C-USA Fearless Predictions, Week 4

Posted Sep 21, 2006

Conference USA Week Four Fearless Predictions and Previews

Conference USA

East  UAB | UCF | East Carolina | Marshall | Memphis | Southern Miss
West  Houston | Rice | SMU | Tulane | Tulsa | UTEP
Past C-USA Picks:
Week One | Week Two

How'd we do so far? 26-4 straight up, 9-13-1 ATS

Conference USA Week Four Fearless Predictions, Part 2

Conference USA Game of the Week

West Virginia (3-0) at East Carolina (1-2), 4:00 EST, ESPN2, Saturday, September 23
Why to watch: As teams around them faltered last weekend, West Virginia stayed the course in its first  showcase game to move up to No. 4 in both polls.  The Mountaineers ambushed Maryland on national television, once again getting monster production from Heisman wannabe Steve Slaton.  After just 13 career games, Slaton has officially ascended into the proverbial rock star in the Big East.  Certainly no one celebrates injuries, but even the bad breaks Louisville is enduring seem to indicate the ‘eers are one of those teams of destiny.  With two losses behind them and West Virginia in front of them, East Carolina absolutely had to beat Memphis in last week’s home opener.  They did behind a pair of second-half touchdowns from both the offense and the defense.            
Why West Virginia might win: East Carolina’s numbers against the run are out of whack from opening with Navy, however, that doesn’t suggest the Pirates will be able to slow down the nation’s top-ranked ground game.  The Mountaineers have become a force of nature, averaging 348 yards a game thanks to Slaton and a Dan Mozes-led offensive line that run blocks as well as any in the country.  Once ECU starts giving Slaton too much respect, QB Pat White will call his own number and rip through an unsuspecting defense.                      
Why East Carolina might win: The West Virginia defense showed cracks Thursday night allowing Maryland to pick up chunks of yards through the air and score 24 points.  The Mountaineers still haven’t registered a sack in 2006, giving Pirate QB James Pinkney the necessary time to throw darts to receivers Aundrae Allison and Phillip Henry.  Add in RB Chris Johnson, and East Carolina has the most dangerous and versatile offense West Virginia has faced so far in 2006.                    
Who to watch: As if the Mountaineers need more offensive weapons, WR Darius Reynaud is beginning to heat up.  The mighty mite with next level speed caught a touchdown pass from White and returned a kick 96 yards for another score, giving Pirate defensive coordinator Greg Hudson one more game-breaker to try and defense.
What will happen: With West Virginia hitting the road for the first time and East Carolina emboldened by last week’s comeback win, this has the ingredients of a closer-than-logic-dictates type game.  The Pirates will dish out some blows with their passing game, but it won’t be enough to keep pace with the Mountaineer offense.    
CFN Prediction: West Virginia 40 ... East Carolina 21 ... Line: West Virginia -21
Must See Rating:
(5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 The Janice Dickenson Modeling Agency) ...

UTEP (1-1) at New Mexico (1-2), 5:00 EST, Saturday, CSTV, September 23
Why to watch: It may be a non-conference game, but this regional rivalry is very important to both schools on the field and in the living rooms of local recruits.  UTEP has spent its bye week dealing with two significant losses, a 38-35 overtime loss to Texas Tech and a broken leg suffered by LB Jeremy Jones, the team’s inspirational leader and best defensive player.  A rough start to New Mexico’s 2006 season has been exacerbated by an opening day loss to I-AA Portland State and a season-ending knee to third-year starting quarterback, Kole McKamey.  Neither program can generate anything on the ground, so expect to see lots of passes and a game that lasts well over three hours.       
Why UTEP might win: Jordan Palmer vs. McKamey’s successor, Chris Nelson, gives a big edge to the Miners in a game that’s going to be won through the air.  Palmer and the No. 9 UTEP passing game will have no problems navigating through a Lobo pass defense that’s ranked 108th in the country.  Nelson was ineffective against Missouri last week, and can forget about getting help from a running attack that’s averaging only 69 yards a game.                
Why New Mexico might win: New Mexico’s pass defense has been bad.  UTEP’s is worse, giving hope the Lobos can keep pace in a shootout.  Deducting Jones’ tackles leaves a gaping void in a Miner defense that’s going to miss his ferocity and on-field leadership.  Palmer may be the best quarterback in University Stadium Saturday, but he still throws too many picks and will be good for at least two. New Mexico’s offense has to capitalize.                       
Who to watch: Jones’ injury makes LB Troy Collavo the new leader of the UTEP defense.  The senior is off to a terrific start this season, racking up 23 tackles and four tackles for loss in just two games.  Beyond just making stops, he’s going to be asked to elevate those around him, beginning this week in Albuquerque.            
What will happen: In one of the weekend’s more entertaining games, there’ll be plenty of passes and points on both sides.  UTEP will survive the fireworks behind 300 yards and three touchdown passes from Palmer.
CFN Prediction
UTEP 38 ... New Mexico 27 ... Line: UTEP -9.5
Must See Rating:
(5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 The Janice Dickenson Modeling Agency) ... 2.5

