For the first time since 2016, the Oklahoma Sooners will open up the college football season away from home, when they fell to the Houston Cougars in NRG Stadium 33-23.
Heading to New Orleans, LA, to match up with the Tulane Green Wave on Sept. 4, the Sooners will kick off their season in a true road game for the first time since Landry Jones and Co. visited UTEP in 2012.
Awaiting the Sooners in New Orleans will be a resurgent Tulane program coming off their third straight Bowl appearance under head coach Willie Fritz.
Led by a true freshman quarterback and an explosive rushing attack, the Green Wave finished 6-6 in 2020, including a 3-5 record in the American Athletic Confernece.
Sporting a four headed monster at running back, Stephon Huderson, Cameron Carrol, Amare Jones and Tyjae Spears combined for 2,177 yards and 21 touchdowns on the ground.
With Huderson and Jones transferring out to Temple and Georgia Southern respectively, Carrol and Spears will carry the load, as they touted the Green Waves’ highest two yards per carry averages a year ago.
The Green Wave running game helped true freshman quarterback Michael Pratt along, as he was inconsistent at times growing through his first season of college football. Pratt finished with 1,806 passing yards and 20 touchdowns through the air, both marks leading all true freshman, while only throwing eight interceptions for Tulane. In addition to his arm, Pratt was also able to convert in short yardage situations with his legs, rushing for 229 yards and eight scores.
Up front, Tulane is expected to return four of their five starting offensive linemen from a year ago, helping Pratt and the run game out while they learn new offensive coordinator Chip Long’s system.
Tulane’s wide receiver core remains largely in tact from a year ago, where Deuce Watts was their leading receiver with 512 yards and six touchdowns on 31 receptions. Jha’Quan Jackson also logged 31 catches, totaling 425 yards and nine scores.
A familiar face could line up across from the Sooner secondary, as former OU man Mykel Jones returns for his extra year of eligibility. Jones caught 11 passes for 154 yards and a score for the Green Wave last year. In four seasons at OU from 2016-19, Jones caught 33 passes for 495 yards and a touchdown.
Oklahoma Sooners 2021 Schedule
- Sept. 4: at Tulane Green Wave
- Sept. 11: vs. Western Carolina Catamounts
- Sept. 18: vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers
- Sept. 25: vs. West Virginia Mountaineers
- Oct. 2: at Kansas State Wildcats
- Oct. 9: vs. Texas Longhorns
- Oct. 16: vs. TCU Horned Frogs
- Oct. 23: at Kansas Jayhawks
- Oct. 30: vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders
- Nov. 13: at Baylor Bears
- Nov. 20: vs. Iowa State Cyclones
- Nov. 27: at Oklahoma State Cowboys
While the offense consistently moved the ball, the Green Wave defense was hit or miss, costing Tulane against the best competition last year, surrendering the back-breaking big play over and over again.
Last year, the Tulane defense gave up 38 plays of 30 yards or more (120th in the FBS), and allowed 60 pass plays of 20 yards or more (122nd in the FBS).
In trying to shore up their defense, Tulane will also have to replace standout defensive end Cameron Sample.
One of the most productive defenders in the AAC, Sample’s 7.5 tackles for loss and five sacks a year ago attracted the eyes of NFL scouts, and his efforts were rewarded as he was selected in the fourth round of last weekend’s NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals.
Tulane also had linebacker Patrick Johnson drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles, signaling another spot on the defense they’ll have to replace.
Defensive coordinator Chris Hampton did land transfer safety Derrion Rakestraw from Colorado, a move he hopes will pay immediate dividends to help improve the secondary.
Due to their defensive struggles, the Green Wave lost three of their four one-possession games last year. If the New Orleans outfit can turn that around, they’ll have a chance to vault up into the top half of the American Confernece in 2021.
The Sept. 4 meeting will be just the second time the two programs have ever met on the gridiron.
Oklahoma won the first meeting in 2017, 56-14, as eventual Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield completed 17-of-27 passes for 331 yards and four touchdowns.