2011 Prediction & Game Story
Week 13 - Sun Belt Previews
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Florida International (7-4) at Middle Tennessee (2-8) Nov. 26, 3:30
Here’s The Deal … This is a matchup of two teams heading in opposite directions. FIU picked up its seventh win of the season last week, which is the most wins in regular season history for the Golden Panthers. If they can defeat MTSU this weekend, then eight victories would be a school record. The Panthers have looked very strong in their past two games, blowing out FAU and then picking up a double-digit victory on the road at ULM. MTSU is having one of the worst seasons in recent history, and the Blue Raiders enter this game on a four game losing streak in which the closest loss was by 24 points. MTSU has never lost at home to FIU, but it will take a huge effort by the Blue Raiders this week to keep that streak alive.
Why Florida International Might Win: The Golden Panthers have built up considerable momentum throughout this breakout season, and the confidence of the players is at an all-time high. MTSU is downtrodden, and it does not appear that the team has any fight left in it this year. FIU has an outstanding punt return average of 16.79 yards per return which is good enough to rank second in the nation. This is credited to T.Y. Hilton, the electric playmaker who is not only lethal on returns but also is an outstanding target in the passing game. He had four receptions for 76 yards and a touchdown last week against ULM, and there is not anyone for the Blue Raiders who will be able to shut him down one-on-one. As good as the FIU special teams are, the MTSU unit is awful. They rank 114th in kick return average, and MTSU will be saddled with poor field position throughout the contest which will be a major benefit for the Panthers.
Why Middle Tennessee Might Win: The Blue Raiders will enjoy home field advantage in this game, but that is one of the few things favoring them in this contest. One area where MTSU excels is in protecting the quarterback. MTSU ranks first nationally, only allowing .60 sacks per game. If they can give QB Logan Kilgore time to throw then the Blue Raiders may be able to pull off a couple of big plays downfield. Back to special teams, as good as FIU is on punt returns, the Panthers are just as bad at punting the ball. They average only 35.26 yards per punt, and even though MTSU is likely to lose the field position battle in this game, they can still catch a couple of breaks if FIU has a poor punt from deep in its own territory.
What To Watch Out For: FIU RB Kedrick Rhodes & MTSU LB Leighton Gasque. Rhodes broke the century mark for rushing yards on the season last week against ULM. He had an outstanding game, tallying 78 yards rushing to go along with 74 yards receiving. He now has 1004 yards rushing on the year with seven touchdowns, and FIU will need him to bully a weak MTSU defense. If he rushes for 100 yards or more then FIU should win comfortably. Gasque is just a freshman who plays sparingly, but he makes the most of his opportunities. After a sack last week against Arkansas State, he now has seven total on the season which ranks him 20th nationally. He also blocked a kick last week, and MTSU will need him to make several impact plays in this contest if the Blue Raiders are going to pull off the upset.
What Will Happen: The Blue Raiders have effectively quit on the season, and FIU is peaking at the right time. The Panthers should receive a bowl berth with a victory here, and they will come out with all the stops to ensure the win. Hilton will get another special teams touchdown, and this game will never be in doubt after the first quarter.
CFN Prediction: Florida International 24 … Middle Tennessee 14
- Click For Latest Line From ATS:
FIU -8.5 O/U: 53.5
Troy (3-7) at Western Kentucky (6-5) Nov. 26, 12:30 Sun Belt Network
Here’s The Deal … Troy has never lost to WKU in the history of the series, taking an 8-0-1 record all time into this matchup. This is one of the first times though that the Trojans will be the prohibitive underdog. WKU has only lost one game all year in conference play, and with a win over Troy would very likely earn a bowl berth. The Hilltoppers defeated North Texas on the road last week, another team that they had never before beaten. Troy has been extremely disappointing so far this year, but the Trojans finally ended their five game losing streak last week with a big win over FAU. The Trojans produced their best performance of the season in the 34-7 victory, and they will have to come with the same effort if they are going to knock off the Hilltoppers on the road this week.
