C-USA Fearless Predictions, Nov. 10

Posted Nov 7, 2007

Previews and Predictions for the Week 11 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. 20Oct. 27 | Nov. 3Nov. 17Nov. 24Dec. 1      

How are the picks so far? SU: 58-20 ... ATS: 37-33-1

C-USA Fearless Predictions, Week 11, Part 2

Conference USA Game of the Week

Houston (6-3) at Tulsa (6-3)   3:00 EST
Why to watch: The best game left on the Conference USA schedule, and possibly the best league game all year, takes place in Oklahoma Saturday.  Tulsa hosts Houston in a match up of two high-voltage offenses and the last two conference champs that should determine the West Division winner.  If the Cougars win, they’re in, and can start breaking down film on their championship game opponent, likely East Carolina.  If the Hurricane prevails, it can clinch the division with a win over Rice Nov. 24 or a Houston loss to Marshall next Saturday.  Houston leads the league in scoring, and is No. 2 in total offense.  Tulsa leads the league in total offense, and is No. 2 in scoring.  Neither program has played much defense this fall.  Do the metrics for what will be an entertaining an emotionally-charged game.
Why Houston might win: No one has been able to stop the Cougar offense, and Tulsa certainly won’t be the first.  There’s no easy way to slow down Houston, which has some of the fastest skill position players in the country, and can beat defenses with its ninth-ranked running game or 17th-ranked passing attack.  While RB Anthony Alridge is a game-breaker, the combination of elusive Case Keenum and strong-armed Blake Joseph has been handled beautifully by head coach Art Briles.  Helping to make this a shootout will be a Tulsa defense that’s weak up front, and has held just two teams, SMU and UL-Monroe, below 400 yards this season.  At times, the Cougar defense has been bad, but it’s not Hurricane bad.
Why Tulsa might win: With Paul Smith at the controls, the Hurricane’s hurry-up, no-huddle offense has been clicking, averaging 37 points and 539 yards a game.  While RB Tarrion Adams provides a steady presence between the tackles, the young receiving corps gives Smith options in the intermediate and deep routes.  Houston has yielded 21 touchdown passes and has no pass rush, factors that’ll spur another huge game for Smith and the passing attack, which hasn’t been held under 300 yards or two touchdown passes by any defense in 2007.
Who to watch: Since both teams are going to get their points, the outcome will come down to who can make stops in the second half.  Tulsa will air it out at least 40 times, which is a lot of opportunities for tipped balls, something Houston excels at on defense.  Four of the league’s top seven players, safeties Ernest Miller, Rocky Schwartz, and Brandon Brinkley, and DE Phillip Hunt, in passes defended are Cougars.  That type of activity at the line and in the secondary will present a problem for Smith, who’s been intercepted more than any other Conference USA quarterback.
What will happen: Houston at Tulsa will live up to its advanced billing, producing a ton of offense and an exciting final few minutes.  The Cougars will prevail by winning the turnover margin for a fourth straight game and ending key pivotal drives by picking off a couple of Smith’s passes.
CFN Prediction: Houston 41 … Tulsa 37  ... Line: Tulsa -2
Must See Rating: (5 Seinfeld: Season 9 - 1 Bee Movie) ... 2.5

