College football’s 2018-19 bowl season kicks off on Saturday with a showdown between two teams from the Louisiana, as Tulane meets Louisiana Lafayette in Orlando for the 2018 Cure Bowl. Both of these programs are trending in the right direction after solid seasons this year. The Green Wave (8-4) are bowling for the first time under third-year coach Willie Fritz, while the Ragin’ Cajuns (7-6) will cap a strong debut from new coach Billy Napier with a trip to this bowl on Dec. 15.
The Green Wave claimed a share of the AAC West Division title with a 5-3 mark in league play. Three of their six defeats coming by a touchdown or less. Fritz’s team fell in overtime against Wake Forest (23-17) in the opener and suffered defeats to UAB and Ohio State before a key win against Memphis in late September.
The Green Wave reached bowl eligibility in dramatic fashion. They edged Navy 29-28 thanks to a two-point conversion with just over a minute left. They are led by a defense limiting opponents to 5.4 yards per play in AAC games. The ground game is decent with an offense ranked sixth in the conference.
Tulane holds a 22-4 series edge over Louisiana. And they won the last meeting (2016) between these two teams. But the Ragin’ Cajuns claimed victory in the 2013 New Orleans Bowl (24-21) and won the previous meeting in 2012. That should help them here.
More on Lafayette
After three consecutive losing seasons under former coach Mark Hudspeth, new Louisiana Lafayette coach Billy Napier helped the program to a 7-6 mark and Sun Belt West Division title in his first year. Similar to Tulane, the Ragin’ Cajuns started slow but finished the season on a high note, which always helps your Bowl prospects. Louisiana opened 1-3 but finished with six wins over its next eight contests, including victories over Arkansas State and ULM to clinch the Sun Belt West title. They lost 30-19 to Appalachian State in the conference title game on Dec. 1.
On paper, Tulane’s offense has an edge against Louisiana’s defense. The Ragin’ Cajuns are giving up 210 rushing yards a contest and allowed 225 yards on the ground to Appalachian State in the Sun Belt title game. Additionally, this unit has allowed at least 223 rushing yards in three out of the last four contests in 2018.
Considering Tulane ranks 11th in the American Athletic Conference in third-down conversions, gaining yardage on first and second down is crucial. If the Green Wave stay out of long-distance situations on third downs, Louisiana will have trouble getting enough stops to win this game. On the flipside, if the Ragin’ Cajuns hold on early downs, getting McMillan into third-and-long is a favorable path to victory.
Should be a close game
Not much separates these two teams. In Wannamakeabet.com‘s Bowl Rankings 130 team rankings, Louisiana is No. 80 and Tulane ranks No. 86 nationally. Additionally, both programs bring similar game plans to Orlando. Expect the ground game to be the focal point for both offenses. A few plays in the passing game and stops on defense will likely be the deciding factor.
Louisiana’s offense has been more productive on the scoreboard this season but Tulane has not won a bowl game since 2002 and we think they’re ready to step back into the winner’s circle. Tulane does enough to win and cover this year’s Cure Bowl.