GAME SEVEN PREVIEW: Tulane @ #21 SMU

Tulane will try to beat SMU for the first time since 2012

Preview by Kelly Comarda and JP Gooderham. You can find FTW on Twitter (@fearthewaveblog).

Tulane will play at 6:30 CT on ESPN in a second straight nationally televised Thursday night game against one of the AAC’s best.

The #21 SMU Mustangs (6-0) are one of the last remaining undefeated teams in the G5, and they are attempting to sustain a perfect run with the #2 Cincinnati Bearcats awaiting them on Nov. 20th.

On Tulane’s side, the SMU series has been arguably the worst in the AAC era for the Green Wave. Tulane has lost six straight matchups since 2015, with many of those losses coming in the most painful way possible as we summarized a few years ago — none more than the #BanksWasIn fiasco captured in the above image. The last time Tulane beat SMU? 2012 under Curtis Johnson.

You’d like to think something, eventually, has to give and go Tulane’s way against the Ponies. The Wave is a two score underdog (+13.5) in the Vegas line for tonight’s matchup. On the positive side, a reeling Tulane may benefit from a long break, which likely will allow QB Michael Pratt to play considerably healthier than he has been in recent weeks.

Can the Wave capture the elusive AP Poll win that has evaded the program since the 1980s, or will Tulane falter to a 1-6 start through seven games?

Kelly’s Keys to the Game

Tulane’s season is on life support as the Wave head into Dallas to play an undefeated SMU team that has tormented them in recent years. It seems like every year Tulane and SMU play a tough, hard fought game and SMU comes out victorious. Last year, the teams played an OT thriller at Yulman and who can forget the “Banks was in” game? Could this be the year that Tulane turns the tables and ruins SMU’s season? The odds say no, but if its going to happen, here are some things to look for…

Tulane wins the turnover battle with a +3 margin

Tanner Mordecai has thrown picks in each of the last three games and has seven on the season. Tulane is going to have to steal some possessions and capitalize on turnovers if it has any prayer of winning this game. Ajani Kerr, Jaylon Monroe and Jadon Canady are going to have to show up against SMU’s big 3 and get their hands on some footballs.

We won’t stop SMU, but if we can create a few turnovers and score points off the turnovers, the yardage we give up won’t matter.  On the flip side, Tulane absolutely cannot turn the ball over against SMU. If the Wave turns the ball over more than once, Tulane has almost no chance to succeed in this game. 

Michael Pratt goes off

SMU has not been great on defense this year; and other than Morgan State, this is by far the worst defense the Wave has played in 2021.  Michael Pratt should be looking at this game as a chance for redemption and a chance to break out. The numbers to look out for are 67% completions, 20 total completions, at least 250 yards and no turnovers.  Avoiding sacks will also be key. If Pratt is sacked more than 3 times, the chances of the Wave winning will be very low. However, if Pratt hits all of these metrics, the Wave will be in good shape. 

The running game gets going

Do we run to pass or do we pass to run? Tulane hasn’t committed to a philosophy this year and has struggled to find an identity under Chip Long. If Tulane is going to be successful in this game its going to be because the Wave has finally found balance in its offense.  The secret to SMU’s success? The Mustangs run for nearly 200 yards a game. There are gaudy passing numbers, sure, but the running game is there.  Tulane needs to find that running attack that it had under Will Hall. Running the ball can keep SMU’s potent offense on the sidelines and interrupt their rhythm.  The number to look out for is 175 net rushing yards, which should also mean Michael Pratt isn’t taking sacks. 

The Hurricane Ida hangover ends for good

Evacuating from a hurricane and coming back to damaged property is draining and exhausting. Nobody ever wants to experience that, and its understandable if there was a bit of a fog surrounding the team after that initial game against Oklahoma.  Even the Morgan State blowout wasn’t really crisp at times.  Tulane has been home for a month now. We’ve had a week off to heal some of the injuries and adjust to a “normal” existence. We’ve had a chance to re-set.

More than anything, I want to see a fire in this team that hasn’t been there since the start of the Ole Miss game. I want to see a team scratching, clawing and fighting to win this game. I want to see a team who is still playing for something. You don’t get rewarded for tanking at this level, your position coach gets fired or worse, your coordinator or head coach. I have a feeling we see a team who will come out and play hard and try to ruin SMU’s perfect season. Win or lose, if we see that fire, I’ll feel like the Hurricane hangover might be real. If we don’t see the fire, there may be more serious issues that will have to be addressed in the offseason. 

Predictions for Tulane @ #21 SMU

Green Wave fans, please leave your prediction in the comments below.

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Kelly’s Prediction: First off, I want to give a shout out to Ben Sparks. Ben is a RS-Fr reserve guard for SMU who is the son of a friend. Ben plays on the FG and extra point units for the Mustangs. Ben- respectfully, I hope you don’t play very much this week. 

The Tulane fan in me feels like there could be something brewing this week.  It’s a game that we shouldn’t win on paper. We haven’t shown anything that would warrant anyone to pick Tulane to win this game. But, there’s something about playing a team that has had your number in the past. SMU may be looking ahead this week, and if they do, I think it will be a big mistake. I’m still picking SMU, butI think Tulane beats the spread and puts a scare into the Mustangs. SMU 35 Tulane 31

JP’s Prediction: Pratt seems to be in the healthiest situation he’s been in, basically since the start of the Ole Miss game. I think we could come out and see a rejuvenated Tulane offense with more consistency than we’ve seen since early September. Unfortunately, the SMU offense - ranked #19 in SP+ - will be another brutal test for a struggling Tulane defense. I expect Tulane to hang around in the first half but lose steam at some point, which will allow the Ponies to run out in front. SMU 52 Tulane 34

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