C-USA Fearless Predictions, Oct. 20

Posted Oct 18, 2007

Previews and Predictions for the Week 8 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. 13 | Oct. 27 | Nov. 3Nov. 10 | Nov. 17Nov. 24Dec. 1   

How are the picks so far? SU: 45-15 ... ATS: 29-23-1

C-USA Fearless Predictions, Week 8, Part 2

Conference USA Game of the Week

Tulsa (4-2) at UCF (3-3) 4:00 EST
Why to watch: At the midway point of the season, both Tulsa and UCF have designs on finishing strong and winning their division.  However, their margins for error are small and their defenses need to step it up in a big way over the next six weeks.  The Hurricane has played three straight games decided by eight points or less, winning two and losing a thriller with UTEP that could haunt it in November.  Tulsa is home to the most prolific offense in Conference USA and one of its worst defenses, making for some very unpredictable and entertaining games.  After playing so well in the first four games, UCF has fallen on hard times with lopsided losses to East Carolina and South Florida.  Is this the same team that beat NC State and nearly shocked Texas in September?  If the Knights are going to recapture some of their early season momentum, they better do it now before a once promising year completely slips away.
Why Tulsa might win: No, the hurry-up, no-huddle offense hasn’t been perfected by the Hurricane, but it’s getting there, averaging 39 points a game and ranking only behind Texas Tech in total offense.  QB Paul Smith has been terrific at the controls, and should see no drop-off this Saturday against a UCF defense that’s allowed a mind-boggling 116 points the last two weeks.  The Knights pass defense has been particularly hideous of late, a troubling sign with the Hurricane blowing into Orlando.  If injured starting CB Johnell Neal can’t suit up this weekend, UCF’s challenge of stopping Tulsa will be even greater.
Why UCF might win: Knight RB Kevin Smith will be the best player at Bright House Networks Stadium on Saturday.  He’ll have to be for UCF to control the tempo of the game and lead his team to victory.  The nation’s third-leading rusher, Smith is a big back that’ll wear down an awful Tulsa defense and keep its high-octane offense in the garage for long periods of time.  The Hurricane defense ranks a paltry 112th in the country and hasn’t held an opponent below 30 points since the opener.  The unit is so bad, it’s capable of making UCF hurlers Kyle Israel and Michael Greco appear capable, if only for a day.
Who to watch: The young Tulsa receivers continue to grow up quickly in Gus Malzahn’s offense, looking nothing like the unsure ensemble that descended upon camp in August.  While freshman Trae Johnson has been a revelation and FB Charles Clay has been a safety valve extraordinaire, JUCO transfer Brennan Marion has become the gem of the 2007 recruiting class.  Marion has been the field-stretcher that the Hurricane offense craved, averaging an eye-popping 44 yards on 13 catches, while opening things up for the underneath routes.
What will happen: In a tackling optional game, expect to see plenty of points and no shortage of missed assignments.  The difference on Saturday will be offensive balance, something Tulsa enjoys, but UCF can only strive toward.  Smith will throw for 300 yards in a seventh straight game, but he’ll also get help from RB Tarrion Adams, who’ll chip in his fourth 100-yard effort of the year.
CFN Prediction
: Tulsa 38 … UCF 34 ... Line: UCF -3
Must See Rating: (5
Keeping Up with the Kardashians - 1 Ellen's dog plea) ... 2.5

Conference USA Saturday, October 20th

Tulane (1-5) at SMU (1-5) 3:00 EST
Why to watch: Losers of four consecutive games, SMU has been one of Conference USA’s most disappointing teams this season.  In a year that the Mustangs were expected to challenge for a bowl game, they’ve regressed, putting head coach Phil Bennett’s future at the school in jeopardy.  In last week’s loss to Southern Miss, they were dominated in all facets, causing a series of outbursts from sophomore QB Justin Willis, the face of the program.  If SMU has any hope of rallying, it needs Willis to temper his emotion and tap into some of the magic he weaved as a freshman.  Tulane has its own problems in a season that’s been highlighted by playing LSU tough for two quarters and RB Matt Forte’s 303-yard day against Southeastern Louisiana.  Both schools are 0-2 in the league, meaning the loser of this game is likely to finish the year in the West division basement.
Why Tulane might win: The Green Wave defense has played surprisingly well this season, racking up 19 sacks and boasting the league’s top run defense.  They’ll shine again this week against an SMU offense that doesn’t pass protect all that well and has been held to seven points in two of the last three games.  With ends Antonio Harris and Adam Kwentua coming off the edge, Tulane will pressure and frustrate Willis, who’s capable of being taken out his game by the opposition.  Forte and even the skittish Green Wave passing game will find success playing a Mustang defense that ranks 116th against the pass and 111th overall.
Why SMU might win: If the Mustangs can reach 20 points at Ford Stadium, that might be enough for the victory this week.  The Southeastern Louisiana game aside, Tulane has been dreadful on offense this year, averaging just 15 points a game against FBS opponents.  If Willis gets time, SMU will do well by attacking a beatable Green Wave secondary that’s yielding more than 250 yards a game through the air.
Who to watch: If SMU is going to avoid a fifth straight loss, it’ll need a big game from WR Emmanuel Sanders, the game-breaker of the receiving corps.  The sophomore rates an edge over the young Tulane corners, which must be parlayed into seven or eight catches and a couple of touchdown receptions.
What will happen: With the 2007 season rapidly slipping away, Willis will take matters into his own hands—and feet—on Saturday throwing a touchdown pass and scrambling for another in a much-needed win for SMU.
CFN Prediction: SMU 30 … Tulane 23  ... Line: SMU -6
Must See Rating: (5
Keeping Up with the Kardashians - 1 Ellen's dog plea) ... 1.5

Memphis (2-4) at Rice (1-5)  3:00 EST
Why to watch: Memphis and Rice meet for the first time with both schools trying to stay afloat in their respective divisions.  While the Owls have been more competitive since exiting the tough, non-conference portion of the schedule, breakdowns on the defensive side of the ball are making last December’s bowl game seem like a distant memory.  Although the numbers may not reflect it this season, Rice does boast one of the league’s most dangerous offensive players, junior WR Jarett Dillard.  Memphis, too, has had problems winning games versus decent competition, chalking up its two wins against FCS Jacksonville State and winless Marshall.  Last week, the passing game, one of the only constants this fall, disappeared in an ugly home loss to Middle Tennessee State.  After sitting out the last two games with an injury, the Tigers will regain the services of starting QB Martin Hankins, who had been playing better before getting hurt.
Why Memphis might win: Hankins was really pining to get back for this game.  Who can blame him?  This week’s opponent has allowed more than 50 points in three of the last four games, and is next-to-worst nationally in pass efficiency defense.  Things have gotten so bad at Rice, head coach David Bailiff is toying with the idea of moving select receivers that played in the secondary in high school to the other side of the ball.  The Tigers are big and deep at receiver, advantages they’ll use liberally against the Owls defense on Saturday.                     
Why Rice might win: Sure, the defense is horrible, but the offense has perked up the last two weeks to compensate, scoring 79 points and racking up 441 yards in last week’s loss to Houston.  QB Chase Clement is coming off his best game of the season, throwing for 355 yards and three touchdowns, which could become a trend against a Memphis D that’s 88th nationally in pass efficiency defense.  The Tigers are last in the country in net punting, which will give Clement a short field to navigate on Saturday afternoon.
Who to watch: Since returning from an injury three games ago, Duke Calhoun, Memphis’ best receiver, has only caught 12 balls.  Those modest numbers, however, won’t continue this week at Rice.  Calhoun is a gifted all-around pass-catcher with the ideal size and speed to deliver his best game of the year in Texas this weekend.         
What will happen: It’ll be bombs away for Hankins and Memphis, who’ll enjoy an enormous advantage in the passing game this weekend.  The Tigers will throw for 350 yards and three scores in a wild game that’ll spotlight Rice’s problems on defense.    
CFN Prediction: Memphis 37 … Rice 31  ... Line: Rice -2.5
Must See Rating: (5
Keeping Up with the Kardashians - 1 Ellen's dog plea) ... 1.5

C-USA Fearless Predictions, Week 8, Part 2


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