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2020 college football preseason preview: Tulane Green Wave

Willie Fritz has been one of the hot properties in the coaching market of late. Can he turn the Wave all the way into a title contender?

Tulane head coach Willie Fritz

The American Conference has been decimated by coaches leaving over the past few seasons, which is logical considering the budget restrictions of the league and lack of College Football Playoff access. So it might have been a bit of a surprise when Willie Fritz, who has done a masterful job of turning around a long-forlorn Tulane, stayed in NOLA for at least one more season despite getting some big-time interviews.

His getting to two straight bowl games, in a city still dealing with the effects of Hurricane Katrina 15 years later, has been nothing short of remarkable. He’s done it with an unconventional option offense that doesn’t always light up the scoreboard, but does keep the defense off the field and allow athletes to use their ability in space via numbers and matchups.

The stability of Fritz should help the Green Wave continue to build on his success even if he left after 2020, and the brand of a team surrounded by plenty of football talent in all directions has greatly improved. But Tulane still suffers on the field via tougher academic standards and mediocre fan support, and the campus and community need to grow the buy-in for the program if they want to become a consistent league title contender.

Tulane Green Wave Stats Breakdown

Full VIC breakdown

VIC Sheet explanation

Preseason Win Total From DraftKings

Over/under: 5.5 wins

Over +110

Under -137

Key Stats

  • There are few teams in America that bring less players back in 2020 than the Green Wave. They return only 44% of production from last year’s 7-6 team, which is 122nd in FBS.
  • Willie Fritz’s sometimes plodding offense last year was pretty efficient, finishing 37th in the America in SP+. But that includes only five returning offensive starters and just 31% of offensive production. Justin McMillan also graduated as quarterback, giving almost no experience to any returning QB.
  • Recruiting has ticked up under Fritz, with the 66th best class in the NCAA in 2020. It’s the best class this decade, and enhances a team talent rating of 81st, also the best in a long time in Uptown.
  • SP+ Preseason Rank: Overall 73, Offense 86, Defense 62.

Schedule

Team (2020 Preseason SP+ ranking)

* AAC Conference Game

vs. Southeast Louisiana (FCS)

@ Northwestern (50)

vs. Navy* (55)

@ Mississippi State (43)

@ Houston* (63)

vs. SMU* (56)

@ UCF* (18)

vs. Temple* (72)

@ ECU* (96)

vs. Army (104)

@ Tulsa (88)

vs. Memphis (22)

Analysis, Prediction

Willie Fritz has righted the ship at Tulane, and adding Yulman Stadium has made the program much more competitive and stable. A program that had been to one (1) bowl game since 2002 has now made postseason two years in a row. More players in the very deep Louisiana recruiting area are choosing to stay home. It’s a sign of optimism for a team that hasn’t had much since their legendary undefeated season with Tommy Bowden, Rich Rodriguez and Shaun King in 1998.

But they lose a ton from an average team last year, and refilling a lot of that talent on the fly will be difficult despite the uptick in player acquisition. Right now the quarterback battle seems to be between Keon Howard (13/18 last season, 208 yards, 2 TD’s) and early enrollee Michael Pratt. The potential lack of practice time due to coronavirus probably puts this in Howard’s favor, but that’s just one piece of a team that’s been decimated by graduations. It does help that running back Corey Dauphine (8.0 YPC, 7 TD’s) got granted a sixth year of eligibility.

Defensively a solid unit from last year has some key players returning, including lead tackler Chase Kuerschen. But when your leading tackler is a defensive back, that’s not always a good thing, and the second and third men in that category graduated.

It’s a tough schedule for Tulane in 2020, and unless the offense can get in the transfer portal and make some key acquisitions it might be tough to get over 5.5 and to third-straight bowl game for the Crescent City. But with the success Fritz has had so far via overachieving teams, it’s also hard to count Tulane out of the postseason picture. This win total is a stayaway from us, as the number seems pretty on the mark.

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