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Tulane’s offensive line will need to protect QB Jonathan Banks against Ohio State

Keeping Banks upright needs to be the main priority if the Green Wave wants to upset the Buckeyes.

NCAA Football: Wake Forest at Tulane Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

The Tulane Green Wave are coming off of a loss to UAB in which their starting quarterback Jonathan Banks was sacked six times.

If they stand to have a chance against the Ohio State Buckeyes, keeping Banks upright has to be mission critical. If they don’t protect their QB, then expect a long afternoon for the Green Wave in Columbus. The OSU defensive line has been, arguably, the strongest unit this season for the Bucks. Between Nick Bosa, Dre’Mont Jones and Chase Young, the line has dominated the Oregon State Beavers, Rutgers Scarlet Knights and (contained) the TCU Horned Frogs.

Bosa forced fumbles against Oregon State and TCU, while Jones and Young have found ways to either sack the opposing QB or force turnovers of their own. Last week, Jones made a highlight worthy snatch, and ran it back for a game-changing TD.

What Tulane has going for them is that Bosa will be inactive on Saturday, as he heals from an injured leg/groin sustained against the Horned Frogs. So, instead of blocking against three of the best D-lineman in the Big Ten, the Green Wave will only have to block two. (Which is just slightly better).

While the Green Wave offense won’t have to navigate around Bosa, there still lingers the big question of how to protect Banks—especially on drives that have scoring opportunities. In the second quarter against UAB, Tulane was driving down the field to equalize the game at 14-14. However, on a fourth-and-9 from the UAB 39, Banks was sacked for a 9-yard loss on the play—and fumbled the football. That fumble was scooped up and ran back for a touchdown, pushing their deficit to 21-7.

When the clock hit all zeros, Tulane’s comeback fell short, and they took the road loss in Birmingham, 31-24. If Banks and the Green Wave offense get anywhere near scoring territory, they have to capitalize on it. Ohio State is a completely different animal than UAB. There’s a good chance that the Buckeyes will hang 31 points on visitors before halftime, compared to UAB’s 31 points for an entire game.

Keeping the signal-caller upright is only half of the equation; the Green Wave also needs to create time for Banks to make his throws. Passing was not a strong suit last week, as Banks went 7-of-24 for 180 yards. If he’s taking pressure in the pocket and forcing throws, now there is real potential for another problem to show up: interceptions.

Banks only lobbed one pick in his last game, but it nearly put the game out of reach at halftime. On the following drive after the fumble and score, Banks threw his lone pick versus UAB at his own 38. Now, the Tulane defense forced an interception on the following drive and stopped any points from materializing, but that turnover could’ve put the Green Wave in a 28-7 deficit before the break. A couple passes right into the hands of Buckeye defenders will make life extremely difficult for Tulane—and if they happen early in the game, will leave them drifting off into blowout territory before halftime.

More of Week 1 Tulane needs to make an appearance on Saturday, rather that Week 3 Tulane. In the season opener, the Green Wave went the distance with Wake Forest, and forced an overtime period. Even though they lost, there was some promise on the offensive side; Banks threw for 281 yards and two scores on 18-of-37 passing. And, he didn’t throw an interception. Again, Wake Forest isn’t even in the same tier as Ohio State when it comes to on-field production, but it shows that good offensive play will keep you afloat. A 281-yard afternoon for Banks may need to be dialed up for a competitive game on Saturday.

Ohio State has given up a scary amount of big plays this season. Against the Beavers, a combination of big runs and passes enabled a surprising 31 points to be put on the scoreboard. TCU only scored 28 last week, but a 93-yard TD run extended the Horned Frogs lead at the time.

Tulane will probably take a couple of chunk plays for scores against OSU. But, they’ll need to constantly stay on the attack without turnovers in order to have even the faintest of chances— unfortunately for them, no team this season has been able to do that for four quarters against Ohio State.