Riptide’s Reflections | Illiad

Mark Keplinger and Jeremy Rosen

Riptide’s Reflections is The Tulane Hullabaloo’s weekly column talking all things Tulane football. Join us every Thursday for in-depth coverage, analysis and opinion of the Green Wave. 

With Tulane’s victory in the American Athletic Conference Championship game, the Green Wave will now move on to play the Southern California Trojans in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 2.

It might be low hanging fruit, but I am reminded of Homer’s epic, Iliad, which describes a great war between the invading Greeks and the Trojans. In previewing Tulane’s foe, I will attempt to make the comparisons between Homer and the Cotton Bowl.

King Priam ruled and led Troy when the Trojan War began, and similarly, head coach Lincoln Riley leads USC today. In his first season in Los Angeles, Riley has led his team to an 11-2 record with both losses coming to the Utah Utes. Before this season, he spent five years as head coach of the Oklahoma Sooners.

Last year, Riley’s Sooners played Tulane to open the season. “I remember thinking that they have a lot of really good football players on that team and they may not get the respect they deserve or the national narrative may just be that Oklahoma did not show up and play well,” Riley said. 

Filling the role of Agamenmon is Tulane head coach Willie Fritz. In that game last year, Tulane only lost by five in a hostile environment in Norman, Oklahoma. The game was supposed to take place in New Orleans. However, Hurricane Ida forced the game to move. If it was not for a disastrous second quarter, Tulane may have done even better.

When commenting on Fritz, Riley said, “Willie is building a tremendous program and it’s no surprise to me at all that they had the season they had. I remember leaving the field last year in that game … I think that Coach Fritz is one of the best coaches that there is. And he has proven that with the work that he has done this season.”

Every Greek poem needs its heroes, and this game is full of them. For the Trojans, quarterback and Heisman candidate Caleb Williams plays the role of Hector. Like Hector, he is the champion of the Trojans and has proven it with his 4,075 passing yards and NCAA leading 37 passing touchdowns. However, Williams suffered a hamstring injury so his health will be an important question to monitor as the game approaches.

For Tulane, running back Tyjae Spears certainly plays the role of Achilles. The AAC offensive player of the year has 1,376 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns. He will need to have a big game in order to down the Trojans.

Defensively for Tulane, the linebacker duo of Dorian Williams and Nick Anderson are Ajax and Diomedes respectively. Ajax was known for his immense strength and courage while Diomedes for his bravery, combat skill and wisdom. Williams and Anderson are perhaps the finest linebacker duo in the nation.

The Greeks famously won the war by bypassing Troy’s wall using the Trojan Horse, an idea devised by the cunning Odysseus. In this game, USC’s great weakness is their defense and especially tackling. In recent weeks, the Trojans have given up 43 in the first Utah game, 37 to Arizona, 35 to California, 45 to UCLA and 47 in the second game against Utah.

It will be up to Odysseus — quarterback Michael Pratt — to exploit this weakness with whatever Trojan Horse he comes up with.

Of course, the character comparisons are not perfect but hopefully this quick preview can give some perspective on the game.

Lastly, there is one last comparison to make. As of now, there are four USC players entering the transfer portal. These players are collectively Aeneas and his men, who escaped Troy when it burned down. Their descendants did end up founding Rome, so these players may find glory yet.

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