OCTOBER 14, 2017
After a huge win against Tulsa, the Wave is favored to win by 13.5 points in Miami against the FIU Golden Panthers.
With each passing week, it seems as if more people are beginning to respect what Willie Fritz has done with this Tulane team.
The debate kicked up this week after Jeff Duncan raised the question in the T-P: is Tulane the best football program in Louisiana?
It is important to note, however, that Tulane was also 3-2 last year and went on to lose six out of their last seven games. It will be on Fritz and the rest of the Greenies to stay focused on winning this week and not get caught up in the newfound attention or looking ahead to a huge matchup against #18 USF next week.
The FIU offense can make plays when they need to, but aren’t a spectacular unit, ranking 90th in the nation.
The main playmakers for FIU are QB Alex McGough and WR Thomas Owens. McGough is a competent passer, having already amassed over 1100 yards and a 61.2% completion percentage on the season so far. He isn’t a running quarterback, but Butch Davis is not afraid of utilizing him in the read option.
In a 19-point comeback win against Charlotte, McGough had two rushing TD’s both coming off the 49ers defense biting on the fake handoff to the running back. The most explosive player on the Panthers offense is definitely Thomas Owens, who averages 17.1 yards per catch.
Last week against Middle Tennessee State, he had 11 catches for 162 yards and a TD. Alex Gardner is the running back that gets his number called on the most, but he has only rushed for over 100 yards once this season.
The FIU defense ranks 85th in the nation so Jonathan Banks and Co. should find success against them both on the ground and through the air. The Golden Panthers gave up 349 yards on the ground against Charlotte, and they allow 170 rushing yards per game.
If you can’t stop the Wave’s ground attack, you’re in for a long day. They also ranked 123rd in the nation in forced turnovers, which is not good when you a play a team that almost never gives possession up.
The Green Wave offense put together a masterpiece against Tulsa last week. 62 points, over 650 yards of offense, and no turnovers. The Wave now rank top 10 in the nation in rushing offense, led by a stellar Dontrell Hilliard, who scored four times last week. Expect to see Hilliard and an explosive Sherman Badie find more success against FIU.
The Wave have a +7 turnover margin, again, one of the best marks in the nation. The only turnovers this year came against the Oklahoma Sooners. Only Alabama has turned the ball over less. Yes, you read that correctly.
Fritz must also be happy with the time of possession that Tulane enjoyed against Tulsa, with that being a staple of his scheme. The Wave held the ball for 43 minutes against the Golden Hurricane, almost 3 quarters worth of time.
Jonathan Banks has been very efficient at QB. He has a passer rating of 153.4 through 4 games (missed the OU game due to injury). He seems to have chosen Teddy Encalade as his favorite target, who has 15 catches on the year, more than twice as many as the next most frequent pass catcher.
Encalade caught a 62 yard TD against Tulsa, and the way that Banks just threw it up there for Encalade to win 1-on-1 shows just how much trust he has in him. Banks’s ground game has also been exceptional, averaging 5.3 yards per carry. We should expect more of the same from Banks and Encalade against the Golden Panthers.
Expect to see FIU hang around during the 1st half, but the Wave should separate themselves in the 2nd half en route to a victory. Fritz’s offensive scheme will be too much for FIU to handle, I predict a comfortable, 35-17 win for the Greenies.