1. Yulman yells
Tulane’s season finale in Yulman Stadium stands in stark contrast to its home opener. Rather than fighting off the deluge of demand for tickets in the posh new stadium, the Green Wave is imploring its fans to reach the seats. It’s allowing anyone who attends Tulane’s 1 p.m. basketball game against Mississippi State to enter the football game for free. While Tulane’s home crowds this season have been drastically better than in previous seasons at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, its 3-8 record does little to boost anticipation of the event around campus or New Orleans.
2. Red zone rumble
Tulane coach Curtis Johnson has often pointed to his offense’s lackluster performance in the red zone as a culprit for its low scoring output. The Green Wave has scored on just 21 of its 31 trips inside the opponents’ 20-yard line this season, which ranks No. 122 out of 125 teams nationwide. Meanwhile, Temple’s defense is proficient in that area with the Owls ranking No. 17 nationally in red zone defense. Fortunately for Tulane, the script is also flipped when Temple has the ball in close scoring range. The Green Wave ranks No. 6 nationally in red zone defense while Temple languishes at No. 117 in red zone offense.
3. Playing with a purpose
Tulane’s bowl hopes were dashed when it lost its seventh game, following a blowout loss to Memphis on Nov. 15. Since then, Tulane has been practicing without the motivation of a postseason berth, and while Johnson claims he’s seen no emotional drop-off, the stakes on Temple’s sideline will be significantly greater on Saturday. The Owls need a victory over the Green Wave to clinch its sixth win and potentially its first bowl berth since winning the New Mexico Bowl in 2011 as a member of the Mid-American Conference. After jumping out to a 5-3 record on Nov. 1, Temple lost three consecutive games to Memphis, Penn State and Cincinnati and is down to its final chance to notch a critical sixth victory.
4. Unfamiliar foes
These two schools may share the same acronym (TU) and a location inside an urban center, but their history on the football field is scarce. In fact, their only meeting came on Jan. 1, 1935 in the inaugural Sugar Bowl, which the Green Wave won 35-20 in old Tulane Stadium in front of a partial 22,026 fans. The legs of Claude “Monk” Simons carried Tulane to its first ever bowl win after losing to Southern Cal in the 1932 Rose Bowl. The Sugar Bowl served as a monumental afternoon for college football in New Orleans and has become one of Tulane’s greatest legacies. Now, nearly 80 years later, the Owls and Green Wave are back on the same field for the start of a new rivalry as members of the American Athletic Conference.