By Nick Raffoul
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Tulane comes into the week hungry for its first conference win of the season after dropping six straight games, including back-to-back contests versus ranked opponents. The Green Wave enter with a 1-7 overall record, including a 0-4 mark versus AAC teams. On the other hand, UCF is riding a two-game winning streak after putting together arguably its best performance of the season against Temple last week. The Knights have won five of their first eight games and have improved to 3-2 through five AAC contests.
Can UCF keep its momentum going at home versus Tulane on Saturday afternoon?
Green Wave could get starting QB Pratt back this week
Tulane was thumped 31-12 by No.2-ranked Cincinnati last week in a game that proved to be a tale of two halves. Quarterback Kai Horton completed 7-of-16 passes for 79 yards with two interceptions while Tyjae Spears chipped in 106 rushing yards and a touchdown in the loss. The Green Wave stayed competitive until the halftime whistle and trailed 14-12 at the end of the second quarter. Tulane failed to score a point in the second half en route to a blowout loss but still managed to cover the pregame 28-point spread.
The Green Wave played that game without starting quarterback Michael Pratt, who is still working his way back from a concussion. The 6-foot-2 freshman has been practicing all week but is still waiting for medical clearance to play against UCF, according to Guerry Smith of The New Orleans Advocate. Pratt has passed for 1,598 yards with 16 touchdowns and only five interceptions so far this season.
On defense, Tulane has given up a whopping 40.9 points per game, 127th in the FBS. The Green Wave has struggled on both sides of the ball. They have allowed 476 yards of total offense per contest, 123rd in the nation, including 291 passing yards per game, also 123rd in the country. Tulane’s defense hasn’t been much better against the run, allowing 185 rushing yards per game, good for 103rd in the country.
Gabriel still hoping to return for UCF
UCF thumped Temple 49-7 last weekend behind a big day from freshman quarterback Mikey Keene. Keene completed 15-of-21 passes for 229 yards with five touchdowns and one interception for the Knights, who were on the verge of a shutout win before allowing a 27-yard touchdown pass with under 30 seconds remaining.
Head coach Gus Malzahn is still hopeful to see starting signal-caller Dillon Gabriel back in action this season. According to the Orlando Sentinel, Malzahn told reporters that Gabriel is progressing in his rehab from a broken collarbone in his throwing arm. But after Keene’s performance last week, there should be no reason to rush back the talented junior quarterback. In five starts, Keene has led UCF to a 3-2 record while throwing for 805 yards with nine touchdowns and six interceptions during that span. Fresh off of the best game of his career, Keene will try to build some confidence against a Tulane defense that is giving up over 40 points per game and ranks 123rd in the nation against the pass.
On defense, UCF has given up 25.9 points and 361.8 yards of total offense per contest. The Knights have been vulnerable against the run though, allowing 158.4 rushing yards per game, which ranks 77th in the nation.
Tulane wasn’t able to get much going with Horton under center last week but the Green Wave have moved the ball well against most teams with their starter healthy. All signs appear to point towards Pratt playing this week but keep an eye on his status ahead of Saturday’s contest. If’s he’s able to go, Tulane should be able to keep this game competitive on the road against an inexperienced starter on the other side. While Keene tossed five touchdowns last week, he’s also tossed six interceptions over his last five games. Take Tulane to cover the spread on the road on Saturday.
Prediction: Tulane Green Wave +13
Written By Nick Raffoul , “Nick Raffoul”
Shortly after graduating with an Honors in Business Administration, Nick turned his attention from traditional stocks and bonds to investing in the performance of sports teams. He has been a very successful sports bettor over the years and has now brought his talents to us here at Winners & Whiners. Nick uses a combination of advanced stats and historical data to create sports investment models to identify value and generate consistent profits. Let Nick win for you.