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Conference USA Fearless Predictions, Week 5
Posted Sep 28, 2006

Preview and predictions for the week five Conference USA games

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 | Week Three | Week Four

How'd we do so far? 32-7 straight up, 17-14-1 ATS

Week Five C-USA Fearless Predictions, Part 2 | Get Tickets for These Games

Conference USA Game of the Week

Southern Miss (2-1) at UCF (1-2) 7:30 PM EST  Tuesday, September 26th
Why to watch: What shaped up as a showdown between two East division favorites when schedules first came out now looks to be only half right.  Southern Miss has lived up to expectations so far, but UCF seems to have lost its mojo just a year after ruling the division.  The Golden Knights, whose lone win came at the expense of I-AA Villanova, are reeling from a home loss to rival South Florida, need to hold serve Tuesday night to buck a downward slide.  Southern Miss, on the other hand, is still soaring from a 37-17 blowout of NC State that stamped it a front-runner for a Liberty Bowl berth.  The Eagles have an emerging star in true freshman RB Damion Fletcher, who’s No. 7 nationally in rushing at 127 yards per game.  Against a common opponent, Florida, Southern Miss was far more competitive in Gainesville this month than UCF.     
Why Southern Miss might win: Defense and an old-fashioned running attack still win football games, which firmly shift the pendulum in Southern Miss’ favor.  Behind a veteran offensive line, the 13th-ranked Eagle running game will pound a UCF defense that’s 107th in the country and susceptible to big plays on play-action.  The Knights, on the contrary, is struggling to kick start their running game, which is going to make sporadic QB Steven Moffett press in the face of an aggressive Eagle front seven.                     
Why UCF might win: The Golden Knight running game gets a big boost this week from the return of RB Kevin Smith, who was suspended for the South Florida game.  To be successful, UCF needs to run the ball, and the former 1,000-yard rusher gives it a chance to establish that ground presence.  New Southern Miss QB Jeremy Young is still very raw, making him vulnerable to an athletic Knight D that ball hawks and had five sacks a week ago.                   
Who to watch: Even the Southern Miss coaching staff has been floored by Fletcher’s rapid development as the feature back.  The 175-pound slasher has been the story around Hattiesburg, but has he been too good, too fast?  Fletcher’s ascent has sent veteran backups Cody Hull and Larry Thomas running to the exit signs, leaving the teenager to carry the backfield load on his own.                
What will happen: Southern Miss will win the turnover and line of scrimmage battles, perpetuating the notion that UCF has lost the magic it enjoyed last fall

CFN Prediction
: Southern Miss 30 ... UCF 17 ... Line: Southern Miss -4.5
Must See Rating: (5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip) ...3

Tennessee (3-1) at Memphis (1-2) 12:00 PM EST ESPN Saturday September 30th
Why to Watch: With a 20-16 win, last year's Memphis game represented a bit of an oasis in a dying Tennessee season, but the Tigers were without star tailback DeAngelo Williams. Now Williams is playing for the Carolina Panthers and Tennessee is a whole bunch better with a solid 3-1 record coming off a 33-7 thumping of Marshall. With a do-or-die SEC showdown with Georgia next week, the Vols have to avoid looking past a struggling Tiger team that hasn't posted a win over a D-I team yet this season and has the indignity of being the only team to let the Ole Miss offense do anything.
Why Tennessee Might Win: Memphis might be coming off a two-week rest and should be prepared for Tennessee, but it's also dealing with some major internal turmoil. Defensive coordinator Joe Lee Dunn was canned last week after a lousy performance in the 35-20 loss to East Carolina turned out to be the straw the broke the camel's back. Head coach Tommy West has taken over the duties, and he has his work cut out for him against a suddenly explosive Vol attack that should have all day to operate. Memphis is dead last in the nation in tackle for loss and has only generated two sacks in three games.
Why Memphis Might Win: The Tigers might not be getting the running production they were used to when Williams was toting the rock, but they can throw the ball. Martin Hankins threw five interceptions against East Carolina, but he also threw three touchdown passes and has averaged 257 passing yards per game. The Tennessee secondary has been pedestrian, at best, and has had problems with efficient passers. If Hankins can get hot, this might be close.
Who to Watch: After a brilliant 146-yard day against Marshall highlighted by an 89-yard touchdown run, redshirt freshman LaMarcus Coker was named the starting tailback in a crowded backfield. Talent was never an issue, but conditioning was for the lightning fast Coker, he turned into hard worker this off-season and now it's all paying off. Montario Hardesty will still get some work while Arian Foster still looks to get healthy after an ankle injury.
What Will Happen: Tennessee will have few problems in its first road trip of the year. The Memphis defense won't be able to keep up with the speed of the Volunteer offense.
CFN Prediction
: Tennessee 34 ... Memphis 17 ... Line: Tennessee -13
Must See Rating: (5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip) ... 2.5

