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C-USA Fearless Predictions, Oct. 27
Posted Oct 24, 2007

Previews and Predictions for the Week 9 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. 20Nov. 3Nov. 10 | Nov. 17Nov. 24Dec. 1   

How are the picks so far? SU: 48-18 ... ATS: 31-27-1

C-USA Fearless Predictions, Week 9, Part 2

Conference USA Game of the Week

Houston (4-3) at UTEP (4-3)  9:05 EST
Why to watch: If you can catch just one game between unranked teams this weekend, consider this probable shootout between two of Conference USA’s most explosive offenses.  The lead in the West division will be at stake when UTEP hosts Houston at the Sun Bowl for the fifth meeting between the schools.  The Miners are a dramatic finish waiting to happen, playing in three consecutive high-scoring nail-biters, two of which needed overtime.  In a season that was supposed to be marked by painful transition and inconsistency, UTEP has rebuilt on the fly to become the surprise of the league through seven games.  Houston, too, was expected to dip this year, but has parlayed an abundance of offensive speed into another run for a league championship.  The Cougars are coming off their most complete effort of the year, a 49-10 thumping of UAB that educed rare contributions from the defensive side of the ball.  If the D plays half as good as it did a week ago, they may not lose another game in 2007.
Why Houston might win: With the non-conference portion of the schedule in the rear view mirror, the Cougars are purring on offense, scoring 105 points and amassing a ridiculous 1,288 total yards over the last two weeks.  UTEP’s 114th-ranked defense, which has allowed at least 45 points in each of the last three games, couldn’t stop these guys with a man advantage.  Art Briles has used a two-quarterback system masterfully this year, inserting Case Keenum and Blake Joseph at the right times while somehow keeping both motivated.  The quarterbacks will distribute the ball to RB Anthony Alridge, and WRs Donnie Avery and Jeron Harvey, who’ll blow past the Miner defenders in the open field.  UTEP has allowed 12 touchdown passes over the last four games, a scary trend with a Briles-led team coming to town.
Why UTEP might win: Sure, the Miners defense is awful, but the hard-charging offense is prolific enough to compensate, averaging almost 50 points a game over the last month.  Freshman QB Trevor Vittatoe has grown up quickly as Jordan Palmer’s successor, tossing 10 touchdown passes in the last four games, while helping turn Jeff Moturi into one of the league’s most dangerous receivers.  Add in the tough running of Marcus Thomas and the versatility of UTEP’s own slash, Lorne Sam, and Mike Price has the ingredients of his best offense since he was in the Pac-10.  The Miners will remain hot against a Houston defense that doesn’t create many sacks or turnovers, and was questionable before last week’s game with 2-5 UAB.
Who to watch: If Houston is going to take control of the West, it’s imperative that Keenum and Joseph protect the football, an issue for both this season, especially Keenum.  Although the UTEP defense has been soft all year, it has been hawkish of late, picking off 11 balls over the last four games.  Keenum and Joseph must pay particular attention to Quintin Demps, who has more career interceptions than any current player, and is as skilled a defensive back playing in Conference USA.
What will happen: Both teams’ punters might as well stay at the hotel on Saturday night.  Neither will be used very much.  The scoring will come fast, furious, and from every spot on the field.  Houston, which is starting to gel as a team, will outlast UTEP in one of the more entertaining games of the weekend.
CFN Prediction: Houston 44 … UTEP 36... Line: Houston -3.5
Must See Rating: (5 America's Most Smartest Model - 1 Marie Osmond on DTWS) ... 2.5