Why Troy Might Win: Troy’s defense finally came to play last week, and if the defense can shut down WKU like it shut down the Owl attack then the Trojans will have a great chance to win the game. Last week they allowed only 291 total yards and one touchdown after giving up over 500 yards of offense in each of the four previous games. They had three sacks against FAU and will need to get similar pressure on WKU QB Kawaun Jakes who is prone to making mistakes when under duress. The Trojan aerial attack, led by QB Corey Robinson and WR Eric Thomas, is set up perfectly to handle a shootout, so if the defense reverts to its prior deficiencies then the offense is still capable of outscoring the opposition.
Why Western Kentucky Might Win: WKU has been a model of consistency lately, winning six of its last seven games with the lone loss coming on the road at top ranked LSU. The Hilltoppers have an outstanding ground game, led by RB Bobby Rainey who is one of the best backs in the country. He ranks second nationally with 133.45 average rushing yards per game. The Trojan rushing defense ranks 102nd, so there will be plenty of holes for Rainey to bust through for big gains. This team is playing with a confidence like never before since entering the FBS ranks, and the Hilltoppers are determined to end the season on a high note.
What To Watch Out For: Troy SS Brynden Trawick & WKU LB Andrew Jackson. In a game where the offenses have a clear edge, the final result will come down to which team plays the best defense and forces the most turnovers. The Trojans defense is led by Trawick, who is always around the ball and has accumulated 90 tackles so far this season. He forced a fumble last week against FAU and will need to make a big play at some point in this game for Troy to pull the upset.
For the Hilltoppers, Jackson is the leader of the defense, and he has racked up 105 tackles on the year. He has 22 tackles for loss, including four sacks, and he also has an interception on the year to go along with a forced fumble. He will be needed to step up in pass defense to help thwart the Trojan assault, and if he can defend both the run and the pass well then WKU should be able to disrupt the Trojan offensive rhythm.
What Will Happen: Troy has as much talent as WKU, but the Trojans have just not been able to put it together this year. Asking them to win a tough conference road game at this stage of the season seems like too daunting a task for them to handle. Rainey will run all over the Trojan defense, and WKU will put a stamp on what has been an outstanding season for the Hilltoppers.
CFN Prediction: Western Kentucky 34 … Troy 17
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WKU -6 O/U: 50.5
Louisiana-Lafayette (8-3) at Arizona (3-8) Nov. 26, 4:00
Here’s The Deal … Arizona has one final game left in this dreadful season. Of far greater significance, it also has a new head coach. On Monday, the University announced that Rich Rodriguez had been hired as the program’s successor to Mike Stoops. Although Rodriguez most recently had a failed stint in Ann Arbor, he has a track of elevating underachieving programs at Tulane and West Virginia. On the field, the Wildcats picked up their most important victory of an otherwise disappointing 2011, upsetting rival Arizona State for the Territorial Cup.
It’s been a memorable year for Louisiana-Lafayette, which will be facing Arizona for the first time in school history. Under rookie head coach Mark Hudspeth, the Ragin’ Cajuns have authored a dramatic turnaround after going 3-9 in 2010. Though hopes of a Sun Belt Conference championship faded with a loss to Arkansas State before the break, the program has already accepted an invitation to play in the New Orleans Bowl, its first berth since 1970.
Why Louisiana-Lafayette Might Win: Does Arizona have any emotion left after beating Arizona State in a nail-biter? While it’s hard to imagine the Wildcats getting up for this visit, a trip to Pac-12 country is a big deal for the Cajuns. They’ve amassed some confidence this fall behind a high-scoring offense putting up 32 points a game. While the running the ball will come with challenges, Louisiana QB Blaine Gauthier will be able to navigate a Wildcats pass defense that ranks 119th nationally, and is last in the league in sacks. The versatile junior has accounted for 19 touchdown passes and 443 yards on the ground, doing a good job of spreading the ball around to TE Ladarius Green and wide receivers Javone Lawson, Darryl Surgent and Harry Peoples.
Why Arizona Might Win: On pure talent and depth alone, the Wildcats ought to be able to jet past their visitors from Louisiana. The Cajuns are too spotty on defense to run with a Pac-12 squad. This will be the final NFL audition for QB Nick Foles, who’s thrown for 25 touchdowns and almost 4,000 yards. He’ll have a slew of viable targets for the Ragin’ Cajuns to contain, including Juron Criner, Dan Buckner, Gino Crump and David Douglas. This is also one of those games that Arizona might want to feature RB Ka’Deem Carey, the local rookie who has feature back potential once senior Keola Antolin is through in Tucson.
