From fame to lame: The story of 2023 Tulane football

Ole Miss v Tulane
Ole Miss v Tulane / Jonathan Bachman/GettyImages
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Calling Tulane “fake” isn’t as criminal as it seems

Now that is a statement that I’m sure rubbed many the wrong way, as it hardly seems fair to call a team like Tulane “fake” after having two objectively outstanding seasons in a row, and it comes off as all the less cool when remembering its aforementioned underdog factor. But hey, don’t get mad at me, I’m not saying it; rather, it’s the stark contrast in the two squads’ résumés that conjures up the brutally honest claim.

Again, last year’s Green Wave strolled into the Cotton Bowl—one of the higher-regarded bowl games out there—and faced an 11-2, Heisman-led USC that had entered its previous game with a playoff spot within reach. Quite the adversary.

Meanwhile, this year’s Wave is set to play in the far less-esteemed Military Bowl against Virginia Tech. For those who are not aware, the Hokies are a visibly weaker bunch than the 2022 Trojans, as they not only failed to establish both a playoff path and Heisman winner, but also a positive record, earning their bowl berth by only winning half of their games. So yes, a steep drop in quality-of-foe for Tulane.

On paper, this likely appears a tad puzzling. Why would Tulane be given an opportunity so much smaller than before when having just as good of a season up to that point? Well, that’s where the difference in résumé comes in, as it shows that record was the sole similarity between the Green Wave’s 2022 and 2023 campaigns.

Let’s start with the dagger that cut the Virginia Tech-sized hole in this Tulane football postseason: Losing the American title to SMU. Obviously, when you’re one of the top Group of 5 names in the country, winning your conference title game is pivotal in deciding how big of a bowl game you’re going to be invited to.

Also, the performances of other prominent “little guys” matter as well, as this season’s high-profile GO5 rep is unbeaten Liberty in the Fiesta Bowl; conference title or not, a two-loss Tulane wasn’t outshining that.

But while all of that stuff puts the less-memorable nature of this year’s Green Wave into a rather undeniable perspective, it doesn’t explain what makes them “fake.” The worst that’s been said about them so far is the part about them losing to SMU, and considering that the Mustangs are currently 11-2 (nine of those wins having been decided by double-digit margins) with an active win streak of nine games, it’s hard to find much shame in that. So what gives?