Digging deeper into Tulane, LSU, in-state bowl matchups

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Willie Fritz
(Photo: Stephen Lew)

College football’s version of Selection Sunday is in the books, and we now know that Tulane is headed to the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic, LSU is bound for the Cheez-It Citrus Bowl and the matchups for the Allstate Sugar Bowl, R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl and the Independence Bowl. Let’s look back at the last 48 hours.

*Tulane’s 45-28 victory over UCF in the American Athletic Conference championship game Saturday at Yulman Stadium clinched the Green Wave’s first major bowl berth in 83 years. The 1939 Green Wave ended that season in the Sugar Bowl against Texas A&M, ending a decade in which Tulane played in three major bowl games.

*Tulane’s first major bowl game, the 1932 Rose Bowl, was against USC, who is also this year’s opponent. In Tulane’s postseason history, it has only faced one other school multiple times – the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns, in the 2013 R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl and the 2018 Cure Bowl.

*Tulane has not faced a Pac-12 opponent in a bowl or regular-season game since the 1987 Independence Bowl, when it lost to Washington 24-12 in Mack Brown’s final game as head coach.

*The Green Wave has never been to the Cotton Bowl or played at AT&T Stadium, but are no strangers to the Metroplex. In the last 40 years, they’ve played games at TCU and SMU and beginning next year, North Texas joins the American Athletic Conference.

*USC is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its first-ever bowl appearance, a 14-3 victory over Penn State in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, 1923. It holds the Rose Bowl record for appearances and victories.

*The Trojans are 3-4 in their last seven bowl appearances, scoring 45 or more points in all three wins but averaging only 14.8 points in the four losses.

*If USC quarterback Caleb Williams wins the Heisman Trophy Saturday night, it could be the first time Tulane has faced a Heisman winner in a bowl game. LSU has done it three times, most recently defeating Louisville and quarterback Lamar Jackson in the Citrus Bowl six years ago.

*The Cotton Bowl has hosted the Heisman winner 10 times, most recently last year, when Bryce Young and Alabama defeated Cincinnati in a College Football Playoff semifinal. The Heisman winner is 6-4 in the Cotton, going back to legendary running back Doak Walker winning the 1948 Heisman and the 1949 Cotton Bowl with SMU.

*LSU is headed to the Cheez-It Citrus Bowl for the sixth time in program history, which ties the Tigers for the most appearances in the game’s 54-year history as a major-college bowl game. Former Florida coach Steve Spurrier used to joke about SEC rival Tennessee, saying “you can’t spell Citrus without U-T,” but the Vols have five appearances in the game – one fewer than Florida, Georgia, Auburn and now LSU.

*LSU, amazingly, did not face a Big Ten Conference opponent in a bowl game until the 1995 Independence Bowl when the Tigers played Michigan State – coached by a guy named Nick Saban. Since then, it’s been a much more frequent occurrence. Five times from 2001-13, the Tigers faced the Big Ten in a bowl game.

*Brian Kelly is in his first year as head coach in Baton Rouge, but two legendary coaches ended their LSU careers in what is now the Citrus Bowl – Charlie McClendon, in 1979 against Wake Forest, and Saban, in January 2005 against Iowa.

*Kelly joins Saban in having coached on the opposite sideline in an LSU bowl game before arriving as head coach of the Tigers. Unlike Saban, who lost 45-26 to a Gerry DiNardo-coached Tigers team in Shreveport 27 years ago, Kelly’s Notre Dame defeated LSU 31-28 in the 2014 Music City Bowl.

*While the New Year’s slate in Florida – the games in Tampa, Orlando and Jacksonville that have all gone under multiple names – have been primarily SEC vs. Big Ten matchups in recent years, this is remarkably only the second time Purdue has played in one of those games. In 2003, the Boilermakers lost to Georgia in Orlando.

*Under Jeff Brohm, Purdue has allowed an average of 47.7 points in three bowl appearances, but the Boilers have won two of three games, including a 48-45 victory over Tennessee in last year’s Music City Bowl. Each of Purdue’s last six bowl opponents have scored at least 30 points.

*Of the six teams playing in the three bowl games in Louisiana, five are playing in that game for the first time. The outlier is Alabama, who is playing in the Allstate Sugar Bowl for a record 17th time. All of the others – Kansas State in the Sugar, South Alabama and Western Kentucky in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl and Louisiana and Houston in the Independence Bowl – are making their first appearances in those games.

*Good omen for Kansas State: In each of Alabama’s last five Sugar Bowl appearances, the lower-ranked team has won the game. The Wildcats are No. 9 in the final College Football Playoff rankings, while the Crimson Tide are fifth.

*Not a fan of one of the teams but going to one of the games in-state? Blend in and wear red. Everyone but Kansas State has red as a primary color.

We’re just 11 days until the first bowl game of the season, and the games continue until the CFP national championship Jan. 9 in Los Angeles. Enjoy!

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Lenny Vangilder


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Lenny was involved in college athletics starting in the early 1980s, when he began working Tulane University sporting events while still attending Archbishop Rummel High School. He continued that relationship as a student at Loyola University, where he graduated in 1987. For the next 11 years, Vangilder worked in the sports information offices at Southwestern Louisiana (now UL-Lafayette) and Tulane;…

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