it really has challenged the team. Facing a defense like Temple certainly took a physical toll on Tanner Lee (they put Christian Hackenberg on the deck 10 times after all, so they can really hit). To me, the bigger question is: can you put that stretch in the rear-view and approach these last four games as a new season with the hope of salvaging the year?
4) This is Curtis Johnson's fourth year at the helm. Where does the fan base currently stand on him?
It's tough to say right now. As we said, after the stretch Tulane has faced, I think the losses really hit a lot of fans hard, especially because many of those games turned into pretty ugly blowouts. I don't realistically believe Coach CJ is on the hot seat this year, but unless Tulane can turn a corner fast, I think fans are going to lose a lot of the optimism they bought into after the 2013 trip to the NOLA Bowl.
5) How often does the Tulane fan community discuss conference realignment? The way I see it, an academically reputable school in a major metro area that is known for liking college football is an attractive option even if the program may not be hot right now. Wondering if fans feel the same way.
I follow these discussions inside and outside the Tulane community pretty actively from being on Twitter, unfortunately. I would say Green Wave fans are definitely in line with the rest of our AAC brethren -- meaning, this discussion comes up pretty frequently.
Both for us and everyone else, I don't really buy into very much. Yes, we can claim a bigger TV market and better academic institution than most of the other schools trying to join the Big 12. Others can point to better football success and facilities. At the end of the day, I have no read whatsoever on what some folks in Texas will end up doing, so I try to steer clear as much as I can.
I do think -- contrary to what Marquette believed -- that Tulane is a good pickup for a conference. Aside from being a Top 40 USNWR school, I really think New Orleans stacks up with any city in the country as a host for major events. I strongly encourage fans from other schools to make the trip. Tulane's area of the city is Uptown, and it's a great spot outside the beaten trail of the French Quarter.
6) How do you see the AAC West title chase shaping up?
I'm going to go against the grain here. I think Houston is going to take down a very good Memphis team. Paxton Lynch is a stellar quarterback, but the combination of Greg Ward Jr. at QB and Kenneth Farrow at RB for the Cougars is going to be absolutely dangerous for a middling Tigers' defense. They have succeeded by being able to outpace everybody they have played to date. Houston will be a very unique challenge because they have the firepower to really do some damage.
7) Care to share any thoughts on Houston and Temple- two teams which you have played who are on UConn's schedule after Tulane?
Already gave my shout out to Houston -- a vastly improved team from last year. Tom Herman knows how to use talented offensive weapons, and you can't ask for much more than Ward and Farrow. On the Temple side, I think it takes a great defense to beat the Owls. My reasoning is that you aren't going to move the ball against Temple, especially when they get pressure to your quarterback, which is pretty inevitable. You have to find a way to get good field position and convert your opportunities to outlast them.
8) While I have you, how about your outlook for Tulane Basketball?
Keep an eye out for the Green Wave this year. You may think I am crazy, especially as they were just picked last by the Coaches' Poll. They were last year too, and that team snuck its way into 7th place with a road win over Cincy.
I'm not shocked about the low regard, especially because Tulane lost senior guard Jay Hook and a transfer in point guard Jonathan Stark. That said, this is going to be the most athletic Tulane team that has been around this century.
Coach Conroy brought in Tulane's first 4-star recruit, a kid named Melvin Frazier from New Orleans. Absolute baller. Tulane's biggest challenge in jumping from C-USA to the AAC was the lack of big men (and size), which meant losing on the boards every night and living/dying by your shooting.
Tulane is going to get much more physical this year (and increasingly in the years to come). Now with some support in the front court, watch out for sophomore Dylan Osetkowski. He had to do a lot himself last season, but he's going to look like he's from MonStar Mountain now.