The Mustangs, like the Green Wave, have gone through hard times and struggled to rebuild their program. But they have the program on the upswing (5-3 and 3-2), which is what Tulane hopes to do under whomever is hired to replace Bob Toledo, who resigned as head coach two weeks ago.
The Green Wave has lost its last six games to fall to 2-7 and 1-4 in Conference USA.
That slide has left the team with dwindling goals to focus on in the final four games of the season.
"When you start out the season," interim head coach Mark Hutson said, "you look to win a conference championship and a bowl game. As the season goes, we had opportunities to this point to be in a position for a bowl game. That didn't happen."
With the primary team goals unattainable, individual motivation will be important going forward.
"The reason these players work out all summer, the reason they go through two-a-days, the reason they go through surgeries and come back ... whatever drives them to play the game is what we have to pull from these last four weeks," Hutson said. "The same thing in the coaching staff.
"What motivates them could be family. It could be a scholarship. Whatever the reason that drives them with those goals no longer intact, has to be the driving force for both the staff and the players."
--Though the passing game has become stagnant, interim coach Mark Hutson said junior Ryan Griffin remains his starting quarterback. "Ryan is our best quarterback," Hutson said. "He's our No. 1 quarterback, and as a staff, we feel that he gives us the best opportunity to win."
--Hutson said he and his staff are looking at ways to tweak the offense to improve it, but there isn't much that can be done scheme-wise during the season, especially while playing a 13-game schedule that has no open date.
"You see more one-back sets now than you see two-back sets," Hutson said. "The players, the terms and the schemes are really what we have, so we have to continue developing them. We have to continue to develop each day in practice and then look at the routes and look at the personnel groups and see what gives us the chance to be successful on Saturday."
SERIES HISTORY: Tulane leads SMU 11-7 (last meeting, 2010, 31-17 SMU).
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Tulane hasn't been able to run the ball effectively for four quarters, but it's going to have to find a way to if the offense is going to get back on track. Without leading receiver Ryan Grant, the passing game has been erratic, and that's not likely to change unless the Green Wave can choose when to pass and not have to pass when it's obvious that they must.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The secondary has been banged up this season, forcing a lot of inexperienced players into action. That group will be tested by the Mustangs' run-and-shoot offense. Tackling will be at a premium because sloppiness there could lead to lots of big plays.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Going into the last two weeks, we were confident. We felt that we were going to win the games." -- Tulane interim head coach Mark Hutson
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Tulane at SMU, Nov. 5, Dallas -- The Green Wave try once again to end its losing streak, not having won since Sept. 17. The players must be starting to wonder if win No. 3 is going to come this season.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Run Orleans Darkwa and stay committed to the run to try to lessen the pressure on the passing game. This will require blocking a physical Mustangs front. Use Darkwa in the passing game as well. And win the turnover battle.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
C Joey Ray -- The senior is coming off one of his best games of the season and will be counted on to anchor a unit that will be tested by SMU's size up front.
Derrick Strozier -- He remains a threat on punt returns, averaging 10.5 yards per return.
LB Trent Mackey -- Mackey has had double-figure tackles in seven of nine games and is third in the country with 115 tackles.
--WR Ryan Grant (sports hernia) is out.
--CB Alex Lauricella (hamstring) is out.