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Week 1 Fearless Predictions - C-USA Thu/Fri
Week 1 Fearless Predictions & Analysis - Conference USA, Thursday and Friday
Tulsa (0-0) at Bowling Green (0-0) Aug. 29, 7:00, ESPNU
Why You Should Give A Hoot: It’s the fourth-ever meeting between a pair of non-AQ programs that combined for 19 wins a season ago. The Golden Hurricane, which is off to the American in 2014, begins this season as a favorite to win back-to-back conference titles. Tulsa has become an ultra-steady program that’s won 10 games in four of the last six years. The Falcons have been on the uptick as well, winning eight games last fall. With nine starters back on both sides of the ball, the Falcons are aiming to win the MAC East, a step toward their first league crown since 1992.
Why Tulsa Might Win: The Falcons are stout defensively, but the Hurricane offense will be a tall order for the hosts. Back from the team that ranked No. 9 nationally in rushing is senior QB Cody Green, leading rushers Trey Watts and Ja’Terian Douglas and big-play WR Keyarris Garrett.
Why Bowling Green Might Win: With wholesale changes on both lines, this is the kind of season that Tulsa head coach Bill Blankenship wishes he was opening with an FCS opponent. Instead, the Hurricane must go on the road to face an underrated Falcons O-line and a sturdy D-line led by all-star NG Ted Ouellet.
Who To Watch Out For:
- Huge night for the Bowling Green backfield. Leading rusher Anthon Samuel left a big hole when he transferred to Florida International, and quarterbacks Matt Schilz and Matt Johnson battled for reps right through August.
- Tulsa LB Shawn Jackson is downright nasty, the one defender most likely to keep the Bowling Green ground game from getting out of the blocks.
- Falcons quarterbacks want to exploit the new Tulsa starting corners, with plenty of help from 6-4, 221-pound WR Chris Gallon.
- Tulsa needs pass rushers to emerge this season after losing all four starting D-linemen to graduation. Junior Brentom Todd gets his first opportunistic crack at filling the void.
What Will Happen: This is a very tough opening night road draw for Tulsa, which is rebuilding in key areas. Bowling Green will battle hard throughout before giving way to the relentless one-two running punch of Watts and Douglas.
Prediction: Tulsa 27 … Bowling Green 21 …
Line: Bowling Green -3 o/u: 48
Must See Rating: (5 Hard Knocks – 1 ‘N Sync on the VMAs) … 3
Western Carolina (0-0) at Middle Tennessee (0-0) Aug. 29, 7:00, ESPNU
Why You Should Give A Hoot: Western Carolina was throttled last season against FBS and FCS competition alike. Going 1-10 is never a ton of fun in the Southern Conference, and the Catamounts were humiliated by the two FBS opponents they played last year, Marshall and Alabama. Middle Tennessee kicks off its first year as a member of Conference USA. The Blue Raiders will play with sense of unfinished business after winning eight games, yet not receiving a 2012 postseason invite.
Why Western Carolina Might Win: The Catamounts could actually win this game due to the fact that Middle Tennessee cannot buy a win these days in openers. They have lost three straight home openers, including to McNeese State of the FCS last August. While the Blue Raiders have a ton of starters coming back, their D has been a sieve against the run and the pass.
Why Middle Tennessee Might Win: The Blue Raiders return a ton of veteran talent, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Four linemen are back from a unit that excelled in 2012, and the backfield tandem of QB Logan Kilgore and RB Jordan Parker is underrated. Middle Tennessee will move the ball with balance and efficiency on an overmatched Catamounts defense.
Who To Watch Out For:
Parker will avoid a sophomore slump due to his tremendous upper body strength and work ethic. The graduation of Benny Cunningham will not be too much to overcome by the Blue Raiders since Parker was the leading rusher last season.
What Will Happen: Middle Tennessee will give up some big plays on defense like they usually do, but the returns of Kilgore and Parker will be too much to overcome by lowly Western Carolina. It will be an uphill battle early on to put the Catamounts away, but the Blue Raiders will pull away shortly after the break.
Prediction: Middle Tennessee 48 … Western Carolina 10
Line: Middle Tennessee -32
Must See Rating: (5 Hard Knocks – 1 ‘N Sync on the VMAs) … 1
Jackson State (0-0) at Tulane (0-0) Aug. 29, 8:00
Why You Should Give A Hoot: The 2013 season will mark the end of an era at Tulane, which is eager to say good riddance to the past. For the Green Wave, this will be the final year playing in the Superdome, and the final year playing in Conference USA. Beginning in 2014, the program will operate out of a new on-campus, 30,000-seat stadium, while joining the American Athletic Conference. It kicks off the transitional season with a visit from Jackson State, the favorite in the SWAC East Division. Though separated by just three hours of highway, these schools have never met.
