Conference USA Fearless Predictions, Week 6
Posted Oct 4, 2006

Preview and predictions for the week six 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 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5

Week 6 C-USA Fearless Predictions, Part 2 | Get Tickets for These Games

How'd we do so far? 37-9 straight up, 20-18-1 ATS

Conference USA Game of the Week

Southern Miss (3-1) at Tulsa (3-1)  7:30 PM EST ESPN2 Tuesday October 3rd
Why to watch: ESPN’s Tuesday night offering features what might be a sneak preview of the Conference USA championship game.  Coming off last week’s 19-14 win at UCF, Southern Miss looks to be the class of a mediocre Eastern division, while Tulsa is poised to defend its league championship out of a much deeper Western half.  Two of the conference’s best defenses will be on display at Skelly Stadium, however, it’ll also be the site of two of its offensive stars, namely Golden Eagle freshman RB Damion Fletcher and Golden Hurricane QB Paul Smith.  Tulsa won last year’s meeting in Hattiesburg, 34-17.        
Why Southern Miss might win: Since playing Florida in the opener, the Eagles have been stout defensively, holding their last three opponents to just one rushing touchdown, while making a ton of plays for negative yardage.  Behind Fletcher’s shifty moves, Southern Miss will be able to run the ball on a Hurricane defense that’s 91st nationally against the run.  Yeah, playing Navy skews everyone’s numbers, however, against a veteran BYU line that resembles USM’s, Tulsa got mauled at the point of attack, allowing 227 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.                    
Why Tulsa might win: One way to beat the Southern Miss defense is with balance.  Tulsa has it with the crisp passing of Smith and the running tandem of Brandon Diles and Courtney Tennial that are blending to churn out 417 yards and 32 points a gain.  The Eagles are not nearly as diverse, which means more stacked fronts for Fletcher to face.  Sporadic Southern Miss QB Jeremy Young scares no one, particularly a Tulsa D that’s No. 2 in the country in pass defense.                        
Who to watch: Smith is one of the best quarterbacks in the country that absolutely no one outside Conference USA knows about.  He’s steady, usually mistake-free and has the quick feet and quick release to escape the Eagle pressure.  In four games, Smith has only been sacked twice.               
What will happen: While Southern Miss has gotten used to national exposure over the years, a spotlight game on ESPN is a really big deal for Tulsa…and it’ll show in its energy and fan support.  The Eagles will hang tough until Smith finds Ryan Bugg for the decisive touchdown. 
CFN Prediction: Tulsa 27 ... Southern Miss 20 ... Line: Tulsa -5.5
Must See Rating: (5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Rachael Ray) ... 3.5

UCF (1-1) at Marshall (3-0)  7:30 PM EST ESPN2 Wednesday October 4th
Why to watch: The beginning of a new month is a welcomed development for a pair of schools that were downright miserable in September.  Before the season began, both UCF and Marshall felt it was talented enough to win the Eastern division of Conference USA, however, the loser of this game will already be forced to dig out of a deep hole.  That’s especially true for the Golden Knights, who lost at home last Tuesday to Southern Miss.  A lack of consistency or playmaking at quarterback from Marshall’s Bernard Morris and UCF’s Steven Moffett has been one the root causes of both program’s slow start.      
Why UCF might win: The Golden Knights have done a nice job defending the run this fall, which addresses Marshall’s best offensive weapons, backs Ahmad Bradshaw and Chubb Small.  After giving up only 89 yards on the ground to Southern Miss, they moved up to No. 4 in the conference stopping the run.  Controlling Bradshaw and Small will force the turnover-prone Morris to make plays on third and long. 
Why Marshall might win
: The UCF pass defense is one of the nation’s worst, so if Morris is finally going to make some positive strides, this would be the week.  He’ll loosen up the defense by finding WR Emmanuel Spann downfield and TE Cody Slate over the middle, allowing the backs to have more running room.  The Golden Knight kicking game is in disarray, which will give the Herd a short field throughout the night. 
Who to watch: Marshall DE Albert McClellan is developing into a pass-rushing terror in his second season with the Herd.  He was the lone bright spot in last week’s loss to Tennessee, collecting eight tackles, three tackles for loss and a sack.  McClellan is a red flag for a UCF offensive line that’s already given up 11 sacks.
What will happen
: While Marshall still has hope it’ll turn the corner now that league play has begun, UCF looks like a team headed for a very disappointing year.  The Herd will find its offense behind Bradshaw’s best game of 2006.  

CFN Prediction
: Marshall 28 ... UCF 17 ... Line: Marshall -3
Must See Rating: (5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Rachael Ray) ...

