July 18, 2013

Over or Under: Will Tulane win 5 1/2 games?

Over or under: Will Tulane win 5 games?

I know this number will seem low to some people considering Tulane's weak schedule, but it's the only appropriate number at this stage. We're talking about a team that has not played in a bowl game since 2002, has not won more than four games in a year since 2004 and sports an abysmal 11-45 record in conference play since Hurricane Katrina. Becoming bowl eligible, though not necessarily evidence of a real turnaround, is a big deal in year No. 2 of coach Curtis Johnson's tenure as Tulane plays its final year in Conference USA and its last season in the Superdome before the debut of Yulman Stadium.

A 6-6 season likely would earn Tulane that elusive bowl bid -Conference USA still has five bowl slots (Liberty, Heart of Dallas, Beef O'Brady, Hawaii, New Orleans) plus a sixth slot (Military) if Army is not bowl eligible (The Black Knights went 2-10 last season). It is hard to imagine more than six teams finishing .500 overall in this weakened league even though it has expanded to 14 teams.

Can Tulane make the leap from two wins in 2012 to six or more in 2013? Here are a few factors to consider:

1) The run of horrendous news that struck the Green Wave last year can't possibly be duplicated. No first-year coach would have had a chance after losing Conference USA preseason defensive player of the year Trent Mackey to an unjust armed robbery arrest, having top offensive lineman Zach Morgan go down with a season-ending shoulder injury in a mysterious fight with an unnamed teammate, watching safety Devon Walker's devastating fractured cervical spine and playing three-and-half-games without senior quarterback Ryan Griffin due to a shoulder injury. As I wrote in a late-season column, the entire staff deserved a mulligan.

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