The second in a series of blog posts taking a look at Georgia Tech’s opponents this season, courtesy of writers covering those teams. We’ll put the Tulane Green Wave under the microscope today. The teams will play Sept. 6 in New Orleans. Analysis is provided by Tammy Nunez, Tulane beat writer for the New Orleans Times-Picayune and NOLA.com. You can read her stuff here and follow her on Twitter here. Many thanks to Tammy.
Record in 2013: 7-6
Conference: American Athletic (Tulane left Conference USA this summer)
Sagarin rating in 2013: 91
Semi-interesting fact: Tulane’s men’s basketball team was the first opponent to play in Tech’s McCamish Pavilion in November 2012. Tech’s football team will return the favor when Tulane opens Yulman Stadium. Not only that, but when Tech’s softball team opened Shirley Mewborn Field in 2009, it was against, you guessed it – Tennessee-Martin.
Tulane against the ACC in recent years: 52-17 loss to Syracuse in 2013, 48-27 loss to Duke in 2011.
Q: Tulane seems like a place that can either hire coaches that have been fired from bigger schools (Bob Toledo) or up-and-comers who won’t stay long (Tommy Bowden and, I confess I didn’t realize this, Mack Brown). What’s your gut on how Curtis Johnson (formerly a New Orleans Saints assistant hired before the 2012 season) will work out?
A: Johnson is intriguing because he had never been a head coach before nor even a coordinator. It made his selection seem like a bold choice to those outside Johnson’s coaching and players circle. Johnson was a heavy-hitting recruiter when he was an assistant for the national champion Miami Hurricanes—so Tulane knew he could bring in talent. But his ability to manage a program overall and guide it to success was a big question mark.
But his first year answered all questions for me. One of his players was paralyzed from the neck down by a blow in game at Tulsa. His team was evacuated to Birmingham during a hurricane. His best linebacker was arrested before fall camp for armed robbery. He navigated the team and program through all of that and had the Green Wave in its first bowl game since 2002 by the following season.
My instinct is he is a perfect fit for the rising program and it will take enough time for him to build the program up that he won’t be a flight risk—particularly after his salary upgrade in the offseason to the tune of about $1.5 million a year.
Q: What, to you, is particularly noteworthy about the new stadium, and is it going to be completed on time?
A: The new stadium has an extremely intimate feel— the stands are lower to the ground and closer to the sidelines than the Mercedes-Benz Superdome’s. It gives the venue a more college football feel instead of the pro feeling of a big dome. The sight lines are outstanding but it is a small facility with a 30,000 capacity.
Q: What is moving to the American Athletic Conference expected to do for Tulane? And is there a segment of the fan base (like with Tech) that rues the day the school left the SEC?
A: The biggest impact for Tulane on the new conference is increased television exposure. All of Tulane’s football games will be televised and all its men’s basketball conference games will be TV as well. There were approximately three or four TV games in the regular season for the men’s basketball program last season. The TV package won’t net Tulane a huge increase in payout, but the combination of increased exposure and payouts from the AAC from the NCAA basketball tournament will provide a significant boost to the Green Wave.
Q: Does having Georgia Tech at home move the meter much for Tulane fans?
A: Absolutely. Fans went crazy when it looked like the game might get dropped because of construction concerns with Tulane’s new stadium. It is supremely important for Tulane to play a nationally known opponent on its first football game on campus in 40 years. Georgia Tech puts legs on Tulane’s schedule and gives fans the nationally respected launch for a new era of Tulane football home games.
Q: What are one or two reasons for Tech fans to worry that Tulane can pull the upset, and what are one or two reasons to not be concerned?
A: To me the answer could be the same on both sides. Tulane will likely end up starting Tanner Lee at quarterback – a redshirt freshman who has not take a college snap. His trajectory is immense as a tall, lanky, sure-firing armed passer with superior mental makeup. He is backed by an arsenal of little heard of but heavily talented running backs like redshirt freshman Sherman Badie and fullback Robert Kelley. Along with Lorenzo Doss—who is already filling up his preseason watchlist card— returning to the Green Wave secondary, Tulane certainly has talent for upsets including against the Yellow Jackets.
But just how big of a jump can some of these inexperienced players make in such short time? That’s where Georgia Tech can take advantage. Tulane’s starting lineup is still riddled with younger players with little college experience. I imagine that if Georgia Tech came out and scored quickly and played physically, the young Tulane bunch would have trouble responding.
Tech opponent previews