What To Watch Out For: One of the budding stars that the new staff will be inheriting is true freshman Tramayne Bondurant. Out of place at linebacker for interim head coach Tim Kish, he’ll likely move back to safety in the spring. Wherever he lines up, he’s shown a knack for being a playmaker since moving into the lineup at the midway point of the season. The physical and athletic defender flashed his ability in the Arizona State victory, making eight stops, forcing a fumble and breaking up four throws.
What Will Happen: The Arizona seniors will be after one more victory with the program. Everyone else will be looking to grab the attention of Rodriguez, who’ll be an interested observer. While this is certainly the kind of game that the Wildcats are capable of sleepwalking through, their skill position talent will help shake off the malaise. The Ragin’ Cajuns will score, but the ‘Cats will simply more, racking up more than 500 yards of total offense, while Carey whets the appetite of the locals one last time before heading off into his first offseason at the school.
CFN Prediction: Arizona 45 … Louisiana-Lafayette 24
Click For Latest Line From ATS: Arizona -11 O/U: 71
UAB (3-8) at Florida Atlantic (0-10) Nov. 26, 4:00
Here’s The Deal … Florida Atlantic is down to its final two chances to avoid becoming this year’s lone winless squad. Not only have the Owls yet to taste victory in 2011, but they’ve only truly been close once, falling by three points to a good Louisiana-Lafayette team on Oct. 1. The team would love nothing more than to send retiring head coach Howard Schnellenberger, the architect of this program, out to pasture on a high note.
While UAB has certainly been a disappointment this fall, the players and staff deserve credit for battling right to the finish line. After stumbling out of the gate with six straight losses, the Blazers have battled through injuries to key players to win three of the last five games. Last Thursday’s shocking upset of soaring Southern Miss, which entered the game on an eight-game winning streak, was evidence that the kids are still scrapping for embattled fifth-year head coach Neil Callaway.
Why UAB Might Win: How about that offense, which is thriving despite the loss of QB Bryan Ellis to injury? The Blazers have scored 75 points over the last two weeks, getting solid play behind center from replacement Jonathan Perry. Flashing dual-threat abilities, the sophomore is beginning to perform as if he plans on winning the job early next spring. His effort has begun to make the skill players more potent as well. Greg Franklin has rushed for more than 200 yards over the last three games, and receivers Jackie Williams and Jamarcus Nelson have begun to make more plays downfield in the passing game. It shouldn’t take much for UAB to outscore Florida Atlantic, the nation’s feeblest offense at 242 yards and 11 points a game.
Why Florida Atlantic Might Win: Is this the week that the Owls offense finally sheds the toe tag? It could be. Yes, the unit has been brutal in all but a single game, but the UAB defense has had a habit of bringing out the best in the other team’s attack. The Blazers rank 118th nationally, while allowing 37 points a game. Sacks? They have eight on the year, and just two in the last five games. Since Florida Atlantic has no faith in the passing attack, it’ll once again attempt to ride the wide shoulders of Alfred Morris. The senior back is on the verge of his first 1,000-yard season, rushing for at least 100 yards in five of the last six games.
What To Watch Out For: With Morris likely to get a steady diet of carries, it’ll be a busy afternoon for the UAB linebackers. It’s a good thing for the visitors that they’re relatively strong on the second level. Marvin Burdette is the leading man, but he’s getting plenty of help from Lamanski Ware and Greg Irvin. All three are quick to the ball, and have the range to make stops all over the field. Since the skittish Florida Atlantic passing game is little threat, the linebackers won’t have any issues cheating up in order to stunt the progress of No. 32.
What Will Happen: UAB has built a head of steam that it would like to carry into the offseason. It’s won two straight, and a third in-a-row might actually provide a boost to the 2012 edition. The Blazers have found an identity around Perry, the new sparkplug of the offense. With the quarterback in a rhythm, he’ll once again unlock the potential of the team’s skill position players. Once the visitors begin to roll on the scoreboard, Florida Atlantic will be powerless to mount a comeback, and lock down that maiden victory.
CFN Prediction: UAB 36 … Florida Atlantic 17
- Click For Latest Line From ATS:
UAB -6.5 O/U: 50
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