CSJ 2020 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Preview: Tulane vs. Nevada

Tulane vs. Nevada
When: Tuesday, December 22nd, 3:30 PM EST
Where: Albertsons Stadium, Boise, Idaho
TV/Streaming: ESPN, WatchESPN

Tulane and Nevada are both making a bowl game for the third consecutive year, with Nevada coming back to the blue turf after losing to Ohio 30-21 last season. Tulane last year won the Armed Forces Bowl over Southern Miss.

Nevada won the first bowl game under current Coach Jay Norvell two years ago in the Arizona Bowl over Arkansas State in 2018–the first bowl game under Norvell for the Wolfpack.

Tulane also won its bowl game in 2018 over Louisiana in the Cure Bowl–the first bowl game under current Coach Willie Fritz.

These two schools have only met once before in 1992 with Tulane picking up the win at home.

Both schools hope to improve their overall bowl records with a win in Boise. The Green Wave are 6-7 in 13 bowl appearances Nevada is 6-11 in its bowl history.

The Green Wave ended the regular season by beating defending American Athletic Conference champion Memphis and have a chance to earn their seventh victory for the third year in a row. The Wolf Pack ended on a down note by losing to San Jose State and lost out on a chance to play in the Mountain West Conference Championship game.

Below is the statistical comparison between these two teams that shows thee two teams are very similar overall on offense and defense:

Tulane Green Wave (8th AAC, 6-5 Overall, 3-5 AAC)

The Green Wave finished the regular season by playing in 11 games. Tulane was one of just 19 schools that closed the regular season by playing in 11-or-more games.

The Green Wave started the season losing four of its first six games but rebounded to win four of its last five to get to the six win mark.

The Green Wave like to run the ball first. In fact, Tulane leans on the run on 63.7 percent of their plays and ranks second in the AAC in per-game production (218.9). RB Stephon Hunderson has 721 rushing yards and four touchdowns. Fellow RB Cameron Carroll, however, leads the rushing attack with 11 touchdowns and was second on the team with 621 yards.

QB Michael Pratt leads the team with 1,638 passing yards and 18 touchdown passes this season. The true freshman played in nine games and has improved throughout the season.

His main target is WR Deuce Watts, who has 31 catches for 512 yards and six touchdowns this season.

The Green Wave defense has been very capable especially against the passing game. Tulane paced the AAC with 36 sacks, with Patrick Johnson (10) and Cameron Sample (five) leading the way.

Key Player: QB Michael Pratt

While Pratt has improved throughout the season, I expect Nevada to try to stop the run first and make Pratt beat them with his arm. He is coming off a season-high 254 passing yards in the last game against Memphis though so he will need to prove he can do it again in this game. Of course, he can also make defenses also defend his legs as he has 204 yards on the ground and seven scores this season.

Nevada Wolfpack (3rd, MWC, 6-2 overall & MWC)

The Wolfpack started the season with five straight wins but lost two of its last three contests to just miss out on a chance to play in the Mountain West Championship game.

Nevada’s offense used the passing game of QB Carson Strong and a deep group of skill players to average 29.9 points a game. Strong threw for 2,335 yards as a freshman last fall but exceeded that total (2,587) in the COVID-19 shortened MWC schedule of eight appearances this season. The sophomore is accurate (69.4 percent in completion percentage) and threw just four interceptions.

His primary receivers were WR Romeo Doubs and TE Cole Turner. Doubs comes into this game with 53 catches for 960 yards and nine touchdowns, while Turner has 44 receptions for 545 yards and seven scores.

While the Wolfpack like to throw the ball first, they can also run it when needed. The RB duo of Toa Taua (573 rushing yards) and Devonte Lee (322) have given enough production to keep opposing defenses honest.

The defense is headed by a trio of second team All-MWC performers in DT Dom Peterson, DE Sam Hammond and LB Lawson Hall. The group improved overall from last year in giving up nearly a yard less per play than in 2019.

Key Player: QB Carson Strong

He was the Mountain West Offensive Player for a reason given his numbers but in the big games in the losses at Hawai’i and San Jose State, he was more pedestrian. He will need to play like he did in the six wins for the Wolfpack this year against a fairly strong Tulane defense for Nevada to pick-up the win in this game.

Fearless Forecast:

This is a contrasting offensive showcase with Tulane liking to run first, while Nevada’s Air Raid offense of course likes to pass first. Boise is expecting a rain/snow mix Monday evening into Tuesday’s game day morning. However by kickoff in the early afternoon Boise time, conditions should improve. This is good news for a Nevada team that likes to throw it first and not have to deal with those conditions. Nevada lost on the blue turf last year and while Tulane will stay close, I like the Wolfpack to get the win this year. Nevada 30 Tulane 24