1) STREAK BUSTERS?
The historical numbers are daunting for Tulane. Memphis has won 11 straight in the series—10 by double figures—and is 15-0 on non-Saturday games since 2014. But the Green Wave has some hope. Its last AAC home game was an impressive 20-17 upset of Houston in November of 2017. Memphis managed only 21 points in its loss at Navy a few weeks ago, and road teams typically struggle on short rest. The Tigers had eight days to get ready for the Wave the past two seasons and only six this time.
2) GROUND BOUND
This game figures to hinge on which team rushed more effectively, particularly with the potential for rain. Memphis has the nation’s leading rusher in Darrell Henderson, but Tulane has been much better against the run than the pass through four games. If surging defensive end Cameron Sample and company can contain Henderson, the Wave will have a fighting chance. Look for a steady diet of Darius Bradwell, Corey Dauphine and quarterback Jonathan Banks on keepers as Tulane tries to control the clock and force Memphis’s playmakers to stay on the sideline.
Not surprisingly, Tulane’s best conference wins in recent years began with quick leads. The Wave led Houston 13-3 at halftime last season before holding on. It scored an early touchdown at Houston in 2014 and went ahead again 14-7 in the second quarter, gaining confidence during a surprising 31-24 victory. After the early-season struggles, the offense and defense need to make good things happen so self-belief kicks in. An early deficit would signal trouble on both sides of the ball.
TEST THE QUARTERBACK
This idea is true for both teams. Arizona State transfer Brady White has put up excellent numbers for Memphis (12 TDs, one interception, 72.2 percent completions), but he is a system guy who lacks the arm strength and improvisational ability of predecessors Riley Ferguson and Paxton Lynch. If Memphis forces Banks to win with his arm, he will have to be more accurate than he has been to this point (49.5 percent completions). White and Banks are imminently capable of getting the job done, but forcing them to prove it is the best option.
THE ADVOCATE SAYS
Memphis 31, Tulane 24
Tulane is capable of playing much better than it has in the first four games, but seeing is believing. The defense has not shown enough pass rush or coverage ability to prevent Memphis from its usual array of big plays. Neither the offensive line nor Banks have executed well enough to beat a team of the Tigers’ caliber yet. Both teams need this one desperately, and Memphis is more likely to come up with the winning score when it matters.