Rice (1-4) at Tulane (1-3)  2 PM EST Saturday October 7th
Why to watch: One week after playing emotionally charged games, Rice and Tulane will both be looking to avoid letdowns Saturday afternoon.  The Owls displayed amazing resiliency in last week’s bittersweet 48-14 rout of Army, rebounding from consecutive 40-point losses and the sudden death of teammate Dale Lloyd.  Playing for the first time since the opener, Chase Clement threw a school-record five touchdown passes in the best sign yet that the spread offense can flourish at Rice.  After more than a year of road games, Tulane finally returned home to the refurbished Superdome in a 33-28 loss to surging Southern Methodist.  A total lack of consistency has been the prevailing theme through the Green Wave’s first four games. 
Why Rice might win: After opening with Houston, UCLA, Texas and Florida State, the Owls showed what they could do when facing a mediocre opponent…and when Clement is in the lineup.  Rice cranked out 457 total yards on the Hudson, a prelude of what’s to come against a Green Wave defense that hasn’t stopped anyone and is near the bottom of the country in every statistical category.
Why Tulane might win: As long as Lester Ricard is able to heave passes, the Green Wave is never out of a game.  After starting slowly last weekend, he finished 29-of-48 for 394 yards with three second-half touchdown passes that nearly rallied Tulane to a comeback win.  The senior receiving tandem of Damarcus Davis and Preston Brown presents a huge challenge for a Rice secondary that’s given up ten touchdowns and picked off only two passes so far.                         
Who to watch: Jarrett Dillard was already a nice receiver, however, the return of Clement to the Rice huddle could help transform the sophomore into a star.  Dillard, who had a career-best 11 catches for 171 yards and three touchdowns against Army, should remain on fire against an overmatched Tulane defense.                 
What will happen: Rice had every reason to lose last week, yet won in a walk.  The Owls will build on that success in New Orleans behind a couple of Clement touchdown passes and a pair of Quinton Smith touchdown runs, but Tulane is overdue for a breakout game.
CFN Prediction: Tulane 34 ... Rice 26 ... Line: Rice -2
Must See Rating: (5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Rachael Ray) ... 2.5

Virginia (2-3) at East Carolina (1-3)  6 PM EST CSTV Saturday October 7th
Why to Watch:  One week after receiving a 24-7 beat down at the hands of Georgia Tech on national television, the Wahoos rebounded with a decisive road win over Duke 37-0 to show that the team might not be all that bad after all.  For the first time all season long, UVA played well in all three phases of the game and the results were quite impressive.  However, in a world of “what have you done for me lately”, Virginia can’t suffer a let down in their third straight road game.  The Pirates only have one win this year, but don’t let that 1-3 record fool you; this team has flirted with success all season long and competed with West Virginia until the fourth quarter before losing 27-10. 
Why Virginia Might Win:  Defense. Pure and simple. The Wahoos defense has played valiantly throughout a difficult start to the season ranking 20th in the country in total defense allowing 263 yards total offense per game while only giving up 13 points per game in their last four.  The pass defense has been stellar, outside of a couple of long balls against Georgia Tech.  The secondary is ranked 26th in the nation in pass defense, giving up only 164 yards per game, and will provide a stern test for QB James Pinkney and the Pirate passing game. But …
Why East Carolina Might Win:  … ECU isn’t just about throwing the ball. At least, now always. Pinkney has been solid this season for the Pirates both throwing and running.  Under his command, the Pirate pass offense is ranked 19th in the nation averaging 269 yards per game through the air.  But it’s Pinkney’s ability to make plays out of the pocket and improvise when the rush bears down on him that makes him extremely difficult to slow down.  He’s only run for 48 yards all season, but he’s only been sacked four and a half times because of his nimble feet.  With his scrambling abilities, he can buy extra time for his receivers to get open against the Wahoo secondary.
Who to Watch:  The UVA running game needed to find a consistent force to carry the football and take some of the burden off of freshman QB Jameel Sewell.  Fortunately for UVA, RB Jason Snelling picked up the torch and ran with it and the ball running for 92 yards on 18 carries and a touchdown; his production was instrumental in Sewell completing 70% of his throws against the Blue Devils.  Snelling is a power back who won’t generate back-breaking 70 yard runs, but his ability to keep the UVA offense on the field is a major factor in the game.
What Will Happen:  UVA’s pass rush will contain Pinkney within the pocket and force him into turnovers.  The Wahoo offense, behind another productive game for Sewell, will produce enough points from those turnovers to give them the victory. 

CFN Prediction
: Virginia 24 ... East Carolina 17 ... Line: East Carolina -6
Must See Rating: (5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Rachael Ray) ... 2.5

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