2011 Prediction & Game Story
Week 13 - C-USA Part 1
Conference USA Fearless Predictions &
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Conference USA Game Previews Part 2
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Nov. 25 at UCF 31 … UTEP 14
CFN Analysis: COMING
(AP) ORLANDO, Fla. -- Latavius Murray rushed for a career-high 233 yards and scored three times to help Central Florida rout Texas-El Paso 31-14 on Friday night in the season finale for both teams.
Murray, a junior tailback, scored on runs of 38 and 40 yards and caught a 6-yard pass from freshman quarterback Blake Bortles as the Knights (5-7, 3-5 Conference USA) stopped a three-game losing streak.
UTEP avoided a shutout with two fourth-quarter touchdowns. Jordan Leslie caught a 2-yard pass from Nick Lamaison on a fourth-and-goal play and Joe Banyard added a 7-yard scoring run.
The Miners (5-7, 2-6) needed a win to become bowl eligible.
UCF led 24-0 after its most dominating first-half performance of the season. Murray had 98 yards rushing and two touchdowns by halftime and the Knights' defense limited UTEP to five first downs and 94 yards total offense in the first two quarters.
UTEP (5-6) at UCF (4-7) Nov. 25, 7:00, CBS Sports Network
Here’s The Deal … UCF is playing out the string, and UTEP is playing for a spot in the postseason. Neither scenario was expected when the year began. The Knights have been Conference USA’s biggest disappointment of 2011, plummeting from league champs a year ago to sub-.500 this fall. The Knights have simply never been able to gain any traction for eighth-year head coach George O’Leary, losing six times by no more than a touchdown. It’ll be a long offseason for a school that once had visions of a perfect season, and is currently under investigation by the NCAA.
The Miners are after their second straight bowl berth, needing a win in Orlando to qualify for a bonus game. UTEP has been predictably erratic during the fall, failing to beat an FBS opponent that currently has a winning record. Still, for Mike Price’s sagging program, another 15 practices to go along with the extra exposure of a bowl game would provide a much-needed shot in the arm.
Why UTEP Might Win: The Miners will have just enough offensive weapons to get past a UCF opponent that’s had all kinds of problems moving the ball effectively this fall. They’ll offset injuries at the quarterback position by employing all of their complimentary backs, including Joe Banyard, Vernon Frazier and Leilyon Myers. The Knights’ top ranking in defense is a bit fraudulent at this stage of the year. Built on its September performance, it’s no longer getting to the quarter, or creating many turnovers. UTEP can beat this defense by controlling the clock and the line of scrimmage.
Why UCF Might Win: The Knights have displayed some much-needed offensive punch of late, averaging almost 30 points over the last four games. They’ve gotten a lift from redshirt freshman QB Blake Bortles, who’s combined with the more athletic Jeff Godfrey to give the team a threat through the air. When Bortles is on the field, it’s helped to maximize the playmaking ability of young receivers Josh Reese and J.J. Worton. The Miners sport a middling defensive unit that’s given up a lot of big plays through the air, and at least 41 points in half of their last eight games.
What To Watch Out For: Sure, UCF has sprung leaks as the season has unfolded, but this remains a program with plenty of talent on the defensive side of the ball. The Knights are going to provide a stiff test for Miners QB Nick Lamaison, who’s headed back to the lineup after missing last week’s Tulsa loss with a groin injury. LB Jonathan Davis plays with outstanding range, and CB Josh Robinson forces opposing passers to frequent the other side of the field. The key for the Knights will be to generate a pass rush, which hasn’t happened on a consistent basis; the team has generated more than one sack in just two of 11 games this fall.
What Will Happen: UCF feels as if it has something to prove this week after playing well below expectations in 2011. The Knights may not be able to play their way into the postseason on Friday, but they can still keep UTEP out. The host will avoid taking a four-game losing streak into the offseason, staying relatively hot on offense behind the two-headed quarterback system and the running of Latavius Murray.