Conference USA Saturday, October 27th

UAB (2-5) at East Carolina (4-4) 3:00 EST
Why to watch: East Carolina’s attempt to branch outside Conference USA with success was a complete flop, losing badly to 1-5 NC State last Saturday to snap a three-game winning streak.  It was a bitter pill for the program to swallow, but at least the 34-20 loss has no impact on the league race, which the Pirates will resume contending for against a pesky UAB.  They’re currently tied atop the East Division with Southern Miss, a team they lost to back in September.  UAB’s run of moral victories and close calls ended with last week’s 49-10 loss to Houston that was every bit as one-sided as the score indicates.  The Blazers are building for 2008 under rookie head coach Neil Calloway, taking their lumps today in the hopes that it’ll pay off with a brighter tomorrow in Birmingham.
Why UAB might win: The East Carolina defense is in a state of shambles, showing no ability to stop the pass or keep the opposition out of the end zone.  Over the last seven weeks, the Pirates have allowed 13 touchdown passes and an average of 37 points a game.  Blazer QB Sam Hunt will abandon the running game, opting to pick apart that pass defense by connecting with top receivers Frantrell Forrest and Joseph Webb, who’ve played well lately.  Hunt is a quality quarterback that can make plays on the ground or through the air when given time to see the field.
Why East Carolina might win: UAB’s inability to stop the run or contain speed was highlighted again last weekend in the loss to Houston.  Things won’t get any better against mercurial Pirate RB Chris Johnson, who’s as fast as any Cougar, and will run circles around the Blazers as a runner, a pass catcher, and a kickoff returner.  UAB’s 104th-ranked running game won’t be nearly as productive against a stout East Carolina front seven, forcing Hunt to go it alone on the offensive side of the ball.
Who to watch: After playing so well in the win over UCF three weeks ago, East Carolina QB Rob Kass has regressed, throwing just two touchdowns to four picks, while failing to stretch defenses with his big arm.  If the Pirates are going to win the East this season, it’s incumbent upon the sophomore to improve his consistency and decision making beginning with this week’s game in Greenville.
What will happen: While UAB will continue to fight and compete, it just doesn’t have the depth to overcome some of the more polished teams in Conference USA.  It might take a while for East Carolina to shake off the despair from last week’s loss before Johnson takes over with his all-purpose heroics. 
CFN Prediction: East Carolina 33 … UAB 17 ... Line: East Carolina -14.5
Must See Rating: (5 America's Most Smartest Model - 1 Marie Osmond on DTWS) ... 2

SMU (1-6) at Tulsa (4-3) 3:00 EST
Why to watch: Tulsa’s feeble defense finally caught up with it in last week’s 44-23 loss to UCF, dropping the program to third place in Conference USA behind Houston and UTEP.  If the Hurricane has any hope of representing the division in the title game, it must win its final four conference games, beginning with this Saturday’s visit from SMU.  Even the high-octane offense sputtered in Orlando, a troubling sign for a team that lived off QB Paul Smith’s right arm over the first two months.  The end of the year can’t come soon enough for the Mustangs, which reached rock bottom with last week’s 41-34 overtime loss to Tulane in Dallas.  A season that began with so much hope has unraveled with five straight losses and an end to the pursuit of a bowl game.  With five games remaining, the only suspense surrounding the SMU football team is whether or not head coach Phil Bennett can survive this mess, and return to the Hilltop for a seventh season.
Why SMU might win: As long as the Tulsa defense continues getting gashed on a weekly basis, it’ll be vulnerable regardless of who’s on the other sideline.  The Hurricane has not held an opponent below 400 yards since the opener, and has slipped to 116th nationally in points allowed.  The unit is abysmal in all phases, which bodes well for a Mustang attack that can move the ball on the ground with James Mapps and DeMyron Martin, or through the air with Justin Willis.  When SMU has faced weak defenses, such as UTEP and Tulane, it’s had no problem piling up the yards and points.
Why Tulsa might win: As long as the SMU defense continues getting gashed on a weekly basis, it’ll have little chance of winning for the second time this year.  The Hurricane defense is hideous, but the Mustangs D isn’t a whole lot better, allowing 37 points and 489 yards a game.  In fact, in last week’s loss to Tulane, it paved the way for Green Wave RB Matt Forte to rush for a Conference USA-record 342 yards and four scores on 38 carries.  The Tulsa offense will rebound in a hurry, moving up and down the field on Smith’s passes and the running of Tarrion Adams.
Who to watch: As bad as the rebuilt SMU front four has been over the last five games, Todd Graham might want to get Adams 30 carries this week, which he’s capable of parlaying into at least 150 yards.  If nothing else, a more ball-control approach to the offensive gameplan might be one way to keep that Tulsa defense off the field.
What will happen: Tulsa will vent some frustration from last week’s loss by posting some gaudy offensive numbers at SMU’s expense.  The Hurricane, however, hasn’t won a game by more than eight points since Week 1, a trend that’ll continue Saturday afternoon.
CFN Prediction: Tulsa 41 … SMU 28 ... Line: Tulsa -14
Must See Rating: (5 America's Most Smartest Model - 1 Marie Osmond on DTWS) ... 2

C-USA Fearless Predictions, Week 9, Part 2


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