Tulane (2-6) at Houston (5-3) (ET)

FACTS & STATS: Site: TDECU Stadium (40,000) — Houston, Texas. Television:
ESPN U. Home Record: Tulane 2-2, Houston 3-2. Away Record: Tulane 0-4, Houston
2-1. Neutral Record: Tulane 0-0, Houston 0-0. Conference Record: Tulane 1-3,
Houston 3-1. Series Record: Houston leads, 14-4.

GAME NOTES: Riding a hot streak of three consecutive wins, the Houston Cougars
will go for their fourth victory in a row when they host the Tulane Green Wave
Saturday in an American Athletic Conference bout at TDECU Stadium.

Tulane has had a rough campaign thus far, having earned just a 2-6 overall
record and a 1-3 mark in AAC play. The Green Wave have lost two games in a
row, and four of their last five, which includes a 38-14 blasting at the hands
of Cincinnati on Halloween.

Houston began the year with losses in two of the team’s first three games, and
then three defeats in the first five. But since then the Cougars have rattled
off three wins in a row, with a 27-3 victory over South Florida being the most

In the all-time series between these conference rivals, Houston has dominated.
The Cougars own a 14-4 overall record against Tulane, with the most recent
game in 2012 going to Houston by a lopsided score of 40-17.

By the time the first half ended for Tulane against Cincinnati last weekend,
the Bearcats held a 24-0 advantage in New Orleans. The Bearcats and Green Wave
had the same number of first downs in the game (21), but Cincinnati dominated
the offensive ground attack, gaining 265 rushing yards and 479 total offensive
yards in the contest. The Tulane offense, led by quarterback Tanner Lee, could
only manage a 3-of-13 third-down conversion rate.

Lee this season has been up and down, averaging just 186.5 passing ypg with
nine touchdown tosses and nine interceptions thrown. His completion percentage
sits just barely over 53 percent, and his passer efficiency rating of 112.8 is
extremely pedestrian. After throwing for 205 yards and a touchdown against the
Bearcats at home, he’ll need to boost those numbers on the road against a
solid Houston defense.

Although Cincinnati’s run offense completely overshadowed Tulane’s, the Green
Wave managed a healthy 175 rushing yards and a touchdown in the loss. Dontrell
Hilliard gained 123 yards, while Lazedrick Thompson has the Wave’s only
touchdown on the ground. Thompson has a team-best four rushing scores this
season, while Sherman Badie leads the run game with 595 yards on 92 carries
for an offense averaging just 18.1 ppg this season.

Save for a few outlying cases this season, Tulane’s defense has been just
above average. The Green Wave did allow 38 points to Cincinnati in the loss
last weekend, and in late September the team surrendered 47 and 31 points in
consecutive weeks to Duke and Rutgers, respectively. Those were against
programs with good offenses, and Houston is another team that has a
potentially dangerous offense. That doesn’t bode especially well for a Tulane
defense giving up 29.4 ppg through eight contests.

Sam Scofield leads the team with 60 tackles on the year, but Nico Marley has
been more effective in terms of rounding out the stat sheet. Marley has
registered a team-high 9.5 tackles for loss with a half-sack, an interception,
two quarterback hurries and a forced and recovered fumble. Scofield, Lorenzo
Doss and Parry Nickerson, who have together recorded eight interceptions
(Nickerson has a team-high four), will be counted on to limit the Houston
passing attack.

That passing attack for the Cougars didn’t need to be on display much against
South Florida last weekend, as Houston rolled to a 27-3 victory in Tampa.
Quarterback Greg Ward Jr. completed 15-of-19 passes for just 89 yards and a
touchdown, and conceded the majority of the offensive work to the run game as
his Cougars jumped ahead early on.

Ward has been a solid passer and an effective runner under center since coming
in for John O’Korn, who had a dismal 6-8 touchdown-to-interception ratio in
six games played. Ward Jr. has taken the reins of the offense and thrown for
669 yards, four touchdowns and just one interception this season, completing
exactly 72 percent of his pass attempts. On 53 carries, he’s contributed 218
yards and a pair of touchdowns in an offense averaging 28 ppg.

It’s the Houston rushing attack that Tulane will need to be extra aware of
Saturday. The Cougars are averaging 166.1 rushing ypg this season, and have
scored 15 times on the ground in eight games. Tailbacks Kenneth Farrow (549
yards, five touchdowns) and Ryan Jackson (400 yards, five touchdowns) will
both see significant time in the game, and are both adept in the passing game
too. Tulane will need to keep an eye on receiver Deontay Greenberry (466
yards, three touchdowns), who is Houston’s leading threat through the air.

The defensively strong Cougars are allowing a mere 16 ppg this season to
opponents, something that doesn’t sit all too well with the Green Wave’s
frequently ineffective attack. In the last two games, Houston has surrendered
a combined 13 points to the opposition, and has only allowed more than 20
points three times all season long.

Efrem Oliphant has populated the defensive stat sheet this season with a team-
leading 83 tackles, seven tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, two interceptions and
two forced fumbles with a fumble recovery. He’s one of five players for
Houston that has notched at least two interceptions this season. The Cougars
as a unit are fourth in the FBS with 15 interceptions – three behind co-
leaders Ole Miss and Louisville. Adrian McDonald, who leads the team with
three picks, will be spying Lee all game this weekend.

The AAC-leading Cougars won’t let this contest become a trap game at home, and
should be able to hold off the Tulane attack with a strong defensive effort.
With four crucial games left on the schedule, including a season-ending
matchup with Cincinnati, Houston is going to buckle down and go for the
regular-season conference title.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Houston 30, Tulane 17