The Green Wave run a pro-style system that is very multiple. They utilize a variety of formations and personnel groupings. They run a lot of traditional drop back passes with some west coast offensive elements to get the ball out quickly and into the hands of their playmakers.
Tulane utilizes a power running attack that hits primarily between the tackles in order to wear down their opponent.
Unlike the first three weeks of the season, expect to only see one quarterback for Tulane unless there is a blowout. Son of NFL Hall of Famer Joe Montana, Nick Montana, is the quarterback for the Green Wave. Montana was originally a four star prospect out of high school who committed to Washington. After a couple of seasons with the Huskies, he transferred to a junior college before coming back to the division one level with Tulane.
Montana has everything you look for in a quarterback. Intelligence, arm strength, poise and leadership. His accuracy is hot and cold at times, but he can make all the throws in a pro-style offense. He comes from good genes and has played very well early in the 2013 season with seven touchdowns and only two interceptions.
Complimenting Montana in the passing attack is primary target Ryan Grant. Out of 56 total receptions for the team, Grant has 24 of them. He also has three of their seven touchdown catches. Grant is an NFL frame as a wideout at 6-foot-1, and is the top playmaker offensively for Tulane. He should see a majority of the targets on Saturday.
Starting opposite Grant is junior Justyn Shackleford who is a smaller receiver that isn't a big time deep threat. He is a possession receiver with solid hands who runds good routes. Xavier Rush and Devon Breaux will get some run at receiver as well. Both are solid, but unspectacular players. Rush has the bigger frame, similar to Grant. He can be utilized on jump balls in the redzone.
The ground attack for Tulane leaves a lot to be desired. They line up with a lot of two running back sets, but lack a true fullback. Rob Kelley fills the role but is more of a bigger running back then a traditional fullback. He is a bruiser who can move the pile between the tackles.
The starting running back is senior Orleans Darkwa who is averaging a pedestrian 3.5 yards per carry on the season. He is also a power runner who has a similar style to Jerome Smith, but without as much speed. Don't expect to see either testing the edge of the Syracuse defense too frequently as they do their damage inside.
Behind them are Dante Butler, Josh Rounds and Lazedrick Thompson. All three could be seen in spot duty, but Kelley and Darkwa are the primary weapons on the ground.
At tight end, Matt Marfisi and Sydie London are both utilized equally in the passing game and as blockers in the ground attack. The Green Wave run a lot of two tight end sets so both will see plenty of action on Saturday. Marfisi is the better target in the air, but both can be weapons.
In the Trenches
The Tulane offensive line has size and is improving. Both tackles are over 6-foot-5 in left tackle Arturo Uzdavinis and right tackle Todd Jacquet. Sean Donnelly will rotate in with Jacquet, and also has a large frame at 6-foot-8, 312-lbs. All three are solid athletes
The guards have struggled to open up holes inside despite having good size. Nathan Shienle starts at left guard and Rio Mares at right guard. Both have been exposed by bigger defensive tackles that can take up space inside.
Center Zach Morgan is the leader up front. He makes all the protection calls and blocking assignment adjustments. Tulane runs a lot of zone blocking schemes in their ground attack. They have been susceptible to stunts this season.
Tulene runs a rare 4-2-5 scheme where they have at least five defensive backs on the field a vast majority of the time. Early in the season, they tried use various blitzes to bring pressure, but were burned with the big play. They adjusted and started bringing less pressure less week. The result was one of their strongest defensive performances in years. Don't expect to see a lot of blitzing as a result.
The Green Wave play a lot of man in coverage and rely on their front four to get pressure on the quarterback.
In the Trenches
The defensive line has been improving at generating pressure. Royce LaFrance and Jeremy Peeples man the ends. Both can get to the quarterback with a variety of pass rushing moves. Andre Robinson and Tyler Gilber rotate in, but Peeples and LaFrance are the superior athletes. They could really test the Syracuse tackles on the edge.
Inside, Julius Warmsley is a very good football player. He is quick, strong and generates pressure up the middle. Nose tackle Chris Davenport has a huge frame that can take up space at 6-foot-4, 334-lbs. He is a powerful tackle that can disrupt the inside running game.
The Back Seven
The linebackers are relied on to do a little bit of everything. They cover, help out against the run, and even rush the passer on occasion. Both starters, Zach Davis and Nico Marley, are undersized. Marley is only 5-foot-8, 180-lbs. But don't let his small frame fool you. He is extremely athletic, very quick and is one of the defense's top playmakers as a true freshman. Davis can run but has a tendency to get eaten up in the run game.
Tulane starts five defensive backs who are the strength of the defensive unit. Several young players took their lumps in 2012 gaining experience at the division one level. Now, they are making plays as one of the better ranked secondaries in the country. The Green Wave rank 16th in the country in pass efficiency defense.
Corners Jordan Sullen, Lorenzo Doss and Derrick Strozier are playmakers that have been strong cover guys through three weeks. Safeties Darion Monroe and Sam Scofield can help in the box as well as give help over the top. This group is athletic and skilled. It will be a good test for new Syracuse quarterback Terrel Hunt.
Kicker Cairo Santos is arguably the best kicker in the country. He comes in having won the Lou Groza award in 2012 and approaching the NCAA consecutive field goals record, which currently stands at 30. However, Santos is currently in Brazil mourning the sudden death of his father in a plane crash. His status for Saturday's game is uncertain.
Should Santos be unable to go, backup Steven Broccoli will take over kicking duties. He has a much weaker leg, but does have solid accuracy inside 40-yards. Another big change will be on kickoffs. Santos kicks the ball out of the endzone most of the time, whereas Broccoli will create return opportunities for the Orange.
Punter Peter Picerelli is solid, but doesn't possess a big time leg. Tulane has had some issues on snaps in the punt game, which could create an opportunity for a turnover or good starting field position for Syracuse.
Returners Dante Butler, Devon Breaux and Darion Monroe are solid in the return game, but not game breakers. The coverage units are solid, but the kick coverage unit is largely untested.
Tulane presents a much larger test than Wagner did the week before. Their passing attack should be respected, but the Orange have the ability to shut the Green Wave down on the ground. Defensively, a lot will be determined by the battle in the trenches. If Tulane can get consistent pressure, it could pose problems for the Orange.
But Syracuse has better athletes than Tulane and should be able to handle them. Expect the game to stay close for a while with Syracuse pulling away in the third quarter to even their record at 2-2.