C-USA Fearless Predictions, Nov. 17

Posted Nov 16, 2007

Previews and Predictions for the Week 12 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. 10 | Nov. 24Dec. 1   

How are the picks so far? SU: 60-24 ... ATS: 38-38-1

C-USA Fearless Predictions, Week 12, Part 2

Conference USA Game of the Week

Southern Miss (5-5) at UTEP (4-6)   7:30 PM CSTV
Why to watch: Prozac should consider sponsoring Saturday night’s game in El Paso, which features two of the most depressed programs in Conference USA.  Southern Miss, the preseason favorite to win the league, slipped to .500 and fourth place in the East Division with last week’s loss to Memphis.  If the Golden Eagles are going to return to the bowl bonanza for the sixth year in-a-row, they’ve got to win the next two games against UTEP and Arkansas State.  After knocking off Tulsa, 48-47, on Oct. 6, the Miners were the surprise of the league, but that was before they lost four straight games by an average of seven points.  Although the worst of those losses came at Tulane last Saturday, there’s still a chance for UTEP to win out, and at 6-6, capture one of the league’s automatic bowl berths.
Why Southern Miss might win: The Eagles have the better defense and ground attack in this game, a good foundation for success.  The Miners have yielded at least 34 points in each of the last six games, and their struggles in run defense will be especially evident against RB Damion Fletcher and the Southern Miss running game.  With senior Jeremy Young back behind center, the Eagles will lean a little more on the passing game than normal in order to take advantage of UTEP’s 119th-ranked pass defense.
Why UTEP might win: Throughout the losing streak, the one constant for the Miners has been the play of the offense, which has averaged 41 points over the last seven games, and can beat defenses on the ground or through the air.  Yeah, Southern Miss leads Conference USA in total defense, but this is not your typical Eagle D that will squeeze the life out of opposing offenses.  This Eagle D gave up four touchdown passes to Memphis last weekend, which should have UTEP QB Trevor Vittatoe salivating at the prospect of padding his already solid throwing numbers.
Who to watch: Throughout 2006, UTEP head coach Mike Price lamented repeatedly about his team’s lack of a running game.  This fall, RB Marcus Thomas has answered the call, giving Price the balance he covets, while putting himself in a position to get drafted in April.  The senior has broken through with a career-best 1,061 yards rushing and 16 total touchdowns, making life easier for Vittatoe, who’s been able to develop with a safety blanket in the rear view mirror.
What will happen: No stranger to nail-biters, UTEP is due to finally pull one out.  A budding star in the conference, Vittatoe will lead the Miners to the game-winning drive, keeping his team alive for one more game in December.
CFN Prediction: UTEP 31 … Southern Miss 30 ... Line: Southern Miss -3.5
Must See Rating: (5
On HBO, "Michigan vs. Ohio State: The Rivalry"  - 1 Writer strike induced reruns) ... 2

