Oct. 16, 2016
Tulane vs UCF, Great Minds Collide
When UCF needed a new head coach my first choice was Willie Fritz. UCF desperately needed a flexible coach who could mold a system around the players he inherited, not the other way around. With all UCF's highly recruited linemen and running backs it would have been a perfect fit for Willie Fritz's version of the triple option. Plus Coach Fritz was ready to move on from a Georgia Southern team that led the nation in rushing offense. He had finished his job taking GSU from the FCS to the top of the Sun Belt in one season. The same as he had done at every program, at every level he has coached. Willie carried around a remarkable 193-74-1 record as living proof of his abilities. When UCF started floating coaching names from the land of misfit toys it was panic time. Until surprisingly Oregon OC Scott Frost accepted the position. Fortunately Oregon's read option is very similar to Coach Fritz's triple option and can be adjusted to fit the talents of the team. If you have a team best suited to pass, you pass. Best suited run, you run. Can do both, watch out.
Which brings us to the game. Tulane went through some growing pains in its first five games, same as UCF. Tulane's quarterback position was in search of a permanent starter. Finally Coach Fritz has found his man in RS Sophomore Glen Cuiellette. He played sparingly under the former regime, but was a dual threat high school phenom passing for 4,619 yards (50 TD's), and rushing for 568 yards (10 TD's). He took his HS team to the playoffs twice as a starter. In his last two games as Tulane's starter he threw 4 TD's in a 4OT win over Louisiana-Lafayette, and he rushed for 60 yards, passed for 168 yards in a road win over UMass. These are good teams despite their records. Louisiana-Lafayette led Arkansas until the end of the fourth quarter, and UMass led Mississippi State halfway through the third quarter. Last years Tulane team would have lost to both these programs. Coach Fritz has his team heading in the right direction, but has not yet reached his destination. Even still he has his team halfway to a bowl game with seven games left to go. With Willie I'll take those odds.
UCF is in a similar position with a 3-2 record. Other similarities include a first time starting QB, and a program coming off a terrible season with a new head coach. Unfortunately UCF's tailor made system QB wasn't available for UCF's first conference game against ECU due to injury, and may not be available for the Tulane game. Fortunately for UCF, ECU shot themselves in the foot repeatedly handing UCF the game. UCF's backup QB went 11-29 with 2 Int's 0 TD's. That just won't cut the mustard against a well coached Willie Fritz team that will run the clock out on you with veteran running backs, and sure handed receivers. UCF also gave up a generous 488 yards passing. That is sure to be dissected in Willie's film room. Since Tulane doesn't have a full roster of scholarship players due to graduation, and transfers, UCF should be able to wear them down with their depth and relentless run game. But watch out, Willie can out coach you in a heartbeat.
Prediction - Willie Fritz is a wily old fox going up against a young up and comer in Scott Frost. Both have excellent footballs minds, and have a predilection to run first to set up the pass. This could be a trap game for UCF if they prepare for a run heavy offense when Tulane plans to take advantage of UCF's pass defense weakness. Tulane can and will pass on you with great receivers like youngster Terren Encalade (100+ receiving yards last two games) and veteran Devon Breaux (20+ yards per reception vs UCF in 2015). If UCF sells out to stop Dontrell Hilliard and the run game it could be a long day getting burned by the pass. In the end UCF's depth should wear down a undermanned Tulane defense and open up big holes for Wilson and Killins to run through. But if Milton is still out at QB and Tulane doesn't have to respect the pass, or better yet gets turnovers, they have a good chance.
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