Week 1 Fearless Predictions - C-USA Part 2

Posted Aug 30, 2013

Week 1 Fearless Predictions - Conference USA, Miami-Marshall & More

Idaho (0-0) at North Texas (0-0) Aug. 31, 7:00

Why You Should Give A Hoot: A couple of former Sun Belt members are set to square off in Denton on Saturday night. North Texas pops the cork on life in Conference USA, while looking for a spark in Dan McCarney's third year on the sideline. The Mean Green disappointed in 2012 and hasn't bowled since 2004. Idaho will be back in the Sun Belt in 2014, but will first do a one-year stop as an Independent. The Vandals have handed the reins to Paul Petrino, who's being asked to gradually rebuild a program that's gone 3-21 over the last two seasons.
Why Idaho Might Win: Petrino has some parts, especially at wide receiver, to piece together a competent passing attack. The Mean Green is weak in the pass rush, which should allow the Vandals quarterbacks the time they need to locate one of two quality seniors, WR Najee Lovett or H-back Mike LaGrone.
Why North Texas Might Win: Idaho is a defensive mess. North Texas will prove it at Apogee Stadium. The Mean Green is flush with quality running backs, headed by Brandin Byrd, and the guard combination of Cyril Lemon and Mason Y'Barbo will maul the Vandals' D-line at the point of attack.
Who To Watch Out For:
- North Texas senior WR Brelan Chancellor is one of the best under-the-radar playmakers in Conference USA. If he can stay healthy, he has a shot to enter the nation's consciousness this fall.
- The Vandals are set to begin a new era at quarterback, unveiling redshirt freshman Chad Chalich. The local star will get a chance to bloom under Petrino's watch.
- Mean Green QB Derek Thompson has done enough to hang on to his starting job. Now, he has to go out and continue earning the staff's confidence.
- Petrino will inject life into Idaho. Lots of patience, though, will be required.
What Will Happen: Two struggling programs, but North Texas is a rung or two ahead of Idaho. The Mean Green harbor enough veteran talent to get to .500 this year, comfortably notching win No. 1 against the overmatched Vandals.
Prediction: North Texas 37 … Idaho 20 …

Line: North Texas -15 o/u: 58.5
Must See Rating: (5 Hard Knocks – 1 ‘N Sync on the VMAs) … 1.5

Miami University (0-0) at Marshall (0-0) Aug. 31, 7:00, CBS Sports Network

Why You Should Give A Hoot: Marshall and Miami renew acquaintances for the first time since 2004, when both were members of the MAC. The Herd has long since moved on to Conference USA, a league it's bucking to capture this season. It'll again be spearheaded by QB Rakeem Cato and one of the nation's most potent passing games. The RedHawks are determined to break through in 2013 after going 4-8 in each of the last two seasons. It's an especially important campaign for head coach Don Treadwell, who can ill-afford a third-straight losing season.
Why Miami Might Win: The Marshall D is leaky and ill-equipped by just about every measure. RedHawks QB Austin Boucher is an underrated veteran successor to Zac Dysert, and big-play WR Dawan Scott will cause fits for the Thundering Herd secondary.
Why Marshall Might Win: The offense is dynamic. Cato threw for 37 touchdowns passes, and he welcomes back a slew of quality skill players, like WR Tommy Shuler and TE Gator Hoskins. This is a very difficult opener for a rebuilding Miami D that had all kinds of breakdowns in 2012.
Who To Watch Out For:
- The passing game may be the calling card in Huntington, but backs Kevin Grooms, Steward Butler and Remi Watson will provide terrific complements on the ground.
- This is the start of a crucial year for Marshall defensive coordinator Chuck Heater. If he excels, the Herd might win 10 games in 2013.
- Welcome back, Austin Brown. The RedHawks missed their starting defensive tackle, who was injured for all but two games in 2012.
- Pass-fail at Miami hinges on the running game this fall. After ranking 118th in rushing offense and 119th in rush D, the team has to make marked improvement in both areas.
What Will Happen: While neither squad plays much defense, Marshall can compensate with far more offensive weapons than visiting Miami. Cato will light up the RedHawks through the air, while deftly distributing the ball to his myriad playmakers.
Prediction: Marshall 41 … Miami U. 24 …
Line: Marshall 19 o/u: 67.5
Must See Rating: (5 Hard Knocks – 1 ‘N Sync on the VMAs) … 2

UTSA (0-0) at New Mexico (0-0) Aug. 31, 8:00

Why You Should Give A Hoot: It's the start of Bob Davie's second year in Albuquerque, and expectations are slowly getting higher. New Mexico surprised in 2012 by winning four games, but maintaining momentum won't be easy now that so many key veterans have graduated. The Lobos might take a step in reverse this year before going forward again in 2014. These are heady times for UTSA, which has gone from its infancy two years ago to Conference USA in 2013. Like Davie, Roadrunners head coach Larry Coker is reinventing himself at a smaller Southwest program. Coker went 8-4 last season as a member of the WAC.
Why UTSA Might Win: The Roadrunners have the ingredients of an improving offense this fall. Senior Eric Soza is a sparkplug-type player from behind center, and David Glasco and Evans Okotcha are both capable of carrying the load on the ground. A seasoned O-line will enjoy an edge on a New Mexico defense that's basically starting over from the ground floor.
Why New Mexico Might Win: The Lobos have the best player in this one, senior RB Kasey Carrier. Davie wants to run the ball, and he should be successful against a smallish UTSA front seven. Carrier ran for 1,469 yards, and QB Cole Gautsche is one of the Mountain West's most athletic all-around quarterbacks. Oh, and C Dillon Farrell, LG LaMar Bratton and LT Darryl Johnson lead an assertive line that will create space for the New Mexico ground game.
Who To Watch Out For:
- LB Dallas Bollema and NT Jacori Greer are the only indispensable players on the New Mexico D. They'll need plenty of help this year, especially in a secondary lacking an anchor.
- Davie and Coker in the same building gives this contest the best Week 1 matchup between coaches among all of the off-the-radar games.
- Gautsche's growth as a passer will dictate whether or not New Mexico can win four games again this year. He needs to mine a go-to receiver, while avoiding ball-hawking UTSA FS Triston Wade.
- Expect more of New Mexico RB Jhurell Pressley this season. He impressed as a rookie in 2012, and Carrier's size will encourage the staff to give him more blows in 2013.
What Will Happen: Getting off to a fast start is of the utmost importance for both programs and staffs. The New Mexico rushing attack will be the most effective unit on either side of the ball Saturday night. Carrier is the bell cow, but the Lobos can wear down UTSA with numerous options. The Lobos will pull away in the second-half from a plucky bunch of Roadrunners.
Prediction: New Mexico 33 … UTSA 24 …
Line: New Mexico -3 o/u: 56
Must See Rating: (5 Hard Knocks – 1 ‘N Sync on the VMAs) … 1.5