After a 12 year absence, Syracuse renews its rivalry with fellow private university foe Tulane at the site of this year’s BCS national championship game and NCAA Final Four, the Louisiana Superdome. This is Green Wave head coach Bob Toledo’s fifth year after taking a four season break from coaching (he led UCLA to the 1999 Rose Bowl), and although he increased the win total to four in 2010, he’s only won 13 games overall.
That’s not the improvement Wave fans expected in Conference USA play, and although Toledo’s contract was extended last December through next year with an option for 2013, the feeling is it’s essentially bowl game or bust to continue his tenure. A tough 13 game schedule is Tulane’s challenge this season, so six wins is likely the over/under mark for gauging an upward trend of the program’s direction, whether or not TU can grab that first bowl game invite since 2002, and if Toledo, now making all the play calls, will keep his job.
Players to watch for (offense):
ORLEANS DARKWA (TB) : With a first name that nearly matches the city where he plays home games, all this fleet back did last year was set a school record for freshman with 925 yards rushing and 11 TDs, averaging 125 yards per over the final six games of the season.
RYAN GRIFFIN (QB): How Griffin goes, so will the Wave. The junior was wildly inconsistent in his game-by-game performances last year (14TDs / 8 INTs), but ended up with a decent average of 245 yards passing running a spread offense. Look for Griffin to prosper in a more pro style offense this year.
Players to watch for (defense):
TRENT MACKEY (LB): The Green Wave’s leading tackler was also forced to play at times on a horrendous special teams unit last year, but make no mistake; he’s one of the top linebackers with a nose for the ball in the country.
DEZMON MOSES (DE): A quick, clever pass rusher, Moses had 6 sacks and 12 tackles for a loss last season, often times double teamed.
Fearless prediction: The road trip to New Orleans has to be all business as it comes a week after the Big East opener against Rutgers in the Dome, so no time for a letdown. Tulane will be coming off the final game of three straight on the road against UAB, Duke and Army, and will be pumped to host a BCS team in a Saturday night setting. The Orange offense takes a half to get uncorked and the Green Wave will give SU a battle before succumbing.
30-17 Orange.Brad Bierman (Follow on Twitter @BradBierman)