Tulsa (2-1) at Navy (3-0), 1:30 EST, CSTV Saturday, September 23
Why to watch: Would you be disappointed if this was a minor bowl game? Tulsa is trying to live up to its status as the defending Conference USA champion, and it has beaten the teams it should've with ease, and lost to BYU, 49-24, to put the team a step behind in the overall pecking order. It's going to have its hands full with a Navy team that just keeps on winning with six victories in a row. While beating East Carolina and UMass were nice, the dominant 37-9 win over Stanford last week, on the road, showed just how strong the program has become. A bowl bid is all but assured with teams like Temple and Duke ahead, but Paul Johnson's crew could use the win to generate a little bit of buzz.
Why Tulsa might win: There's no stopping the Navy running game, and Tulsa doesn't have the linebackers to get the job done, but it does have an effective offense led by a line that's giving QB Paul Smith all the time in the world to throw. Smith is one of the nation's better unknown quarterbacks who doesn't do anything flashy, but he wins games. Navy has had little luck so far stopping anyone from throwing the ball, so expect it to be bombs away. However ...
Why Navy might win: ... Stanford threw for 368 yards and East Carolina threw for 403, and both lost. Even when all the parts aren't clicking, Navy's offense still works. The line has been fantastic and consistent allowing Brian Hampton get the hang of running the show full-time. Tulsa's defense is fine, but it's not nearly special enough to keep Navy under 300 rushing yards.
Who to watch: For Tulsa to win, Smith has to be nearly perfect. The junior has thrown three picks so far, but he has been, for the most part, good when he's had to be. He struggled a bit against BYU, and Tulsa lost. He threw for over 200 yards against Stephen F. Austin and North Texas, and they were easy wins. For his career as a starter, he has thrown for over 200 yards in 13 of 15 games (give him the extra yard 199-yard day last year against Rice, but he hasn't gone over 300. He'll need to this week.
What will happen: It's up to Navy. If the offense is clicking, Tulsa won't be able to keep up. If it plays like it did against UMass, the Golden Hurricane will come away with the solid win.  
CFN Prediction: Navy 26 .. Tulsa 21 ... Line: Navy -5.5
Must See Rating:
(5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 The Janice Dickenson Modeling Agency) ...

Rice (0-3) at Florida State (2-1), 3:30 EST, ESPNU, Saturday, September 23
Why to watch: Florida State played with fire against Troy two weeks ago, and got burned by Clemson last weekend in what could turn out to be a landmark win for the Tigers.  The Noles could easily be 0-3 thanks to an offense that’s been shockingly inept this month.  Anything short of an annihilation of Rice on Saturday is going to turn frustration into figurative riots and changes on the depth chart.  Some network ought to hire Rice head coach Todd Graham for the month of December because his team is going wind up facing half of this year’s bowl teams.  The same Owls that have already played Houston, UCLA and Texas are now off to Florida to face an angry Seminole team.  Rice nearly picked off the Cougars and Bruins, but fell apart in Saturday’s 52-7 loss in Austin. 
Why Rice might win: Have you watched the film of Florida State’s great escape against Troy? Rice has.  The Noles are vulnerable because the offense lacks playmakers and points.  If not for Baylor, Tallahassee would be home to the nation’s worst rushing attack at just 49 yards a game.  The Owls have already gone blow-for-blow with two superior opponents, making an upset here an attainable goal if FSU isn't coming out jacked up.
Why Florida State might win: Rice buckled last week because it couldn’t handle the Texas speed or physical play in the trenches, hurdles they’ll also fail to clear this week.  The defense has saved Florida State from further embarrassment holding opponents to just 18 points and 258 yards a game.  The 114th-ranked Owl offense is still adapting to a new system, making double digits a chore this weekend against a sure-to-be frothing at the mouth defense.  
Who to watch: In order to help the running game, Bobby Bowden kept rangy receiver Greg Carr on the sidelines for much of the Clemson game.  Bowden later labeled the move a miscalculation.  Against a suspect Rice pass defense, Carr, who only has four catches for 38 yards with a touchdown on the year, is going to get plenty of looks from QB Drew Weatherford, who’s having problems getting the offense moving consistently.        
What will happen: Rice is catching Florida State at a really bad time.  The‘Noles will play with a sense of desperation and urgency, while finally showing signs of improvement on the beleaguered offense.     
CFN Prediction:
Florida State 41 ... Rice 10 ... Line: FSU -28.5
Must See Rating:
(5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 The Janice Dickenson Modeling Agency) ... 1.5

Conference USA Week Four Fearless Predictions, Part 2