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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Tulane’s weakness was exposed before SMU came along

The short answer is the Wave could’ve looked better against visibly weaker competition; the long answer is the Wave were one bad play away from losing regular-season battles on several occasions, even when facing opposition as sorry as the 4-8 Tulsa Golden Hurricane and 2-10 East Carolina Pirates.

Of its 10 FBS wins, Tulane didn’t take a single one in truly dominating fashion, with their most lopsided victory being 37-17 over South Alabama all the way back in Week 1. Beyond that, there was a pretty even split between double-digit wins and single-possession ones, with four of the remaining nine falling into the latter category. Those included two and three-point wins over Tulsa and ECU, respectively, with the Green Wave needing to score all of their points consecutively to beat the Pirates 13-10.

It was due to such inexcusable struggling that I took SMU to beat Tulane in the American title game, as unlike the Wave, the Mustangs had decimated the majority of their conference competition. The gap in quality was so severe that it left SMU’s eventual two-score win being not even the slightest of a surprise.

Looking at how this lines up next to 2022 Tulane’s path to glory, it saw four single-digit wins on the year as well, but that’s including its two over the intimidating Power 5 duo that is Kansas State and USC—both of which met the Green Wave away from New Orleans, no less. While they were able to withstand those kinds of games then, all they could do this season was keep it close with Ole Miss for a while before losing by 17, and that game was in New Orleans.

From there, 2022 saw them squeak by Houston and Cincinnati (both on the road), but each of them ended up having a respectable 8+ wins under their belts. I’d like to think I don’t have to explain why evading defeat from those guys is just a tad more forgivable than doing so from the previously established cellar-dwellers this time around.

Lastly, we have 2022's losses which, I will admit, should've been avoided. Yet it is fair to note that both were by single possessions, and the second of the two was dealt by UCF. The Knights ultimately went 9-5 that year, with their most-upsetting defeat being 45-28 in the American title game against, you guessed it, the Tulane Green Wave.

In my opinion, mixing that revenge with the Power 5 success outweighs the first loss to a then-bowl-worthy Southern Miss, but what about Tulane's 2023 accomplishments outweigh falling to the Rebels and Mustangs by multiple scores each? Exactly.

So to conclude, the spread for the Military Bowl is VT -8.5 as of Dec. 17 (and it had been larger). After all of the issues that Tulane has displayed to all of us throughout the entirety of its 2023 journey, along with the recent departure of legendary head coach Willie Fritz, I can’t say that’s unfair.

Next. NEXT . College bowl game predictions: Week 1. dark

Do the Green Wave have what it takes to beat the Hokies? Absolutely, and the purpose of this analysis is not to imply that they don’t. Rather, it’s to simply address why it perhaps wouldn’t be the biggest shock if gametime doesn’t capture that. When that can be said about an 11-win team facing a 6-6 one—while following up a 12-win run from the year prior—“fake” is about as fitting of a label for it as can be provided.