CFN Prediction: UCF 28 … UTEP 21
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UCF -3 O/U: 47
Nov. 26 at SMU 27 … Rice 24
(AP) DALLAS -- Rishad Wimbley ran for 115 yards and two fourth-quarter touchdowns to help SMU defeat Rice 27-24 on Saturday in the regular-season finale for both teams.
Jared Williams had a 52-yard touchdown run for the Mustangs (7-5, 5-3 Conference USA), who are eligible for a bowl bid. J.J. McDermott connected with Darius Johnson for a 45-yard touchdown pass to open the scoring for SMU.
The Mustangs trailed 17-14 entering the fourth quarter, but Wimbley's 1-yard run with 12:14 to play gave them the lead, though at 20-17 as the extra point was missed. After Rice was forced to punt, on SMU's third play, Wimbley ran for 39 yards to score with 9:36 left.
Nick Fanuzzi threw a pair of touchdown passes for the Owls (4-8, 3-5). Fanuzzi ran for a team-high 53 yards and threw for 159.
Rice (4-7) at SMU (6-5) Nov. 26, 12:00, FSN
Here’s The Deal … The SMU season that started with such excitement is ending with a thud. Yeah, the Mustangs are bowl-eligible, but no one on the Hilltop is happy with the results. At 5-1, which included wins over TCU and UCF, the program looked like a serious contender for a Conference USA Championship. Since then, though, it’s won just a single, while producing a mere 17 points in losses to Southern Miss, Tulsa and Houston. Head coach June Jones will need an entire offseason to figure out how to fix his ailing offense.
Rice defeated the Big Ten’s Purdue in Week 2 … and then reality set in. The Owls have won just three other games, ensuring a third straight bowl-less postseason. The temperature has begun to rise for head coach David Bailiff, who’s been unable to recapture the magic he enjoyed in 2008’s 10-win season.
Why Rice Might Win: The Owls are actually capable of outscoring a run-and-shoot offense that’s out of bullets. SMU lost feature back Zach Line to an injury, and QB J.J. McDermott is getting the nod by default. The Mustangs are averaging an un-Jones-like 16 points over the last five games, leaving the door open for the opposition. Rice is going to counter with the passing of veteran Nick Fanuzzi and the running of Tyler Smith, who’s been a very pleasant surprise since the beginning of October. DE Scott Solomon will present problems to an SMU offensive line that’s had issues keeping the pocket clean for McDermott.
Why SMU Might Win: Their offense laboring, the Mustangs will have to stop the bleeding with defense. It’s an unfamiliar formula in Dallas, but one the team believes it can employ with success. SMU boasts playmakers along the front seven, such as DE Taylor Thompson and linebackers Ja’Gared Davis and Taylor Reed. It’s an underrated and athletic unit that limited Houston to 37 points, or 17 points below its season average, a week ago. In fact, it held Tulsa and Southern Miss below their norms as well. The Mustangs are no lower than fourth in the conference in sacks, run defense, total defense and scoring D, overachieving on this side of the ball all year.
What To Watch Out For: Line is one of those irreplaceable cogs that SMU is going to sorely miss over the next two games. Without him in Houston last Saturday, the Mustangs rushed for a season-low 24 yards to provide inadequate support to the already shaky McDermott. The ground game should have more breathing room this week, though it’ll be up to freshmen Jared Williams and Rishaad Wimbley to make a few yards on their own. Wimbley is an interesting option between the tackles, a 6-0, 295-pounder who was originally recruited as a defensive tackle.
What Will Happen: The one thing SMU has been able to do well this fall is handle weaker opponents, which it’ll do on Saturday afternoon. The blueprint and key personnel will be a little bit different, but the outcome will spark the Mustangs to just their second victory since the middle of October. The defense will keep the Owls in check, while Williams and Wimbley will combine for 150 yards rushing, a stark contrast from their output of a week ago.
