Blue Devils Vs. Green Waves on Sept. 3

16:00 August 31, 2015

On Thursday night, Tulane will begin their long-awaited 2015 football campaign by hosting the Duke Blue Devils at Yulman Stadium (8:30 p.m. CDT, CBS Sports Network). While Tulane finished 2014 with a 3-9 record, coming off of their 2013 bowl campaign, Duke followed up their 10-win 2013 with a 9-4 record in 2014.

Thursday will mark the second meeting between the schools in the past 12 months, as Duke defeated Tulane 41-13 last September in Raleigh. This time around, however, things may well be different. While Tulane returns 16 starters from their 2014 team, Duke brings back just 11 that are healthy for Thursday night. In 2014, Tulane was the team forced to deal with the growing pains of a new quarterback, then-freshman Tanner Lee, while Duke was able to rely on experienced starter Anthony Boone. Now, however, Lee remains, but Thomas Sirk (#1) will make his first career start for the Blue Devils after seeing some time as a red zone package player last season.

Boone has not been the only loss sustained by Duke’s offense. Gone are their two leading receivers, both to the NFL, and two starting offensive linemen, both to the NFL, one of which by way of first-round pick in April’s draft. Tulane would be well-served to stop Duke’s shotgun-based split-back zone read offense that the Blue Devils have executed so proficiently in recent years under Head Coach David Cutcliffe. If the Wave are able to do so, Sirk will need to turn to the air, with a crop of largely new and inexperienced receivers, which should work in Tulane’s favor. Duke turned the ball over just 15 times in 13 games last season, 16th fewest in the nation, while Tulane has forced 63 turnovers in their 25 games dating back to the start of the 2013 season, the 2nd most nationally over that time. Something has to give, there, and the turnover margin Thursday night figures to be a major deciding factor of the game’s outcome.

 

On offense, Tulane brings back quarterback Tanner Lee, and the bulk of his receivers, tight ends, running backs, and offensive linemen. In all, Tulane returns 9 offensive starters, against a Duke defense that returns five 5, a mere 2 of which reside in the Blue Devils’ front seven. The Wave shouldn’t experience much difficulty running the ball with success on Thursday, with their stable of impressive backs and four returning offensive line starters, but look for Duke to stack the box with playmaking safeties Jeremy Cash (#16) and DeVon Edwards (#27), playing plenty of cover-1 and cover-0. It’s absolutely critical that Lee and the Green Wave passing attack take advantage of those fronts, especially if the latter proves effective in slowing the Tulane rushing attack.

In a game that could absolutely go either way, it’s tough not to like the team that’s at home, isn’t breaking in a new quarterback, and seems to have something to prove.

Tulane 24-20

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