Conference USA Saturday, November 10th

Rice (2-7) at SMU (1-8)  3:00 EST
Why to watch: With no hope for a bowl game, Rice and SMU will be playing for pride, postseason honors, and positioning for when spring ball starts in a few months.  The Owls are coming off a miraculous comeback to beat UTEP, rallying for the final 28 points behind a Conference USA-record eight total touchdowns from QB Chase Clement.  It was the second time this season that Rice was involved in a game that ended 56-48, a testament to the volatility of the program.  SMU showed fight in the first game since head coach Phil Bennett got a pink slip, but it wasn’t enough in a 38-28 loss to Houston.  Although the Mustangs have been Conference USA’s biggest disappointment of 2007, they’ve got a legitimate shot of snapping a seven-game losing streak in this week’s homecoming in Dallas.
Why Rice might win: When the Owl offense gets cranking, it’s difficult to stop, especially for an SMU defense that’s been deplorable since the opening kickoff of the season.  Clement will freely move up and down the field on a leaky Mustang pass defense, making good use of an improving receiving corps that’s led by Jarett Dillard.  In league games, Rice is ringing up almost 40 points a game, a number it could reach Saturday afternoon.
Why SMU might win: The Mustang defense is bad.  At least statistically, Rice’s unit is worse.  The Owls are a sieve, yielding a league-high 42 points and more than 500 yards a game.  Not since the opener with Nicholls State has the program held an opponent below 400 yards or 29 points in a game.  SMU will capitalize, leaning heavily on the scrambling and right arm of Justin Willis, who’ll deliver his most prolific game of the year.  The quarterback still has the burning desire to win, and a pair of receivers in Emmanuel Sanders and Zack Sledge that’ll have no problem navigating the Rice secondary.
Who to watch: This is a duel between Rice’s Clement and SMU’s Willis, plain and simple.  Not only do the quarterbacks pilot a couple of dangerous passing attacks, but they also lead their respective teams in rushing.  Although each gets some support from his receivers, it’s all about Clement and Willis, who’ll almost single-handedly determine this weekend’s winner.
What will happen: No one outside of Dallas is going to see or pay much attention to this game.  Too bad, because it’s going to be a track meet with a ton of offense and an exciting finish.  In a last-team-with-the-ball-wins type game, Clement will guide Rice to a second straight victory, scampering for the game-winner.
CFN Prediction: Rice 44 … SMU 41  ... Line: SMU -6
Must See Rating: (5 Seinfeld: Season 9 - 1 Bee Movie) ... 1.5

East Carolina (6-4) at Marshall (1-8)  4:30 EST
Why to watch: With last week’s rout of Memphis, East Carolina took a giant step toward winning the East Division.  The Pirates control their own destiny, needing only to beat Marshall and Tulane to earn a spot in next month’s championship game.  The catalyst for the program’s success has been a suddenly explosive offense, in particular Chris Johnson, who’s one of the most dynamic off-the-radar backs in the country.  While East Carolina is headed toward a division crown, Marshall is on a path to nowhere, wondering if head coach Mark Snyder will be back in 2008 to try and clean up the mess in Huntington.  The Herd will spend the next few weeks trying to win, while mixing in some of the heralded underclassmen that made headlines in Snyder’s last couple of recruiting classes.
Why East Carolina might win: The offense, led by Johnson’s versatility and the dual-quarterback system of Rob Kass and Patrick Pinkney, has been soaring for more than a month.  In the last five conference games, the Pirates have averaged a whopping 46 points a game, getting an ideal mix of run and pass to keep opposing defenses off balance.  A Marshall defense that ranks 110th nationally, and hasn’t had a hint of a pass rush since DE Albert McClellan went down won’t get in the way of East Carolina’s recent trend of success on offense.
Why Marshall might win: East Carolina can score, but that’s partly because it has to in order to compensate for a defense that’s horrid in pass defense, and has allowed at least 31 points seven times.  The Pirates have yielded 22 touchdown passes, four to Memphis last Saturday, which will prompt Marshall QB Bernard Morris to loosen up his right arm and test that ECU secondary.  The Herd averages 271 yards a game through the air, boasting an improving corps of receivers that’s headed by WR Darius Passmore and TE Cody Slate.
Who to watch: Johnson is beginning to finally attract national attention after shredding Memphis for 301 yards rushing and four touchdowns on just 20 carries.  He’s a blur in the open field, which explains why the East Carolina staff also tries to get the ball in his hands as a receiver and a kickoff returner.  Marshall lacks the depth and talent on defense to keep Johnson from significantly adding to his already gaudy 2007 numbers.
What will happen: Smelling a conference championship, East Carolina will attack a weak Marshall defense early and often, getting another huge day from Johnson and enough defensive stops to leave Huntington with win No. 7.
CFN Prediction: East Carolina 38 … Marshall 27 ... Line: East Carolina -7
Must See Rating: (5 Seinfeld: Season 9 - 1 Bee Movie) ... 2

C-USA Fearless Predictions, Week 11, Part 2

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