CFN Prediction: SMU 24 … Rice 20
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SMU -13.5 O/U: 54.5
Nov. 26 at Marshall 34 … East Carolina 27 OT
CFN Analysis: COMING
(AP) HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- Tron Martinez's 1-yard run in overtime lifted Marshall to a 34-27 win over East Carolina on Saturday.
Marshall (6-6, 5-3 Conference USA) became bowl eligible for the first time under second-year coach Doc Holliday.
Dominique Davis threw an interception on fourth down on East Carolina's overtime possession, keeping the Pirates (5-7, 4-4) out of a bowl for the first time in six years.
Davis threw three touchdown passes to Justin Jones, including a 6-yarder with 14 seconds left to force overtime. Davis finished 32 of 48 for 285 yards.
Marshall's Rakeem Cato completed 23 of 29 passes for 341 yards and two scores in his second straight start in place of the injured A.J. Graham. Aaron Dobson caught two TD passes and had four catches for 110 yards for the Thundering Herd.
East Carolina (5-6) at Marshall (5-6) Nov. 26, 3:30, CBS Sports Network
Here’s The Deal … Marshall needs a win and then a miracle. Despite being below .500, the Thundering Herd is still in contention for the East Division title. The bad news is that earning a game a week from now will require Southern Miss to lose later in the day to 2-9 Memphis. Don’t bank on it. A more realistic goal has the team winning its sixth game on Saturday, skipping the Conference USA title game and nabbing a second-tier bowl invitation.
East Carolina has a similar objective as the Herd; with a victory this weekend, it’ll become eligible for a postseason. If it falls short, it’ll finish with a losing record for the second straight season under head coach Ruffin McNeill. The Pirates will arrive in Huntington battle-tested, having faced four opponents that were ranked at one time or another this season.
Why East Carolina Might Win: The Pirates attack has come to life in the second half of the year, scoring at least 34 points in four of the last six games. Despite a slew of injuries that would have derailed most programs, East Carolina has rallied around senior QB Dominique Davis, who’s as healthy as he’s been all year. He’s coming off a season-high four touchdown passes, getting comfortable with two of his last remaining healthy receivers, underclassmen Reese Wiggins and Justin Hardy. The patchwork ground game is getting quality reps from Torrance Hunt, who delivered his first 100-yard rushing game, on only nine carries, a week ago.
Why Marshall Might Win: The Herd will be hosting a sloppy opponent, which commits too many penalties and turnovers, and is shaky on special teams. The Pirates simply don’t execute on a consistent basis. Their gimpy offensive line is going to get a four-quarter workout from DE Vinny Curry, NT Delvin Johnson and the rest of the league’s second-ranked pass rush. The Houston and Tulsa game aside, Marshall has held up well on the defensive side of the ball, creating a mess of turnovers and tempo-changing plays. This week, it won’t have to contend with East Carolina’s top receiver, Lance Lewis, or best back, Reggie Bullock.
What To Watch Out For: East Carolina offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley is not only inventive, he’s quick on his feet. The assistant—and future head coach—has done a terrific job of mixing and matching as his key players succumb to injury. Not only have Hunt and Wiggins stepped up from deep on the depth chart, but 6-3, 234-pound WR Zico Pasut has started to line up in the backfield and take handoffs. He’s provided a physical change-of-pace to go along with the nimble Davis, who’s taken off with the ball more in the past month than at any point in his career.
What Will Happen: Have fun finding the separation between these two programs, which is almost non-existent as the regular season nears an end. The records are the same, the quest is similar and the inefficiencies are equally plentiful. The difference? Marshall has been terrific in Huntington, already beating Southern Miss and Louisville at home. East Carolina outside of Greenville, on the other hand, has been slightly less consistent. The Herd will make just enough stops on defense, and scrap on offense to eke out that coveted bowl-qualifying victory.
CFN Prediction: Marshall 26 … East Carolina 23
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East Carolina -1.5 O/U: 53.5
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