Mardi Gras is still more than three months away, but the party’s already started in New Orleans.
Tulane has made history by earning its first-ever College Football Playoff ranking, landing at No. 19 in the first ranking of the season, and was voted to the same spot in the latest AP Top 25 poll. More importantly, the Green Wave are the top team in our Group of Five Power Poll this week.
Some unfamiliar territory for Tulane, who hasn’t won more than seven games since 2002. So much so that the Associated Press is using the Green Wave’s former logo in its rankings list:
Disrespectful to one of the best logos in sports.
Tulane is the highest-ranked Group of Five team and firmly has its eyes set on a New Year’s Six Bowl.
First things first, though, the Green Wave close out the season with the toughest stretch of their schedule. Following Saturday’s matchup at Tulsa, Tulane hosts UCF and SMU, before visiting Cincinnati in its final game of the season. Each of these will be critical in who winds up in the AAC championship because right now, things look interesting. Tulane is the lone unbeaten team in conference play, sitting at 7-1 and 4-0 with its loss coming by three points to Southern Miss.
Those final three opponents were selected to finish in the 2-4 spots in the AAC preseason football poll by the media, with Houston predicted to finish first. The Green Wave? They were predicted to finish seventh.
A big reason behind the ascension has been the play of Tulane’s defense. It’s currently ranked at the top of The American in scoring and total defense, giving up a mere 17.4 points per game and 313.6 yards per outing. UCF, SMU, and Cincy have high-powered offenses, and are the top three scoring teams in the conference, meaning Tulane, and the rest of us will soon see how good this defense truly is.
The Green Wave have also leaned heavily on the legs of Tyjae Spears, who ranks fourth in the league with 73.5 YPG and is tied for second with nine touchdowns. Michael Pratt has guided the offense from under center and although he isn’t necessarily a gunslinger, he holds the highest QB efficiency, second highest completion percentage, and has tossed the least amount of interceptions in the conference.
With the toughest test of the season yet to come, some may think that the first eight games have been a breeze for Tulane. That might be true for another league, but not the best G5 conference in college football.
Tulane has beaten Houston, Memphis, and a very gritty East Carolina team that has proven to be a quality opponent. The top win on the Green Wave’s rèsumè so far this season is a 17-10 victory over Kansas State in Week 3. The Wildcats are 13th in the CFP ranking and just smoked Oklahoma State 48-0, who was the No. 9-ranked team in the country entering that game, making that KSU win for Tulane look even better.
There’s still a lot of work to do if the Green Wave want to see themselves in an AAC title game, or playing in a New Year’s Six Bowl. It could be the start of a new top dog in the league with Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF heading off to the Big 12. I’m sure the Green Wave and the rest of the league would like nothing more than for one of these three teams to not take a conference title on the way out the door.
One thing’s for sure though, Tulane controls its own destiny. Let’s just see if it can ride out the late-season storm.