New Orleans Bowl 2013: Full Preview for Tulane vs. LA-Lafayette

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New Orleans Bowl 2013: Full Preview for Tulane vs. LA-Lafayette
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In the days of "Fighting Hunger," "Famous Idaho Potatoes" and "Little Caesars," it's not often a bowl name is fitting of its participants.

But that's just the case with this year's New Orleans Bowl, which pits in-state foes Tulane and Louisiana-Lafayette against each other. 

The Green Wave play half their games at the Superdome, the site of this particular postseason matchup, while the Ragin' Cajuns—by the way, absolutely elite matchup here in terms of team names—have won the last two New Orleans Bowls, so they aren't exactly uncomfortable inside the famous stadium.

Of course, it's more than just a battle for the Big Easy.

This matchup brings with it loads of intrigue, as it features two head coaches in the midst of complete program 180's. 

Curtis Johnson took on a Tulane team lacking sufficient talent and went 2-10 in his first year in 2012, but he now has the Green Wave at 7-5 and in their first bowl since 2002. 

Former Tulane star and current Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte even took time to note the accomplishment:

All Mark Hudspeth did, meanwhile, was end a 41-year bowl drought for Louisiana-Lafayette in his first season. He has taken the Ragin' Cajuns to three straight bowls, a remarkable feat. 

Don't for a second think this is your typical pre-Christmas snooze fest. 

 

Date: Saturday, Dec. 22, 2013

Time: 9 p.m. ET

Location: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, La. 

TV: ESPN

Live Stream: WatchESPN

Odds: Tulane (-2.5), via Covers.com (as of Dec. 18 at 6:40 p.m. ET)

Over/Under: 49.5, via Covers.com

 

Matchup to Watch: Louisiana-Lafayette's Offense vs. Tulane's Defense 

Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Strength versus strength. 

The Ragin' Cajuns average 31.4 points and 406.6 yards per contest. Of course, whether or not quarterback Terrance Broadway is able to play will certainly affect those numbers, as was evident on Dec. 7 when LA-Lafayette lost 30-8 to South Alabama.

The dynamic junior is currently questionable and did some light work Wednesday, per Tim Buckley of The Daily Advertiser:

Speedy running backs Alonzo Harris and Elijah McGuire have combined for 1,686 yards on 6.1 yards per carry, so it's not as though this offense is one-dimensional, even when Broadway is healthy.

But Tulane is stout against the run, giving up just 3.2 yards per carry on the year. If it's tough going for Harris and McGuire and Broadway isn't able to play, Hudspeth's team is going to have difficulty moving the ball. 

 

Other Key: Turnover Battle

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sport

Tulane's defense is not only stingy (allowing a meager 352.8 yards per game), but it is also opportunistic. According to TeamRankings.com, the Green Wave average 2.5 takeaways per contest, good enough for eighth-best in America. 

That's not good for the Ragin' Cajuns, who have struggled in that area, most recently turning the ball over four times (two fumbles, two interceptions) against South Alabama. 

Hudspeth knows the importance of holding onto the ball, per ESPN: "We had a couple of turnovers that gave them a short field...It wasn't just the turnovers that we gave them, we gave them the momentum and we never got it back. We played well enough defensively to win the game, but we turned the ball over too much."

ULL has no chance if it doesn't keep possession against Tulane. 

 

Prediction: Tulane 24, Louisiana-Lafayette 20

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The Green Wave certainly aren't an offensive powerhouse. Washington transfer Nick Montana, the son of Hall of Famer Joe, has struggled with inconsistency this season, completing just 53.1 percent of his passes for 5.74 yards per throw, 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

But this is a game in which defense will win out, especially with Broadway either out or at less than 100 percent. 

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