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No. 20 Ole Miss' trip to No. 24 Tulane brings big-game vibe to cozy venue

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Tulane coach Willie Fritz had an announcement to make as he prepared for a matchup with No. 20 Mississippi that has become arguably one of the toughest tickets ever for a Green Wave home game.

“Please quit calling me. Everybody keeps wanting tickets," Fritz said. "It’s a sellout. There aren’t anymore tickets. And that’s great. We’re very excited about it, and so are the players.”

Yulman Stadium — which opened in 2014 and has the look of a cozy English soccer ground wedged snugly into a historic neighborhood — holds about 30,000 spectators. That's less than half the capacity at the cavernous Superdome, where Tulane played from 1975 to 2013 (and where Tulane beat Ole Miss in the dome's first college game in 1975). The old Tulane Stadium that was torn down a few years after the Superdome opened held around 80,000.

Yulman Stadium has never hosted a ranked SEC team — and the fact that No. 24 Tulane also is in the AP Top 25 makes this arguably the highest-profile game played there. On top of all that, there is no shortage of Mississippi alumni living in and around New Orleans — Archie Manning and Deuce McAllister, who plan to attend, being but a couple examples.

“It's by far the hardest tickets since the stadium was built,” Tulane athletic director Troy Dannen said, adding that no previous game at Yulman was “even in the same stratosphere.”

On Thursday, it was hard to find tickets on the secondary market for less than $100. For most other games, excluding homecoming, tickets in some sections run as low as the $10 range.

Fans of good football might still get their money's worth.

The Rebels routed Mercer 73-7 last week. Tulane posted a 37-17 victory over a South Alabama team that had 19 starters back from a team that won 10 games in 2022. Green Wave quarterback Michael Pratt was named American Athletic Conference offensive player of the week after completing 14 of 15 passes for 294 yards and four touchdowns.

Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin coached the Rebels to a blowout victory over the Green Wave just two seasons ago in Oxford, Mississippi. Since then, he said, Tulane has transformed into a far more formidable foe.

“Amazing job by Willie turning them around,” Kiffin said. “They’ve got really good coaching and they’ve got really good players. Usually if you’re going to have that kind of turnaround, it means you’re going to have a great quarterback too, which they do.”

Fritz said he wants his players to try to tune out the hype surrounding the game and be as steady as they have been since the beginning of last season's 12-2 campaign, which culminated with victories in the American Athletic Conference championship game against UCF and in the Cotton Bowl against Southern California.

Those big-game victories late last season might help Tulane players “a little bit,” Fritz said. "Obviously, a conference championship game was huge. I'm very consistent in my preparation every week. Hopefully that carries over to the guys. I try to have the same demeanor as I did when I was at Blinn junior college as head coach and playing Cisco in front of 50 people.”

SLINGING IT

Pratt and Mississippi starter Jaxson Dart both are coming off strong performances. Dart passed for 334 yards and four TDs, including three scoring strikes of 20 or more yards. His longest TD pass went to Tre Harris from 38 yards out. Of Pratt's four TD passes, two went for 47 yards and one for 48.

TOUGH BREAK

The Wave will be without one of their top linebackers. Fritz said Corey Platt, who has a lower left leg injury, won't be able to suit up and that it's not clear when he'll come back.

Against South Alabama last week, Platt led Tulane with 15 total tackles, including one sack.

Pratt also took some big hits on a blind-side sack and some scrambles, was limping after the game and was given time off from practice this week. But Fritz insisted Pratt is fine.

DOWNFIELD THREATS

While Tulane's defense gave up just one play of more than 20 yards in Week 1, the Green Wave secondary could be challenged more by Mississippi. Harris caught six passes for 133 yards and four TDs last week.

Fritz said Tulane defensive backs need to keep Harris in front of them and make the Rebels “earn their yards throwing the ball,” which he added, “is easier said than done.”

Tulane's Jha'Quan Jackson has the speed to be a deep threat as well, having caught two of Pratt's long TD passes last week.

OPPONENT FAMILIARITY

Tulane's new defensive coordinator, Shiel Wood, was Troy's coordinator last year when the Trojans lost to Ole Miss, 28-10, in Oxford, Mississippi.

Wood said he did not have this game marked on the schedule when he joined Tulane.

“I probably didn't even know this game was on the schedule when I took this job or maybe I wouldn't be here,” he joked.

“Any time you have familiarity playing a team, that helps," Wood said. "You maybe learn from some mistakes that you may have made or understand better what are the things you can be successful with.”

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AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll