C-USA Fearless Predictions, Oct. 13

Posted Oct 10, 2007

Previews and Predictions for the Week 7 C-USA Games.

Conference USA

East  UAB | UCF | East Carolina | Marshall | Memphis | Southern Miss
West  Houston | Rice | SMU | Tulane | Tulsa | UTEP

CUSA Fearless Predictions Sept. 1Sept. 8 | Sept. 15Sept. 22 | Sept. 29 
Oct. 6Oct. 20Oct. 27 | Nov. 3Nov. 10 | Nov. 17Nov. 24Dec. 1   

How are the picks so far? SU: 40-13 ... ATS: 25-21-1

C-USA Fearless Predictions, Week 7, Part 2

Conference USA Game of the Week

East Carolina (3-3) at UTEP (4-2)  9:05 EST
Why to watch: If the season ended today, this would be the match up to decide this year’s Conference USA champ.  Courtesy of impressive upset wins a week ago, East Carolina and UTEP reside atop the East and West divisions, respectively.  The Pirates used a 28-point outburst in the third quarter to streak past front-running UCF, their second unexpected league win in as many weeks.  Although it’s learning how to win shootouts and come from behind, head coach Skip Holtz knows his team must play better defense and with more consistency in order to remain in the conference hunt.  Get a load of UTEP, winning back-to-back thrillers over SMU and Tulsa to become the story of the first half in Conference USA.  Nothing was expected of a Miner team that was undergoing an extreme makeover in 2007, but it’s gelling behind the running of Marcus Thomas and the on-the-fly development of freshman QB Trevor Vittatoe.
Why East Carolina might win: While the 114th-ranked UTEP defense has been abysmal, the Pirates offense has started to come together, scoring 89 points over the last two games, while enjoying a resurgence from do-everything RB Chris Johnson.  QB Rob Kass is coming off the best game of his life, and gives East Carolina a bona fide pocket passer that can test a leaky Miner secondary downfield.  UTEP has just one sack over the last three games, so Kass will be able to look for Johnson and WR Jamar Bryant without having to dodge a pass rush.
Why UTEP might win: Ever since Thomas returned from a suspension and Vittatoe got cozy in his new role, the Miners offense has been soaring, scoring 148 points and totaling 1,577 yards over the last three games.  The unit is balanced, explosive, and way too hot for a struggling East Carolina defense to handle.  The Pirates, battling issues in the secondary, have allowed at least 28 points in each of the last five games, and after showing so much promise in the opener at Virginia Tech, have slid to No. 100 in the country in total defense.
Who to watch: The UTEP coaching staff gushed about WR Jeff Moturi throughout the spring.  Now we know why.  The sophomore has been sensational of late, catching a touchdown pass in five straight games and searing Tulsa last week on seven receptions for 174 yards and two scores.  Moturi will go off again on Saturday night against an East Carolina defensive backfield that’s brimming with youth and question marks.
What will happen: No one outside of El Paso and Greenville will pay much attention to this game, which is too bad because it could be the most entertaining of an otherwise average weekend of games.  Although both teams will create their share of fireworks at the Sun Bowl, East Carolina will fail in its attempt to author a third straight comeback win. 
CFN Prediction: UTEP 34 ... East Carolina 30... Line: UTEP -2
Must See Rating: (5 Hideki Matsui's "collection" - 1 The Heartbreak Kid) ... 2.5

Conference USA Saturday, October 13th

UCF (3-2) at South Florida (5-0) 12:00, ESPNU
Why to watch: South Florida got a scare from Florida Atlantic last week, which gives Jim Leavitt just enough ammunition to remind his team that all of its prosperity can evaporate with four bad quarters.  The Bulls were surprisingly sloppy on defense, which must be corrected, but also showed resiliency by holding on in a game they easily could have lost.  Now No. 5 in both major polls, USF needs to show it can play with a target on its chest beginning with this week’s visit from budding rival UCF.  The Knights have some regrouping to do after playing their worst game of the season, a 52-38 loss to East Carolina that could come back to haunt them in the Conference USA East race.  After imploding in the second half last Saturday, UCF must bounce back quickly from its low point of an otherwise solid campaign.  Head coach George O’Leary believes the Knights can get to where USF currently resides, and a program-first win over a ranked team is exactly what they need to catapult to the next level.
Why UCF might win: The South Florida defense showed hints of vulnerability in Fort Lauderdale last week, which will be exposed by nation’s leading rusher Kevin Smith and the 38-point-a-game Knight offense.  Smith has supercharged the running game, while the offensive line has allowed just five sacks in five games, a great sign with DE George Selvie and the Bulls up next.  USF has turned the ball over eight times in the last two games, and will not dodge another bullet if it continues to be careless with the football.
Why South Florida might win: With Benjamin Williams running well and Mike Ford returning from a one-game suspension, the Bulls will establish a ground game versus a UCF defense that got picked apart by East Carolina in Greenville.  On defense, look for an inspired effort from Selvie and the rest of the nation’s 13th-ranked scoring defense.  The Big East’s best pass defense will dominate erratic Knight QB Kyle Israel, picking off a couple of his passes and taking one back for six.  UCF is also 116th in the country defending kickoffs, giving USF’s Jerome Murphy plenty of chances for big returns.
Who to watch: The young UCF receivers versus the veteran USF secondary is a mismatch in the Bulls’ favor.  Corners Trae Williams and Mike Jenkins and safeties Nate Allen and Carlton Williams form the best secondary Israel and the Knights will face this year.  If Kamar Aiken and Rocky Ross can’t soften the South Florida defense, Smith will labor to find running room Saturday afternoon.
What will happen
: Feeding off the energy of the home crowd, South Florida will befuddle the UCF offense and keep Smith from taking over the game.  Leavitt will ride Williams, who bowled his way to a school-record four scores last week, to a perfect first half of the season.
CFN Prediction: South Florida 30 … UCF 17... Line: South Florida -12
Must See Rating: (5 Hideki Matsui's "collection" - 1 The Heartbreak Kid) ... 2.5

Rice (1-4) at Houston (2-3) 3:30 EST, CSTV
Why to watch: A couple of neighbors from Houston reunite for the 34th time since 1971, both looking to gain some traction as the Conference USA portion of the schedule continues in earnest.  Rice pulled off one of the stunners of last weekend, upsetting Southern Miss as a three-touchdown underdog and playing as if it plans on going from 0-4 to the postseason for the second straight year.  The Owls got two touchdown receptions from All-American Jarett Dillard and seven turnovers from the defense to give David Bailiff his first victory with the program.  Don’t read too much into Houston’s 2-3 start.  Yeah, a two-point loss to East Carolina hurt two weeks ago, but the Cougars have also lost to Oregon and Alabama, and have as good a chance as anyone to win the West.  Of course, a home loss to Rice could alter that concept.
Why Rice might win: In Hattiesburg last week, Rice looked like a completely different team than the one whose 0-4 start began with a loss to Nicholls State.  The offense finally ran the ball effectively with freshman Justin Hill, QB Chase Clement reunited with Dillard, and the downtrodden defense delivered four sacks and four picks.  Art Briles might as well ditch the Rice film from September because it won’t be indicative of the team he’ll be facing this weekend.  After enduring a tough stretch against Big 12 opponents, the Owls appear ready to compete within the conference.
Why Houston might win
: Rice will quickly realize that stopping Southern Miss without its quarterback is a whole lot easier than slowing down a Cougar offense that’s complex, deep, and really fast.  Houston ranks in the top 30 nationally in both rushing and passing, utilizing both Case Keenum and Blake Joseph at quarterback, and getting consistent production from blazing RB Anthony Alridge.  The country’s 111th-ranked defense will be no match, especially on the interior, for a Houston attack that’s averaging 31 points and is starting to develop chemistry.
Who to watch: Keenum or Joseph?  Joseph or Keenum? Both offer something a little different to the Houston offense, making it difficult for Briles to settle on one hurler.  A sparkplug, Keenum came off the bench last week in Tuscaloosa, nearly rallying the Cougars all the way back from a 20-point deficit in the second half.  Just in case, the program might want to consider building a bullpen at Robertson Stadium.
What will happen: After catching Southern Miss at a perfect time last Wednesday night, Rice won’t be so fortunate against Houston this week.  The Cougars will open things up on offense, getting the entire ensemble involved in a double-digit win.

CFN Prediction: Houston 48 ... Rice 20... Line: Houston -21
Must See Rating: (5 Hideki Matsui's "collection" - 1 The Heartbreak Kid) ... 1.5

Marshall (0-5) at Tulsa (3-2)  7:05 EST
Why to watch: Tulsa will be looking to get back on track after suffering a heartbreaking, 48-47 loss at UTEP a week ago forcing it to play catch-up in the West.  The Hurricane boasts the highest scoring offense and the most generous defense in Conference USA, a feast-or-famine blend that has made every game a harrowing rollercoaster ride for first-year head coach Todd Graham.  With a tough trip to UCF up next, Tulsa cannot afford to look past this week’s opponent.  Marshall is just one of five winless schools left in the FBS, a testament to how far this program has plummeted since Bob Pruett left the sidelines.  In dire need of something positive, the Herd spent last week’s bye healing nagging injuries and planning how to reverse its fortunes in the second half of the season.
Why Marshall might win: These days, the best remedy for a sagging offense is a trip west to face the Tulsa defense.  The Hurricane continues to be downright pitiful, allowing almost 500 yards and more than 40 points a game.  It tackles poorly, doesn’t produce turnovers or sacks, and has no answers in pass defense.  In other words, veteran Herd QB Bernard Morris could be headed toward a career day, playing pitch-and-catch with Darius Passmore and Cody Slate.  Tulsa couldn’t stop lowly UAB two weeks ago, meaning Marshall will move the chains Saturday night.
Why Tulsa might win: The Hurricane’s answer to its woeful defense has been to just keep scoring out of Gus Malzahn’s hurry-up, no-huddle offense.  For the most part, it’s worked.  Tulsa is No. 3 in the country at 571 yards a game, and averages a league-best 39 points a game.  It’ll get little push back from Marshall, which lacks depth and speed on defense, and has allowed 11 touchdown passes to just one pick in pass defense.  Plus, the Herd has only five sacks all year, so Paul Smith will have all day to survey the field and locate one of his receivers.
Who to watch: While the Tulsa offense has clearly been built on the pass, it hasn’t exactly abandoned the run in 2007.  The Hurricane is second in the league in rushing at 193 yards a game, thanks in large part to the play of RB Tarrion Adams, who took over when Courtney Tennial was lost for the year.  A north-south runner, Adams has rushed for 520 yards this season, giving opposing defenses a change-of-pace to worry about.
What will happen: Like most Tulsa games, this figures to be an entertaining track meet without much defense or punting.  Offensively, the Hurricane is further along than the Herd, giving it the edge at Skelly Stadium this weekend.
CFN Prediction: Tulsa 43 … Marshall 31... Line: Tulsa -14
Must See Rating: (5 Hideki Matsui's "collection" - 1 The Heartbreak Kid) ... 2

C-USA Fearless Predictions, Week 7, Part 2

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