This probably isn’t the best week to be the Tulane Green Wave.
Sure, they’re bound to come into Saturday’s game against Central Florida with the kind of confidence and momentum that a scintillating 54-49 conference win (over Rice) will imbue in a team. Certainly, superstar-in-the-making running back Orleans Darkwa’s emergence as a dual threat adds an element of unpredictability to the Green Wave attack. (Darkwa completed both of his passing attempts for touchdowns in last Saturday’s win over Rice.) And sure, sophomore quarterback Ryan Griffin – a 2,000-yard passer this year – has been much more consistent in the last two games, completing 42-of-71 passes for 556 yards, five touchdowns, and no interceptions. Tulane has done better in 2010 than in past seasons, and coach Bob Toledo has more to build on now than in past years in New Orleans. No one’s taking away the improvements Tulane has made over the past two and a half months.
All of that being said, however, this is not the week to be playing the UCF Knights, who figure to be in an ornery mood following last Saturday’s surprising 31-21 loss at home to Southern Miss.
Ranked in the AP Top 25 for the first time in school history, the Knights came undone after jumping out to a 14-0 lead, surrendering 31 unanswered points to the Golden Eagles while getting shut down over the final three quarters of play. Not only will UCF be looking to expunge the bitter taste of last Saturday, but the Knights also need to keep on winning if they are to beat out East Carolina and claim the C-USA East Division title. It’s true that UCF, tied with ECU at 5-1 in the league, owns a head-to-head tiebreaker and therefore controls its fate in the East. However, another loss would put coach George O’Leary’s lads behind Ruffin McNeill’s Pirates in the chase for a spot in the C-USA title game. The margin of error for Central Florida is now zero. That’s where Saturday’s trip to the Big Easy comes into play.
The Knights will try to get back to basics on Saturday. That means potential All-American defensive lineman Bruce Miller and the UCF defense will be in attack mode, seeking to force turnovers and knock around Mr. Griffin, the Tulane gunslinger under center. “Getting back to basics” also means pounding the ball between the tackles with running back Ronnie Weaver. UCF must establish the run threat to draw linebackers close to the tackle box. Then, fleet-footed quarterback Jeff Godfrey can bootleg for big runs and look for the big play in the Knights’ vertical passing game.
Tulane has shown some moxie and toughness in climbing to four wins for the first time since 2007. However, this game at the Louisiana Superdome will tell us if Central Florida is ready to get back on the beam and reassert itself not just as the beast of the East, but as the best team in all of Conference USA.