Tulane and Louisiana square off in the AutoNation Cure Bowl at Camping World Stadium, with both teams looking to finish strong after poor starts.
The last time the Green Wave appeared in a bowl, they faced the Ragin’ Cajuns in the 2013 New Orleans Bowl, which Louisiana won.
The New Orleans Bowl has been the normal postseason landing spot for Louisiana, and Saturday marks the first time it’s playing a bowl game outside of its home state.
At the end of September, neither team was on track to play in a postseason game or even close to having a .500 record.
Both teams got off to 1-3 starts, and Louisiana was the first of the two programs to rally back in the win column.
The Ragin’ Cajuns won three of their four games in October and ended up in the Sun Belt Championship Game, where they fell to Appalachian State.
Billy Napier’s team achieved the majority of its offensive success on the ground by way of running backs Trey Ragas and Elijah Mitchell, who combined for 2,092 yards and 20 touchdowns.
If Mitchell racks up 49 yards in the Cure Bowl, he will join Ragas in the 1,000-yard rushing category, which is quite the accomplishment for a 7-6 team to have a pair of 1,000-yard rushers.
Tulane likes to flex its muscle on the ground as well, as Darius Bradwell and Corey Dauphine combined for 1,738 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns on 282 carries.
Although Willie Fritz’s Green Wave leaned on the ground game for the majority of the season, one of the most recognizable names to neutrals on their roster led them to a bowl berth through the air.
LSU transfer Justin McMillan threw for 291 yards and a game-winning touchdown with one minute, 27 seconds left in Tulane’s 29-28 win over Navy to make the Green Wave bowl-eligible at 6-6.
McMillan could be the X-factor Saturday, as he’s coming off a pair of solid performances at the end of the regular season.
If he is able to complete a few key passes to keep drives alive while Tulane gets its ground game going, the Green Wave should create some separation.
Andre Nunez is a decent quarterback in his own right for Louisiana, but he hasn’t reached the 200-yard mark since the October 27 victory over Arkansas State.
Expect plenty of points to be scored throughout the contest because Tulane enters 78th in the FBS in total defense, while the Ragin’ Cajuns are 114th in the nation.
The numbers don’t get any better when you look at the scoring defenses. Tulane is tied for 73rd at 23.8 points per game. Louisiana, meanwhile, is 105th at 33.7 points per game.
There should be at least one 100-yard rusher on each team given the far-from-impressive stats put up by each defense.
The Cure Bowl won’t be the best game of the bowl slate, but it will be an entertaining start to the postseason.
McMillan will make a few big throws to put the Green Wave ahead, and the team out of The American will cover while hitting the over.