Tulane’s first open date comes at the ‘perfect’ time, coach Curtis Johnson says _lowres

Tulane running back Dontrell Hilliard (26) runs against Rutgers during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014, in Piscataway, N.J. Rutgers defeated Tulane 31-6. (AP Photo/Rich Schultz)

1. FAMILIAR FACES IN NEW PLACES Both Tulane and Houston unveiled new stadiums this season, expected to be the cornerstone of each schools’ respective football future. Yulman Stadium in New Orleans and TDECU Stadium in Houston are both funded by large donations to the university. The Cougars’ home, where Saturday’s contest is held, is approximately 10,000 seats larger than Yulman and cost an estimated $40 million more to build (UH claims a $120 million price tag). The programs will become very familiar with each other’s new digs, playing annually as part of the American Athletic Conference’s West Division starting next season alongside SMU, Tulsa, Navy and Memphis.

2. PALTRY PRODUCTION Tulane’s offense has averaged just 11.6 points in its past five games under starting quarterback Tanner Lee and his replacement for two games, Nick Montana. It won’t get any easier this week for Lee, in his second game back since injuring his shoulder. Houston leads the American in points allowed (16 per game) and ranks second in total defense (314.4). The Cougars will also put Lee’s increased precision to the test, as they try to extend their streak of 31 games with at least one forced turnover.

3. HILLIARD HOPES The Green Wave could be pinning its running game onto the legs of freshman Dontrell Hilliard, who will be forced to take the majority of Tulane’s carries if starters Sherman Badie and Lazedrick Thompson are unable to play due to ankle injuries suffered last week. The pair has vaulted Tulane into the fourth-best rushing attack in the conference, but was unable to practice this week. In their place, Hilliard ran for 123 yards on 11 carries in a 38-14 loss to Cincinnati last week. Coach Curtis Johnson also mentioned the possibility of getting carries for walk-on Marshall Wadleigh and former linebacker Sergio Medina if necessary.

4. LOPSIDED SERIES Houston has won 10 consecutive games in the series, dating back to Tulane’s 34-13 victory in 2002 at Robertson Stadium. As members of Conference USA, the programs matched up 16 times between 1996 and 2012, allowing Houston to stretch its all-time series lead to 14-4. The series has been particularly lopsided since Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, with Houston outscoring Tulane 355-118 (44.3-14.8 per game) over an eight-game period.