Fourth in a series.
Tulane is the fourth opponent, Sept. 22, the first on the road.
Folks are aware of the Green Wave’s rather bleak history, unless you look back to its days in the SEC when it was crowned conference champion in 1949.
Unfortunately, Ole Miss has more in common with Tulane presently than it does with most of its other opponents: The Green Wave is rebuilding and has a new head coach.
There’s nothing in the work history of New Orleans native Curtis Johnson that makes you think he’s a can’t-miss choice to engineer a turnaround in his hometown.
He’s an energetic recruiter, but he’s spent most of his career as a receivers coach, the last five years with Sean Payton and the Saints.
It stands to reason that the Tulane offense would resemble the Saints’ offense to a large degree. That would mean spreading the field, something the Ole Miss defense will have seen a lot of from its own offense by then.
Tulane players were recruited to run a pass-oriented system under Bob Toledo, but they had little success with it.
Toledo was just 15-40 in almost five seasons as coach. He resigned after seven games last year.
The Green Wave returns some experienced players, but it doesn’t return players who know how to win. They will lean on Johnson’s good vibes and enthusiasm, and presently there’s a buzz of optimism around the program, but that tends to follow a coaching change anyway. The experienced players will be backed by 14 redshirt freshmen.
Tulane ranked No. 105 in scoring offense, No. 115 in scoring defense last year.
Like Ole Miss, the Green Wave won only two games in 2011. Unlike Ole Miss, the Green Wave did win a conference game. It’s 49-10 win over UAB in Week 3 was a Conference USA victory and made the Wave 2-1 at the time. Ten straight losses followed with nine of those opponents scoring at least 33 points. Houston was a touchdown away from 80 points in a 73-17 win in the Superdome on Nov. 10.
Quarterback Ryan Griffin returns. He had 300-yard passing games against Syracuse and Memphis, but had little positive impact in his remaining games, eight times passing for less than 200 yards. He’s a three-year starter who has thrown for 6,163 yards and 36 touchdowns. He ranked No. 97 in pass efficiency last season.
Running back Orleans (you can’t make this up) Darkwa averaged 71.08 rushing yards last year, third in C-USA but No. 70 in America. He rushed for 13 touchdowns, and he’ll be very involved in the passing game.
Linebacker Trent Mackey ranked No. 4 in the nation in tackles at 12.8 per game.
Combined, the Green Wave returns seven starters on offense, seven starters on defense, plus its kicker and punter.