Why Jackson State Might Win: Everything is a challenge for Tulane, including a visit from the Tigers. Jackson State is led by senior QB Clayton Moore, assuming he’s healthy, and CB Qua Cox, the SWAC’s preseason Defensive Player of the Year.
Why Tulane Might Win: Fingers are crossed this year regarding the Green Wave offense. Transfer Nick Montana, Joe’s son, takes the reins at quarterback. He’ll be surrounded by outstanding skill position talent, such as powerful veteran RB Orleans Darkwa and next-level WR Ryan Grant.
Who To Watch Out For: When Grant is being covered by Cox, it’ll be a matchup that garners a lot of attention from the NFL scouts in the Superdome.
- The Green Wave is justifiably excited by the potential and the steady hand of Montana, a solid transition from graduating senior Ryan Griffin.
- If Moore is a scratch, Jackson State will eagerly unveil redshirt freshman QB LaMontiez Ivy, a former three-star recruit. Ivy has a live arm and excellent size for the position.
- Big game for big Chris Davenport of Tulane. The 6-4, 334-pound former five-star recruit of LSU is attempting to reinvent himself as a nose tackle after beginning his career as an O-lineman.
What Will Happen: A tough opener for Tulane could get a little easier with the uncertainty surrounding Moore’s health. The Green Wave will advertise the better weapons on offense, involving Montana, Darkwa and Grant in an important and hard-fought first win.
Prediction: Tulane 28 … Jackson State 23
Line: Tulane -25
Must See Rating: (5 Hard Knocks – 1 ‘N Sync on the VMAs) … 2
Florida Atlantic (0-0) at Miami (0-0) Aug. 30, 8:00, ESPNU
Why You Should Give A Hoot: Miami is getting closer … closer to the end the messy NCAA saga, and closer to being a serious contender in the ACC Coastal Division.
It’s been a rocky two years for Canes’ head coach Al Golden, who has done all he can to keep Miami from regressing on and off the field. He’s closer to having enough talent, especially on offense, to rise above the six or seven-win threshold. But it remains to be seen if the program is eligible for the postseason. It’d be a shame if the Canes are again denied, because this veteran team is geared for a breakthrough in 2013.
Florida Atlantic begins its second year under Carl Pelini with elevated hopes. The new staff laid the ground floor in Boca Raton in 2012, playing more competitively as the season unfolded. Sure, there’s plenty of heavy lifting still left to be done, but the Owls begin life as a member of Conference USA with a sense of increased confidence and optimism.
Why Florida Atlantic Might Win: The Owls possess the parts to be markedly improved on offense from a year ago. And facing a troubled Miami D will only help Florida Atlantic’s offensive progress. Pelini has improved his situation at quarterback the last two years with the additions of JUCO transfers Jaquez Johnson and Melvin German. And whoever gets the start at Sun Life Stadium will delight in teaming up with top rusher Jonathan Wallace, leading receiver William Dukes and playmaking TE Nexon Dorvilus.
Why Miami Might Win: Florida Atlantic has weapons on offense. Miami has an artillery. The Hurricanes boast one of the country’s best backfield combinations in next-level QB Stephen Morris and dynamite RB Duke Johnson. On the outside, Phillip Dorsett is blazing fast leader of the receiving corps. The Owls, while competent at linebacker, don’t have the big bodies up front to get a push or get a hand on Johnson before he bolts into the second level.
Who To Watch Out For: With five starters back, including a couple with a shot of playing on Sundays, this will be Miami’s most assertive O-line in many years. Florida Atlantic doesn’t have a prayer of holding up at the point of attack.
- All eyes must remain on a Miami D that freefell to 116th nationally a season ago. Who plans to step up and become a much-needed for the Hurricanes this fall?
- German was working with the wide receivers in practice a few days ago, an indication that either Johnson or rookie Greg Hankerson might be piloting the Owls’ offense for the opener.
- Desperate for D-line depth, Miami has gotten a veteran infusion during the offseason. DE David Gilbert (Wisconsin), DT Justin Renfrow (Virginia) and DE Ufomba Kamalu (JUCO) might all get snaps on Friday. Gilbert is by far the most intriguing of the trio.
What Will Happen: The Miami offense against the Florida Atlantic D is a mismatch that’ll be especially evident at the line of scrimmage. The Hurricanes will move the ball at will behind the balance of Morris’ throws and Johnson’s sprint, jumping out to a big lead before resting the regulars in anticipation of next week’s Florida visit.
Prediction: Miami 45 … Florida Atlantic 13
Line: Miami -32.5 o/u: 53.5
Must See Rating: (5 Hard Knocks – 1 ‘N Sync on the VMAs) … 1.5