Rice (0-4) at Army (2-2)  3:30 PM EST ESPNU Saturday September 30th
Why to watch: Football takes a backseat this week for the Rice family, which is coping with the death of freshman CB Dale Lloyd, who collapsed during a workout Sunday evening.  The Owls debated whether to play this weekend, opting to go one with the game and the rest of the season in honor of their fallen teammate.  Rice has opened with a hellacious schedule that’s included a visit from unbeaten Houston and trips to UCLA, Texas and Florida State.  On the other side, under the watchful eye of Bobby Ross, Army is quietly crafting an impressive turnaround on the Hudson.  Despite an obvious dearth of big-time talent, the Black Knights have beaten Kent State and Baylor and come within a yard of shocking Texas A&M over the past three weeks.  With Rice and VMI at home the next two games, Army may be on the verge of its first post-season game in a decade.
Why Rice might win: Army’s been good, but they haven’t exactly been dominant in any one facet of the game.  If, like the Cadets, Rice opened with Arkansas State and Kent State, they, too, might have two wins.  Army is one-dimensional on offense and prone to plenty of mistakes from QB David Pevoto, who’s thrown seven picks and just one touchdown.  The Owls, who are 19th nationally in sacks, will pressure Pevoto into ill-advised, game-changing throws.
Why Army might win: In more ways than one, Rice is worn out.  The Owls have toured the country for three straight games, making stops in California, Texas, Florida…and now New York just days after burying a 19-year old teammate.  They’ve been physically beaten and mentally drained over the past two weeks, making knocking off an upstart Army program too tall of an order.
Who to watch: In Cameron Craig, Army has a defensive end with the motor of a soldier and the talent to play for most any major program.  Craig has been unblockable this month, racking up 34 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and a pair of sacks.  His quickness off the edge presents a problem for a Rice offense that’s struggling in pass protection.
What will happen: In an emotional game for both sides, Army will move over .500 by pounding away at a Rice defense that’s weathered and not designed to stop straight-ahead running games.

CFN Prediction
: Army 30 ... Rice 16 ... Line: Army -10.5
Must See Rating: (5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip) ... 1.5

Houston (4-0) at Miami (1-2)  6:00 PM EST ESPN2 Saturday September 30th
Why to watch: Houston, we’ve got the makings of a very compelling non-conference game that’s brimming with juicy storylines.  While Miami and Larry Coker have spent their open week fending off critics for a lackluster 1-2 record, Houston and Art Briles have reveled in the school’s best start since 1990.  Stoked by the passing and senior leadership of Kevin Kolb, the Cougars aced their first test of 2006 with a breakthrough win against Oklahoma State, the school’s first over a Big 12 opponent in its last 19 tries.  An upset in the Orange Bowl will propel Houston into the BCS bowl debate, Kolb into Heisman contention and the ‘Canes into a state of chaos.  Miami doesn’t just need this game Saturday night.  It needs to destroy the Cougars in order to begin regaining some of the pride and intimidation that’s evaporated the past few weeks.
Why Houston might win: This is not your daddy’s Miami team.  Yeah, it still houses a ton of great recruits, but the offense has only managed 17 points against two I-A opponents and the heralded defense gave up 389 yards and four touchdowns to a Louisville team that didn’t have Michael Bush or Brian Brohm for the entire game.  The way the nation’s third-ranked Cougar offense is cranking out points, the Canes are ripe to be beaten.
Why Miami might win: The Houston offense is prolific, but it hasn’t had to deal with a defense nearly as fast or as physical as the one in Miami.  The Canes will completely shut down the Cougar running game, feasting on Kolb, who’ll be playing his first game without injured LT SirVincent Rogers, the anchor of the Houston line and his blindside protector.  On the other side of the ball, the leaky Cougar pass defense has allowed eight touchdown passes, providing Miami QB Kyle Wright an ideal setting to get the offense back on track.
Who to watch: It’s about time Miami TE Greg Olsen begins playing like the first-round talent he’s been labeled since transferring from Notre Dame.  The junior has just eight catches for 79 yards, has not blocked well and has made costly mistakes in the Canes’ two losses.
What will happen: Houston’s going to be a force in Conference USA, however, beating Miami in Miami with a juggled offensive line is too tall of an order.  The Canes will restore some order behind a pair of Wright touchdown passes and a spark from true freshman back Javarris James.

CFN Prediction: Miami 37 .... Houston 20 ... Line: Miami -15.5
Must See Rating: (5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip) ... 3.5

Week Five C-USA Fearless Predictions, Part 2 | Get Tickets for These Games