|Tulane Odds||+6.5 [BET NOW]|
|Tulsa Odds||-6.5 [BET NOW]|
|Moneyline||+188 / -245 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||53.5 (-108 / -113) [BET NOW]|
|Time||Thursday, 7:30 p.m. ET|
The Tulane Green Wave and Tulsa Golden Hurricane clash on Thursday night in a matchup between two streaking teams. Tulane has won three in a row following a 38-12 win against Army, while Tulsa has won four in a row after another comeback win against SMU, 28-24.
The Green Wave offense has scored at least 30 points in all six games since freshman quarterback Michael Pratt became the starter, but the Golden Hurricane defense has yet to allow any opposing offense to score more than 30 points in a game. Something has to give here. After all, there’s a reason Tulsa should prevail and cover.
Tulane Green Wave
Tulane rides a three-game winning streak behind its rushing offense, emerging freshman quarterback and dominant pass rush.
The Green Wave has rushed for 5.3 yards per carry so far this season, good for 23rd in the country. Tulane’s offense has a running back by committee with several running backs sharing the load until one emerges with the hot hand to lead the team in any given game.
While the rushing offense has been successful throughout the season, the Tulane offense has taken a step forward since freshman quarterback Pratt replaced Keon Howard in the Green Wave’s third game, a 66-24 eruption over Southern Miss. Despite scoring 27 points or fewer in the first two games of the season, Tulane has scored over 30 in every game since Pratt took the reins on offense.
Pratt is a 6’2, 200-pound pocket-passer. While he doesn’t have the ability to beat defenses with his feet — he will scramble if needed, but Tulane won’t design many runs for him — he will challenge the Tulsa 3-3-5 defense with his strong arm in what should be a fun matchup. However, this will be the best pass rush he has faced all season.
Tulane’s defense is led by defensive lineman Patrick Johnson, who leads the nation with 10 total sacks this season. Johnson’s Green Wave defense has engulfed quarterbacks throughout the year, as it ranks fourth nationally with 29.0 sacks. If the Green Wave hope to upset Tulsa on the road, the pass rush will need to wreak havoc in the Golden Hurricane backfield and force Tulsa to make mistakes.
Tulsa Golden Hurricane
Despite its preseason projection to finish ninth in the AAC, Tulsa is undefeated thus far in conference play (after playing only four conference games due to cancelations), with its only loss coming in a close Week 1 matchup at Oklahoma State.
Tulsa has weathered the storm to rally from early-game deficits on multiple occasions. It trailed 23-5 at UCF but rallied to win its first game of the season, 34-26. Two games later, it trailed East Carolina, 17-3, before coming from behind in a controversial win, 34-30. Most recently, Tulsa fell behind 21-0 against SMU on Saturday but held the Mustangs scoreless in the second half to win 28-24.
Former Baylor quarterback Zach Smith has made a pattern of struggling early in games to put Tulsa in these deficits but has gotten better as the game continues. Against SMU, he threw a pick six and fumbled in the red zone to set SMU up with a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. However, Smith flipped a switch in the second quarter as he led the Golden Hurricane to a comeback win behind 325 yards passing and three touchdown passes.
If Tulsa wants to be successful against the Tulane defense, Smith cannot make big mistakes as he has early in games thus far. Smith excelled in the run-pass option against SMU for the last three quarters and will need to utilize the RPO to neutralize Johnson and Tulane’s pass rush. Tulsa has rushed for just 4.1 yards per carry this season, so Smith’s decision-making and accuracy will need to help open up the run game.
However, the emergence of Smith as games unfold has only been successful because of the stingy 3-3-5 Tulsa defense led by star linebacker Zaven Collins. Collins came up with the game-sealing interception against SMU, along with six tackles (two for loss) and one sack.
Collins, who stands at 6’2 and weighs 260 pounds, is one of the most versatile linebackers in the country with his speed, size and vision combination that makes him a threat as a pass rusher, tackler and in coverage. He creates havoc in the front end of the Tulsa defense while its huge secondary — where all four players at corner and safety stand at least 6’2 — tackles well to limit explosive plays.
Betting Analysis & Pick
While I really like this Tulane team with its emerging quarterback, this is a tough matchup for the Green Wave. Tulane wants to establish the run on offense and take the pressure off of its young quarterback. Since Pratt took over as the starter, the Green Wave are 4-0 in games when they rush for more than their season average of 5.3 yards per carry, but they are 0-3 in games where they average fewer.
Tulsa’s defense has been successful against the run so far this season, as it allows only 3.58 yards per carry. However, Tulsa’s rush defense has also had its most impressive showings against the best offenses it faced, only surrendering 2.8 ypc at Oklahoma State, 3.7 ypc at UCF and 3.8 ypc vs. SMU.
Expect this trend to continue when it faces Tulane on Thursday night. Tulane should be able to move the ball against Tulsa’s defense, Tulsa will force Tulane to keep everything in front of their huge secondary, and the freshman Pratt won’t be able to make enough plays to overcome his lack of a rushing attack.
Take Tulsa -6.5 (up to -7.5) to win behind its defense. While Smith and the Golden Hurricane’s early-game struggles also make Tulane to score first (+110) and Tulane first-quarter moneyline (+140) intriguing value bets, Smith and Collins should ultimately lead the way to victory by at least a score for a Tulsa team that matches up well against Tulane.
Some trends of note:
- Tulane is 2-5 against the spread in its last seven games as a road underdog
- Tulane is 1-6 ATS in its last seven visits to Tulsa
- Tulane is 2-5 ATS in its last seven games after a win
- Tulsa is 5-1 ATS in its last six games
- Tulsa is 11-4 ATS in its last 15 meetings with Tulane
Pick: Tulsa -6.5. (up to -7.5)