Tulane vs Central Florida Preview and Prediction

The (3-5) Tulane Green Wave are seeking to bounce back from a 3rd consecutive loss last week, as they will face the (4-4) University of Central Florida Knights at Brighthouse Networks Stadium in Orlando, Florida in an American Athletic Conference showdown in just a few short hours from now.

Here’s a quick Preview and Prediction for this afternoon’s contest:

WHO: Tulane Green Wave (3-5, 0-4 AAC) at Central Florida Knights (4-4, 2-2 American Athletic Conference)

WHEN: Today (Saturday, November 5th) – 5:00 p.m. Eastern (4:00 Central)

WHERE: Brighthouse Networks Stadium (formerly known as the Citrus Bowl), Orlando, FL

TV: WatchESPN (app)

ODDS: UCF by 17

SERIES: UCF leads the all-time series, 5-2, and oh by the way: Tulane has never won in Orlando

SYNOPSIS: UCF and Tulane were originally scheduled to play Oct. 7, but the path of Hurricane Matthew caused the two teams to postpone the game. Both teams would have had a bye this weekend, so the two teams’ schedules allowed them to play the game this Saturday.

Normally done in by their inept passing offense, the Green Wave actually was let down by their defense last week; allowing SMU to score 14 points with less than six and a half minutes remaining in an eventual 35-31 loss. The normally-stout defense has now allowed a total of 85 points in the last two games.

Sep 1, 2016; Winston-Salem, NC, USA; Tulane Green Wave head coach Willie Fritz looks on during the second half against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at BB&T Field. Wake defeated Tulane 7-3. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

It was the 3rd straight loss for Tulane; which after a promising 3-2 start and visions of bowl game aspirations, is now beginning to fade quickly.

During this current 3-game losing streak, Tulane has continually shot itself in the foot, most of it brought on by penalties. After only having 29 penalties through the first five games of the season, the Green Wave has racked up a unthinkable 26 of them in the last three games.

Meanwhile, this is an important game for UCF. The Knights need a win today in Orlando so that they can become bowl eligible. At this point in the season, we know who the Knights are – a young team on the rise that shows promise for the future, but makes too many mistakes and has trouble closing out games

“It’s obvious to me that we’ve gotten to a point where we can play with and have a chance to beat anybody in our league. But we’re not good enough yet to where we can just show up at a stadium and beat anybody in our league, either,” 1st year UCF head coach Scott Frost told the local Orlando media yesterday. “This is gonna be a process.”

Of their 4 losses this season, UCF has lost to Maryland in double overtime, Temple with :01 on the clock, and Houston in a second half collapse. Like Willie Fritz for Tulane, Frost is also trying to rebuild his program and earn a bowl berth in the first year of his program — and ironically a win over the Green Wave may help him and the Knights reach that goal.

Oct 29, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Central Florida Knights head coach Scott Frost watches from the sideline during the first quarter against the Houston Cougars at TDECU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

MATCH-UP TO WATCH: Tulane rushing offense (specifically RB Dontrell Hilliard) vs. UCF’s dynamic and inspirational middle linebacker, Shaquem Griffin

 

Tulane quarterback Glen Cuiellette is never asked to do much given his obvious shortcomings in the passing game, although he did mange to throw a pair of TD passes among a season-high 13 completions for 164 yards in the loss to the Mustangs last week.

However, Tulane is having unparalleled success with its run-heavy triple option offense; so expect the Green Wave to pound the ball once again in this contest.

Tulane has the sixteenth ranked rushing offense in terms of total yardage with an average of 248 per game. Tulane is led on the ground by junior RB Dontrell Hilliard, who leads them in rushing with 640 yards (80 yards rushing per game), has scored 8 TD’s and is averaging 6.2 yards per carry.

Oct 31, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; Tulane Green Wave running back Dontrell Hilliard (26) runs with the ball against the Cincinnati Bearcats during the first quarter at Yulman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Hilliard rushed for 111 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries last week, marking his second straight with at least 100, to highlight 227 yards on the ground for the Green Wave.

In order for Hilliard to achieve that success however, he’ll have to get past one of the more dynamic and inspirational players that you will see in all of college football this year.

The collapse by UCF against Houston last week was lamentable, but linebacker Shaquem Griffin continues to be the star of their defense.

Griffin was born with an ailment that caused him to lose his left hand at the age of four, and despite his condition, the redshirt junior has become one of the best players on his team and one of the best pass rushers in the American Athletic Conference.

Against Houston, the one-handed Griffin notched 14 tackles, 2.5 sacks, a fumble recovery, and – yes – his first interception to earn AAC Defensive Player of the Week honors and boost his sack total to an AAC-high 8.5.

The likelihood that Hilliard and Griffin will meet head-on on more than just one occasion, is almost a virtual guarantee — and could leave one of the more lasting and indelible images from this 2016 season, for both teams.

Oct 29, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Central Florida Knights linebacker Shaquem Griffin (18) intercepts a pass during the first quarter against the Houston Cougars at TDECU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

FINAL ANALYSIS AND PREDICTION:

Despite being the home favorite, the oddsmakers are laying waaaaaaaaaaay too many points here to be taken seriously.

Sure, Tulane has looked bad on more than one occasion, but nothing so egregious that they deserve to be a 17-point road dog against a team essentially in the same rebuilding / retooling mode as they are. The Knights aren’t “17-points worth” better than the Wave are.

But — they are still better…..

UCF 30, Tulane 24…..