Vegas Says: Tulane -4
Call it the battle for the Conference USA West Division toilet bowl. Whichever team loses Saturday’s scrap between the Rice Owls and Tulane Green Wave is all-but certain to finish the season in the C-USA West Division cellar. Settling which team claims that dubious honor is going to be no easy feat; both the Owls and the Green Wave have proven capable of staggering mistakes and full-fledged football follies. For example, both teams committed major special-teams howlers last week. The Owls had an extra point blocked and returned for two points in a 64-27 loss to Tulsa while the Tulane made an array of special-teams blunders that Coach Bob Toledo blamed directly for the Green Wave’s 46-30 loss to Southern Miss.
All in all, these two teams – which are going nowhere fast – need to tap into some of the successful things they did earlier in the season. Tulane found the ability to win at UTEP on the road at night. That’s something SMU didn’t do. Speaking of SMU, Tulane led the Mustangs by a 17-3 score in the third quarter a few weeks ago before crumbing in the final 23 minutes of regulation and losing by a 31-17 score. It’s not as though Tulane can’t play well; the Green Wave simply falter at times and fail to finish off opponents by letting down their guard.
Rice, for its part, upended Houston, the current leader in C-USA West. The Owls can call forth a surprising amount of spunk, but they need to show that the win over Houston was more than a one-time development.
The one thing the home Tulane side may have in its favor at the Louisiana Superdome is that the passing game is showing signs of life. Sophomore signal caller Ryan Griffin completed 21-of-32 passes for 242 yards and two touchdowns last Saturday’s loss to Southern Miss. Even more in Tulane’s favor is the fact that Rice struggles defending the pass, conceding 303.4 passing yards per game and having given up 23 passing touchdowns this season. If Griffin can’t get it going, the Green Wave can always turn to frosh running back Orleans Darkwa (115 carries, 618 yards, 8 touchdowns).
There’s some good news for the visiting side as well. Rice finally got its stagnant running game going versus Tulsa, as sophomore running back Sam McGuffie rushed for 178 yards and one touchdown on 28 carries. Tulane’s run defense is less than formidable, yielding 191.2 rushing yards per game so don’t be surprised if Rice coach David Bailiff feeds the Green Wave a steady diet of McGuffie.