Posted Oct 24, 2013

Week 9 Fearless Predictions - UAB at UTSA, LT at FIU, UNT at Southern Miss, FAU at Auburn

- Marshall at Middle Tennessee, UTEP at Rice, Tulsa at Tulane
- UAB at UTSA, La Tech at FIU, North Texas at So Miss, FAU at Auburn

UAB (2-4) at UTSA (2-5) Oct. 26, 5:00

Why You Should Give A Hoot: Coming out of a week away from contact, UAB and UTSA are refreshed, recharged and eager to finish strong in 2013. The Blazers actually have visions of competing in a wide-open East Division of Conference USA. They've split their two league games this month, losing to Florida Atlantic a week before nipping Florida International. Life in an FBS conference has been catching up to the Roadrunners, who've won just one time in the last six games. They did make things close against West contender Rice two weeks ago, rallying in a respectable 27-21 defeat.

Why UAB Might Win: The Blazers have the ingredients of an offense that should click each week now that Conference USA play is in full swing. Light on mistakes and heavy on experience, UAB has the right mix of Austin Brown's passing and Darrin Reaves' running to keep the chains moving on a UTSA defense that has two takeaways and no picks through seven games.

Why UTSA Might Win: Regardless of the opponent, UAB has had a difficult time making stops in 2013. The Blazers have yet to hold an opponent below 24 points, including Northwestern State, and their pass defense has been among the most generous in America. The Roadrunners need QB Eric Soza to get back on the rails as a passer as well as a runner, putting receivers like young Kenny Bias in a position to get behind the secondary.

Who To Watch Out For: Brown's cadre of weapons continues to grow throughout the year. Jamarcus Nelson hopes to return from an ankle injury to join Jamari Staples at receiver, and powerful rookie RB Jordan Howard has been explosive when spelling Reaves.

- For Brown to have time on Saturday evening, someone on the O-line will need to get a consistent hat on UTSA redshirt freshman DE Codie Brooks. The former walk-on has made his pitch for a free ride by notching three pass breakups and a team-high five sacks.

What Will Happen: Without much separation between the schools, a close game throughout can be expected. UAB has more natural talent at the skill positions, which will be especially evident on the fast track at the Alamodome. Brown outduels Soza in an underrated battle of veteran quarterbacks.

Prediction: UAB 28 … UTSA 26
Line: UAB -5.5 – O/U: 60
Must See Rating: (5 The Counselor – 1 Last Vegas) … 1
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Louisiana Tech (2-5) at Florida International (1-5) Oct. 26, 12:00, ESPNU

Why You Should Give A Hoot: Louisiana Tech and Florida International meet for the first time, with both trying to avoid a sixth loss of the year. The Bulldogs have played better of late for first-year head coach Skip Holtz, splitting their last two games with UTEP and North Texas. The Panthers are coming off their second and final bye of the year. Over their last two games, they defeated Southern Miss and fell to UAB on a late field goal.

Why Louisiana Tech Might Win: The Bulldogs have the better D … and the better offensive personnel, for that matter. QB Ryan Higgins brings a dynamic run-pass look to the offense, and Kenneth Dixon is one of the top backs in Conference USA. A Florida International defense yielding 5.4 yards per carry will spend much of the afternoon defending against third-and-short.

Why Florida International Might Win: The Panther run defense is flimsy, but Louisiana Tech's is not much better. In fact, the Bulldogs rank 93rd in the country, which will encourage FIU to feed rookie RB Silas Spearman III. Spearman has shown glimpses in the last two games of being the kind of feature back that'll create a few good looks for veteran QB Jake Medlock.

Who To Watch Out For: The Panthers will have their hands full trying to contain a Bulldog front seven headed by LB Daniel Cobb, DT Justin Ellis and DE IK Enemkpali. FIU has given up 20 sacks this season, one of the reasons Medlock has struggled so often.

- Florida International's answer to Enemkpali and Ellis is senior DT Greg Hickman. Quick off the snap and skilled with his hands, he has 27 tackles and team-highs with 8.5 stops for loss, three sacks and three forced fumbles.

What Will Happen: Florida International's recent improvements won't be enough to earn it a second win of the year. Louisiana Tech will control both lines, harassing Medlock on defense, while creating the daylight Dixon needs to extend drives in the second half.

