This weekend, in one of the more underrated matchups on the docket, 6-1 and #25 ranked Army will visit 4-4 Tulane. Tulane’s record is a bit deceiving as they have showed flashes of excellence, whether it be taking SMU to overtime or their first half performance against Navy. For Army, not only will they try to continue their strong season, but they look to avoid continuing an odd, yet hardly known trend in college football. That is subpar Tulane teams upsetting solid Academy teams.
Let’s go back to 2017, 2-1 Army was fresh off a loss to Ohio State and went into Yulman Stadium to face a struggling 1-2 Tulane squad. Three turnovers doomed Army as Jonathan Banks ran for a four-yard touchdown with 23 seconds left to give the Green Wave a 21-17 win. In the following weeks, Army won six straight, and lost to only North Texas for a 10-3 finish. Despite this, they failed to crack the top 25, with the lost to Tulane the likely reason for this. The Green Wave on the other hand, went 5-7 and came this close to a bowl:
Between this and the Saints’ playoff woes, it has to be tough to be a New Orleans sports fan.
Army hasn’t the only service academy victim of a chaotic Tulane. 2004’s Navy team was one of the program’s best teams since Roger Staubach’s playing days, going 10-2 and ending the year ranked #24 in the AP Poll. Their two losses were to Notre Dame, who they had lost to 40 straight times to that point, but surprisingly Tulane, who finished 5-6 that year.
Navy’s loss to Tulane in 2004 was not nearly as close as Army’s loss as the Green Wave stomped the Midshipmen 42-10, as Lester Ricard went 18-19 (!) for 323 yards and four touchdowns and the defense held Aaron Polanco of Navy to a nightmarish 2-12 for 12 yards passing line for the day.
Looking further in the past, one can see that this trend started during the Eisenhower Administration. In 1953, Army went 7-1-1 with a Lambert Cup championship, but hardly looked like it in a 0-0 tie to a 1-8-1 Tulane squad. Yes, you read that right. Three years later, the Green Wave took down #14 ranked Navy 20-6. The Midshipmen finished a solid 6-1-2, and while Tulane finished that year at 6-4, they were nothing to write home to mother about.
All history lessons aside, Tulane and Army look to be one of the better games in the Group of Five this weekend. The schools that are similar in their academic outlook and their focus on the running game on the field. Because of this, this series has had some intrigue as of late. On Saturday, we will see if history will repeat itself again or if Army will right the wrongs of past service academy teams and beat Tulane.