Posted Oct 11, 2012

Week 7 Fearless Predictions & Game Preview - UTEP at Tulsa

UTEP (1-5) at Tulsa (5-1) Oct. 11, 8:00, FSN

Here's The Deal: At the halfway point of the 2012 season, Tulsa has established itself as the top team in Conference USA so far, but it hasn't been an easy journey. The Golden Hurricane has won five straight games since losing the opener at Iowa State, taking the last three by no more than a touchdown. While there were missteps in recent trips to Birmingham and Huntington, Tulsa found a way to survive, and now won't play a league road game until Nov. 10. UTEP has been riding a very different trajectory this fall, losing 5-of-6 to slip to the brink of postseason extinction. After impressing in losses to Oklahoma and Wisconsin, the Miners have been unimpressive in back-to-back lackluster efforts against East Carolina and SMU. Against the Mustangs, they were shutout for the first time in almost a decade.

Why UTEP Might Win: The Miners offense has been horrible of late, but hope comes in the form of the Tulsa D. The Golden Hurricane has allowed 80 points over the last two games, including 42 to UAB. It's been getting shredded through the air, which should open up some opportunities for Nick Lamaison some level of consistency. When Lamaison isn't looking for Jordan Leslie or Mike Edwards through the air, he'll be handing the ball to Nathan Jeffery, an underrated back with the skills to jet for more than 100 yards in the blink of an eye.

Why Tulsa Might Win: Even if the Miners show a pulse on offense, it won't be enough to keep pace with the Golden Hurricane attack. Tulsa has begun to roll downhill, leading Conference USA in rushing and scoring. The O-line has gelled nicely, protecting the pocket, and opening up gaping holes for backs Trey Watts, Ja'Terian Douglas and Alex Singleton. Watts and Douglas are both averaging around seven yards a carry, gashing opposing defenses to set up third-and-short chances for QB Cody Green. The fact that the 103rd-ranked UTEP run defense is allowing 5.3 yards a carry only heightens the Hurricane's chances to extend their winning streak.

What To Watch Out For: Unlike this week's opponent, UTEP is having serious problems in the trenches. The O-line is having trouble with attacking defenses, and the D-line has produced just one sack in the last two games. Tulsa, on the other hand, leads the country in sacks and tackles for loss. Coordinator Brent Guy likes to take the gloves off as often as possible, unleashing speedy LB DeAundre Brown to go along with a very active front wall of pass rushers.

What Will Happen: The Golden Hurricane gets a primetime chance to showcase its ability. It will not disappoint. While the blitzing defense can be a liability at times, it'll compensate by knocking around Lamaison and forcing him into turnovers. With short-field opportunities, the offense will capitalize by peppering the Miners with a steady wave of gifted backs. Tulsa will jump all over UTEP from the outset, adding to the woes of a rapidly fading program and its beleaguered coach, Mike Price.

CFN Prediction: Tulsa 41 … UTEP 21
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) Tulsa -16.5 O/U: 58.5
Must Watch Rating (5 – Argo, 1 – Pitch Perfect): 2