Prediction: Louisiana Tech 31 … Florida International 21
Line: Louisiana Tech -5 – O/U: 50.5
Must See Rating: (5 The Counselor – 1 Last Vegas) … 1
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North Texas (4-3) at Southern Miss (0-6) Oct. 26, 7:00

Why You Should Give A Hoot: North Texas is becoming more and more comfortable in its new home, Conference USA. Saturday's watershed win over Louisiana Tech snapped a seven-game road losing skid, and marked the first time since 2004 that the Mean Green won back-to-back games. This program is a legitimate threat to capture the West. Southern Miss is attempting to shake a streak of its own. After getting throttled by East Carolina, 55-14, the hapless Golden Eagles have now lost 18 games in a row.

Why North Texas Might Win: There's not a phase of the game that the Mean Green hasn't been crisper than the Eagles over the last month. Its biggest edge figures to be on defense, where the team is only allowing 21 points per game. Hattiesburg is home to one of the worst attacks in the FBS, a situation that won't improve against a stingy front seven led by tackling machine LB Zach Orr.

Why Southern Miss Might Win: Last week, North Texas celebrated its first winning streak in nine years. Next week is a showdown with Rice. The Mean Green will absolutely be looking past Southern Miss. North Texas can also be sloppy with the turning it over 14 times. It'll be up to S DeBarriaus Miller and linebackers Terrick Wright and Alan Howze to do whatever is necessary to get the ball back to the offense.

Who To Watch Out For: While Southern Miss hasn't been awful against the run, it's really struggled to stop the pass. North Texas might want to lean a little more of QB Derek Thompson, encouraging him to get the ball to receivers Brelan Chancellor and Darnell Smith.

- It might be time for the Golden Eagles to begin prepping for the future by giving the ball to rookie QB Nick Mullens. He did some nice things late in last week's blowout, finishing 9-of-17 for 97 yards, two touchdowns and a pick.

What Will Happen: Now that North Texas has mercifully won consecutive games, getting to three straight won't be such a chore, especially in Hattiesburg. Southern Miss is in no position, home or away, to beat a team that's confident and eyeing a run at a division title.

Prediction: North Texas 31 … Southern Miss 13
Line: North Texas -11.5 – O/U: 49.5
Must See Rating: (5 The Counselor – 1 Last Vegas) … 1
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Florida Atlantic (2-5) at Auburn (6-1) Oct. 26, 7:30, ESPN3

Why You Should Give A Hoot: How ‘bout that Gus Malzahn?

At this time last year, Auburn was 1-6, with a disgruntled fan base and a coach on his way out. Today, the Tigers are 6-1, ranked No. 11 in the BCS standings and fresh off a signature upset of Texas A&M at Kyle Field. Malzahn is suddenly the toast of the Plains, but now he has to keep his kids focused on the mundane, such as hosting an overmatched visitor form Conference USA. Florida Atlantic is making its first trip to Auburn, a nice measuring stick before returning to league play in a week. The Owls have actually played better than their record so far this year, losing by just a point to Marshall in their last outing.

Why Florida Atlantic Might Win: FAU is in town. Auburn is guaranteed to be flat. Owl head coach Carl Pelini and his staff have done a nice job with the defense. In fact, Florida Atlantic has been one of Conference USA stingiest units, ranking 31st nationally, while allowing just 175 yards passing a game. The front seven is very active, and D'Joun Smith is playing like an SEC cornerback.

Why Auburn Might Win: No, the Tigers won't have much success through the air, but they won't necessarily need to on Saturday night. Auburn will use its superior strength and size in the trenches to maul the Owls at the point of attack. RB Tre Mason has quietly been Malzahn's offensive catalyst, and QB Nick Marshall is very dangerous in space. Florida Atlantic harbors good athletes, but it lacks the size and depth to compete with a ranked SEC team.

Who To Watch Out For: The erratic tendencies of FAU quarterbacks Jaquez Johnson and Greg Hankerson will be on full display this week at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Yeah, Auburn has been vulnerable on defense this season, but it does have 19 sacks and nine picks, spearheaded by DE Dee Ford and Star Robenson Therezie.

- The Owl secondary will be a pretty good test for an Auburn passing game that hopes to play with a little more pop and efficiency down the stretch. If Marshall can get Sammie Coates and Quan Bray more involved with the offense, it'll give the rest of the SEC something additional to think about.

What Will Happen: Florida Atlantic is not going to see the best that Auburn has to offer. But, it won't take Auburn's best to remain a one-loss team. The Tigers ought to be careful, because the Owls are feisty on defense. However, FAU lacks the offensive execution to turn a moral victory into an actual one. Auburn will shake off a slow start and pull away in the second half for the win.

Prediction: Auburn 38 … Florida Atlantic 16
Line: Auburn -24 – O/U: 51
Must See Rating: (5 The Counselor – 1 Last Vegas) … 2
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