Conference USA Saturday, November 17th

Tulsa (7-3) at Army (3-7)  12:00 PM  ESPN Classic
Why to watch: In one of the most dominant all-around performances in school history, Tulsa took control of the West Division by completely dismantling defending champion Houston, 56-7.  While the offensive explosion was no surprise, holding the high-powered Cougars to a garbage-time touchdown was a stunner from a defense that had been abused all season.  The Hurricane now needs just a Houston loss to Marshall on Saturday or a win over Rice on Nov. 24 to secure a spot in the Conference USA title game.  Saturday’s first-ever visit to West Point provides the team a nice break in conference play, and an opportunity to play at one of the Northeast’s most storied venues.  The lone service academy that won’t be bowling this year, Army is riding a four-game losing streak, as it continues tuning up for its annual brawl with Navy on Dec. 1.  The Black Knights have taken on all comers this fall, but have yet to be competitive against teams from the ACC or Big East.
Why Tulsa might win: Not only will the Hurricane’s high-scoring offense be a mismatch for Army, but its own defense has begun turning the corner under Todd Graham.  Last week’s suffocation of the speedy Houston offense was the culmination of progress that had been taking place for weeks.  The unit’s development will continue against a Knight offense that averages just 259 yards a game, and is 116th in the country in scoring.  Army simply won’t be able to keep pace with a Tulsa attack that has balance, veteran leadership, and a playbook that offers many different options.
Why Army might win: Last week, Tulsa beat Houston in its most important game of the season.  Next week, the Hurricane travels to Rice to clinch the division.  This week?  A trip across the country to play Army in a game that has zero postseason relevance.  Absolutely no one should be surprised if Tulsa is looking past the Knights.  In Army’s only game with a Conference USA opponent in 2007, it handled Tulane for one of its three victories, so forget about any intimidation with the Hurricane coming to town.  Although the Knights won’t stop QB Paul Smith and the Tulsa aerial attack, they will slow it down with a pass defense that only yields 184 yards a game, and has allowed nine touchdown passes in 10 games.
Who to watch: Credit for Tulsa’s defensive awakening goes to a number of people, but most of it belongs to a trio of veteran linebackers that have stepped up their games in recent weeks.  Chris Chamberlain, Nelson Coleman, and Alain Karatepeyan, the Hurricane’s top three tacklers, have been filling lanes and making plays for minus yardage, providing a huge boost for a rebuilt front four that’s been slow to gel.
What will happen: It’ll take a while for Tulsa to wake up, but the nip in the air and the obvious gap in talent will do the trick by the second quarter.  The Hurricane isn’t abandoning the run, but versus a dreadful Army run defense, RB Jamad Williams will take off for 100 yards for the second time in three weeks.
CFN Prediction: Tulsa 42 … Army 17 ... Line: Tulsa -14
Must See Rating: (5
On HBO, "Michigan vs. Ohio State: The Rivalry"  - 1 Writer strike induced reruns) ... 1
Tulane (3-7) at Rice (3-7)  3:00 PM
Why to watch: The chances of it happening are slim, but Rice can still finish the year tied with Tulsa and Houston atop the West Division, a testament to how well it’s played in league games.  The Owls have won two straight over UTEP and SMU, leaning heavily on a fast-paced offense and a penchant for strong second halves.  While not always technically crisp, games involving Rice are routinely high-scoring and almost always decided in the final quarter.  Since September ended, Tulane has been highly competitive, featuring nation’s leading rusher Matt Forte, and upsetting SMU and UTEP to dismiss the notion that it’ll be the West Division cellar dweller.  With season-ending wins over Rice and East Carolina, the Green Wave will finish in third place in the division, a major building block for Bob Toledo in his Big Easy debut.
Why Tulane might win: Any discussion about the nation’s worst defensive unit must include Rice, which is 117th nationally in total defense and 118th in scoring defense.  Forte will have a field day running the ball, and even QBs Kevin Moore and Anthony Scelfo will get into the act, taking shots at an Owl pass defense that’s allowed 32 touchdown passes in 10 games.  The Rice offensive line must do a better job of pass protecting this week if it’s going to keep Conference USA’s best pass rush off QB Chase Clement’s back.
Why Rice might win: With any time to throw, Clement is going to dissect a Tulane secondary that’s 112th in the country in pass defense, and has permitted 10 touchdown passes over the last four games.  Clement has evolved into a one-man gang, obliterating league defenses with his shifty feet and accurate right arm.  The Owls still have WR Jarett Dillard, who’ll school the Green Wave cornerbacks, while sophomore Toren Dixon has matured into a nice complement to the offense’s primary target.  With this offense, Rice is never out of any game.
Who to watch: To have any chance of containing Clement, Tulane must get pressure up front from a veteran line that’s been effective all year at flushing the pocket.  With Reggie Scott and Adam Kwentua on the outside, and Antonio Harris and Avery Williams coming up the middle, the Green Wave needs to protect a secondary that gets toasted when opposing quarterbacks get too much time to survey the entire field.
What will happen: It’s Tulane and Rice, so count on plenty of offense and tense moments in the fourth quarter.  In an evenly-matched game, take the better defense and the team that can run the ball.  In both cases, that’s the Green Wave, which will celebrate Forte’s entry into the 2,000-yard rushing club.
CFN Prediction: Tulane 34 … Rice 30 ... Line: Rice -2
Must See Rating: (5
On HBO, "Michigan vs. Ohio State: The Rivalry"  - 1 Writer strike induced reruns) ... 1

C-USA Fearless Predictions, Week 12, Part 2

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