Tigers head to NOLA for the Wave

When the LSU Tigers (4-0, 2-0) and the Tulane Green Wave (1-2, 0-1) met on the field in 2001, LSU was starting a new quarterback, had a head coach still learning his way in the SEC, and still won comfortably by a score of 48-17, setting the stage for a 10-3 season that ended with an SEC championship and a win over No. 7 Illinois in the Sugar Bowl.

Now, LSU is ranked No. 2 in the nation, is starting a quarterback with a Peach Bowl MVP award under his belt, and has a head coach with a 26-4 record – including a 49-7 blowout win over the Green Wave in Tiger Stadium last year.


Things have changed for Tulane since 2001 too. But while the Tigers have been firing on all cylinders, the Green Wave has been struggling just to find the ignition.


Gone are Patrick Ramsey and Mewelde Moore, leaving behind them nothing more than the memories of Shaun King and the undefeated season. Gone is head coach Chris Scelfo, replaced by former UCLA head coach and, more recently, New Mexico offensive coordinator Bob Toledo. Gone are the wins – Tulane opened the season being outscored by a combined 72-27 at the hands of perennial SEC cellar-dweller Mississippi State and Conference USA rival Houston before beating Southeastern Louisiana 35-27. And gone, too, is running back Ray Boudreaux, who has been suspended by Tulane following his arrest last week in connection with a stabbing on Bourbon Street that happened just hours after the Green Wave lost 34-10 to the Cougars.


So what does Tulane have?


Besides the title of "home team" in the contest, not a whole lot.


The Green Wave is ranked No. 142 in the latest Sagarin rankings, behind 28 Football Championship Subdivision (formerly I-AA) teams and ahead of just six other Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly I-A) teams. Going into its game against Southeastern Louisiana on September 22, Tulane ranked 111th in the nation in rushing offense with 64.5 yards per game, 107th in total offense with 278 yards per game, and 112th in scoring offense with 13.5 points per game – all good for dead last in C-USA.


In all, they were outside the top 100 in the nation in 10 of the 17 team statistical categories the NCAA monitors, and only broke the top 50 in two (net punting and sacks allowed).


Coming out of the patchy eight-point win over the Lions, Tulane had cracked the top-100 in eight of those categories – but still ranked in the 90s in most of them. The win was so lackluster that despite getting off the oh-fer skid they were on, they still dropped two spots in the polls.


The good news? They are second in the nation in sacks allowed with three. The bad news? LSU has 13 different players with at least one half sack, so even that statistic stands to be ruined by the time the final whistle blows in the Superdome.


Individually, Tulane is led by junior quarterback Scott Elliott, who has completed 33 of 73 passes attempted this season for 396 yards with one touchdown and four interceptions. Elliott has appeared in 16 games for the Green Wave, but his experience is not translating into success as the 6-2 Texan still has more interceptions than touchdowns – nine to five.


Kevin Moore and Anthony Scelfo have both seen playing time under center for Tulane in 2007, and both will likely be called upon against LSU. But with a combined 13 completions on 26 attempts with one touchdown, neither figures to make much of a dent against the Tigers' defense.


Two receivers have caught passes for more than 100 total yards this season, though neither Jeremy Williams (135 yards on six receptions) or Casey Robottom (142 yards on seven catches) have been able to find the end zone. The only receivers with a touchdown to their name are sophomore wideout Chris Dunn (two catches for 21 yards) and a player who isn't a receiver at all – sophomore fullback Jeremy McKinney, who took one of his two receptions against Mississippi State in for a touchdown.


For his efforts in providing exactly one half of Tulane's receiving touchdowns, McKinney has been rewarded with exactly zero carries on the ground. Sophomore running back Matt Forte is the Green Wave's leading rusher with 435 net yards and six touchdowns on 71 carries – but 303 of those yards and five of those touchdowns came in Tulane's last outing against Southeastern. Ade Tuyo (18 yards on five carries) and Jordan Stephany (three yards on two carries) are the only other backs with positive yardage.


Defensively, Tulane doesn't fare much better – which is not surprising when you look at the number of points they have given up to their less-than-stellar opposition. Only two defenders – defensive ends Reggie Scott (2) and Antonio Harris (3) have registered multiple sacks, while linebacker Evan Lee leads all defenders with 29 tackles. As a team, Tulane has made 240 total tackles, which is more a reflection of their inability to keep their defense off the field as it is a tribute to the execution of their tacklers. Safety David Skeehan leads the team in interceptions with two, while the team's other pick came courtesy of cornerback Carlis Jackson.


As a team, Tulane ranks outside the top 80 in the nation in every defensive category, with their highest ranking being 82nd in rushing defense where they give up 176.67 yards per game on the ground. Their opponents complete almost 67 percent of their pass attempts against them, and that generosity is reflected on the scoreboard where they give up an average of 33 points per game.


In short, Tulane does nothing particularly well, which is especially bad news for the Green Wave when you consider LSU ranks first in the nation in rushing defense, pass efficiency defense, scoring defense, and total defense while ranking in the top 10 nationally in four other categories. While Tulane should be expected to put up their best showing of the season against their traditional instate rival, the simple fact is that even with an upgrade at head coach the Green Wave are still several years away from being competitive against the Tigers.


Of course, it could be worse. They could be Notre Dame.

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