NEWPORT, R.I. — Tulane may be coming off its best season in more than a decade.
But that didn’t garner the Green Wave much regard when it came to predicting how it will fare in the school’s inaugural season in the American Athletic Conference.
A 30-person media panel tabbed Tulane to finish in ninth-place tie with Connecticut, one spot out of the bottom, occupied by Tulsa, the Wave’s opening-game opponent on Aug. 28.
“I don’t feel like it’s disrespect or anything,” said junior safety Darion Monroe, one of four Tulane players representing the team at the conference media day on Tuesday. “We’re the newcomers and we’ve got to earn our respect.
“Once we start winning games, it won’t matter anymore.”
Cincinnati was picked to win the title. The Bearcats gained 17 first-place votes to outdistance defending conference champion Central Florida.
Houston was third and East Carolina fourth.
Tulane beat East Carolina last year, and four teams with losing records — SMU, South Florida, Memphis and Temple — were all picked ahead of the Wave in that order.
Also, UConn, which had the same number of points as Tulane, was 3-9 and fired veteran coach Paul Pasqualoni at midseason.
The Wave’s low status was nothing new this preseason. Virtually every other magazine and website has Tulane tabbed similarly as the AAC media panel and most of those that rank all of the FBS from 1-128 have the Wave in triple digits.
“I’m not surprised,” Tulane senor safety Sam Scofield said. “It’s certainly not going to do anything about our confidence.
“We know how good we can be. We’ll just use this for some bulletin board material.”
Certainly Tulsa needed little more motivation.
After winning the 2012 Conference USA title, the Hurricane was picked first in that league last year.
But the team that had winning seasons in seven of the previous eight years, stumbled to 3-9, including a 14-7 loss to Tulane, a team it had beaten by a combined 386-101 the previous eight years. The Tulsa game also was the one in which the Wave clinched its first bowl berth since 2002.
“Nothing worked out for us last year, starting with being picked to finish first,” junior tackle Garrett Stafford said. “We lost our first game (34-7 at Bowling Green) and there was just a snowball effect after that.
“That makes this first game really important for us. I’m glad we’re playing Tulane because it gives us a chance to show that what happened last year is behind us.”
For Cincinnati coach Tommy Tuberville, being picked first is a new experience.
In his 20 years as a head coach, none of his teams have been the official league favorite, not even in 2005 when he was at Auburn and the Tigers were coming off a 14-0 season and finished second to Southern California in the final polls.
“All I know is last year they picked Louisville and they didn’t win it,” said Tuberville, whose team will play at Tulane on Oct. 31. “We’ve got a good football team and it’s nice recognition for our program.
“That’s good because we always tend to fly under the radar.”
Tulane coach Curtis Johnson said regardless of where his team was picked, the Wave is stepping up in quality of competition.
“This league is a challenge for us, but it’s also an opportunity,” Johnson said. “We’re getting a chance to showcase our talent around the country in places we haven’t played before like UConn.
“There are a lot of quality teams in this league. We’ll just have to see how it works out.”