1. LIGHTNING LEE The return of starting quarterback Tanner Lee should help boost an offense that languished the last two weeks (averaged 290 yards) under a conservative gameplan. With Nick Montana under center, offensive coordinator Eric Price admitted his primary concern was to avoid risks and give the surging Green Wave defense a chance to control the game. It worked in a 12-3 victory over UConn, but didn’t provide enough in a 20-13 loss at Central Florida. With Lee back in the fold, expect the play-calling to open up and for Tulane to take more shots down the field, searching for the big plays that have been absent without him.
2. TAILBACK TANDEM Arguably more important than Lee’s arrival, is the emergence of Tulane’s running game, which churned up 149 yards per game the past two weeks despite facing two of top three run defenses in the American Athletic Conference. The combination of bruising Lazedrick Thompson and blazing Sherman Badie at running back has simultaneously balanced the Green Wave’s offense and given it an element of explosion. Expect to see a heavy dose of both backs against Cincinnati, which ranks No. 115 nationally in total defense and has allowed over 5 yards per carry this season.
3. RED ZONE READS When Cincinnati reaches the red zone on Friday night, something has to give. The Bearcats have scored on 25-of-28 trips inside their opponents’ 20-yard line this year, and tallied 18 touchdowns without committing a single turnover. Meanwhile, Tulane’s red zone defense ranks No. 5 nationally, surrendering just 21 scores in 32 opponent opportunities and has forced a pair of turnovers backed up against their own end zone. Expect Tulane to be particularly aggressive deep in its own territory on Friday night, in an attempt to bolster that number.
4. RIVALRY RENEWAL Tulane and Cincinnati played in the first ever Conference USA game on Aug. 30, 1996, when the Green Wave rolled up a 34-14 victory at Nippert Stadium. Tulane went on to win five of its six C-USA matchups against the Bearcats, prior to UC leaving the league for the Big East in 2005. The programs went in vastly different directions following the split. The Green Wave snapped a drought of 11 consecutive losing seasons last year, while Cincinnati has played in seven bowls and piled up the ninth-best record in the country since 2007 (66-25).