C-USA Fearless Predictions, Nov. 24

Posted Nov 21, 2007

Previews and Predictions for the Week 13 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. 17Dec. 1 

How are the picks so far? SU: 65-25 ... ATS: 41-41-1

C-USA Fearless Predictions, Week 13, Part 2

Conference USA Game of the Week

UTEP (4-7) at UCF (8-3) 2:00 EST
Why to watch: Midway through the season, this looked like a potential preview of the Conference USA Championship game.  While UCF has done its part, UTEP has been a pretender, losing five in-a-row to fall completely out of the bowl picture.  Although the Miners have all the flash on offense that you’d expect from a Mike Price team, it hasn’t been enough to overcome constant breakdowns on the defensive side of the ball.  For the first time since Price arrived, UTEP has nothing at stake in the finale, raising questions whether the team will bother to show up.  The polar opposite of the Miners is UCF, a team that’s won five straight, needing one more victory or an East Carolina loss to win the East Division.  Fueled by the running of All-America candidate Kevin Smith, the Knights have been on a tear, even picking up votes in the latest AP and Coaches polls.  At its current torrid pace, the program has a realistic shot of winning 10 games for the first time in history, and finish the season ranked in the Top 25, all of which makes George O’Leary an attractive candidate to certain ADs with openings.
Why UTEP might win: With bowl eligibility no longer a possibility, the Miners will play fast and loose, opening up the playbook in an attempt to stay with UCF.  UTEP has the athletes on offense to put a scare into anyone in the league.  With Trevor Vittatoe hooking up with Jeff Moturi and Joe West, and 1,000-yard rusher Marcus Thomas plowing through the tackles, the Miners can score in a hurry with a balanced and high-powered attack.  Spotty Knight QB Kyle Israel better be careful going up top on a UTEP defense that has 17 interceptions and one game-changer in CB Quintin Demps.
Why UCF might win: The Knights’ opponents know what’s coming, but it hasn’t really made a difference.  UCF has averaged 44 points a game during the winning streak, primarily riding the back of Smith, one of the nation’s most prolific and consistent runners.  Sure, UTEP plans to stop the junior, but so did the last 11 teams on the schedule, only one of whom succeeded.  Smith will rip through the nation’s 117th-ranked defense, carrying the Knights to the division title, while becoming just the 12th back in FBS history to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a single season.
Who to watch: Despite popular opinion, it hasn’t been all Smith and the offense leading UCF to the top of the Conference USA heap.  The defense has also stepped up with 18 sacks and 15 interceptions over the last five weeks, presenting a stiff challenge to the UTEP offense.  One of the catalysts up front has been DE Leger Douzable, a senior that leads the team in sacks, and has had a tackle for loss in each of the last three games.
What will happen: If UTEP had any fight left, it wouldn’t have allowed 56 points to Southern Miss last week when bowl eligibility was still attainable.  A trip to UCF means an opportunity to visit Disney and watch Smith race for more than 200 yards on the ground.
CFN Prediction: UCF 45 … UTEP 24 ... Line: UCF -18
Must See Rating: (5
The inside of your eyelids after eating two pounds of turkey  - 1 The inside of a gym with every 120 calories equaling a mile on the treadmill) ...2

Conference USA Saturday, November 24th

Tulane (4-7) at East Carolina (6-5)  1:00 EST
Why to watch: Even after inexplicably losing to Marshall two weeks ago, East Carolina still has a faint hope of winning the East Division of Conference USA.  Step 1 will be to handle Tulane in Greenville.  Step 2 will be to huddle around a TV set, and root like heck for a UTEP upset of front-running UCF later in the afternoon.  A Pirate win coupled with a Knight loss sends ECU to league championship game a week later.  Regardless of what others do, East Carolina must pick up win No. 7 to fortify its chances of earning an invitation to a December bowl game.  The best reason to watch Tulane all year is the same one that’ll draw attention for this week’s finale.  Last week, RB Matt Forte became just the 11th player in FBS history to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season, another milestone in a season filled with heroics for the senior.  The Green Wave has won two straight games, and a third in-a-row will lock up a third place finish in the West, giving head coach Bob Toledo and his staff a talking point when he gets back on the recruiting trail.
Why Tulane might win: Hey, if East Carolina can lose to Marshall only two weeks ago, it’s certainly vulnerable to any Conference USA program.  Forte’s efforts have begun to seep into the rest of the roster, as evidenced by recent wins over UTEP and Rice.  The Green Wave racked up 940 yards and 79 points in those games, getting help from a passing game that’s successfully implementing two quarterbacks, Anthony Scelfo and Kevin Moore.  Sophomore WR Jeremy Williams has shown a penchant for blowing up beatable secondaries, which applies to the Pirates’ last line of defense.
Why East Carolina might win: With two weeks to prepare and get past the Marshall debacle, the Pirates are healthy, rested, and focused on finishing strong.  They’ll revert back to the team that was lighting up opposing offenses with the combination of Chris Johnson’s running and the passing of Patrick Pinkney and Rob Kass.  While Johnson could have some issues against the league’s top run defense, Pinkney and Kass will feast on a Tulane defensive backfield that’s yielded 14 touchdown passes over the last five games.
Who to watch
: Pencil in a huge day for East Carolina’s leading receiver, Jamar Bryant, who’s caught a touchdown pass in five of the last six games, and holds the edge over the Tulane corners.  The Green Wave will spend a lot of resources trying to contain Johnson in the open field, which will put Bryant in favorable one-on-one situations.
What will happen: In a very important game for the future of the program, East Carolina will get back on track, peppering the Tulane defense with passes, and keeping Forte from completely taking over the game.
CFN Prediction: East Carolina 30 … Tulane 20 ... Line: East Carolina -12
Must See Rating: (5
The inside of your eyelids after eating two pounds of turkey  - 1 The inside of a gym with every 120 calories equaling a mile on the treadmill) ...2

SMU (1-10) at Memphis (6-5) 2:00 EST
Why to watch: Ever so quietly, Memphis has authored one of the best stories of the year in Conference USA.  Coming off a brutal campaign, and getting no preseason respect, the Tigers moved above the .500 mark with a win over UAB last Saturday, and will padlock a once improbable bowl berth by beating SMU this weekend.  While he’ll get stiff competition from UCF’s George O’Leary and Tulsa’s Todd Graham, Memphis’ Tommy West has earned strong consideration for Coach of the Year honors.  On the opposite career spectrum is SMU’s Phil Bennett, who was fired a few weeks back, making this his final game with the program.  The Mustangs have been a wire-to-wire disaster, never even approaching expectations, while occasionally providing some fireworks from versatile QB Justin Willis.
Why SMU might win
: No, the Mustangs can’t stop anyone, but they can score, averaging over 400 yards a game and 30 points over the last month.  Willis gives the attack a spark with his multi-dimensional potential, leading the team in rushing and helping pad the receiving numbers of Emmanuel Sanders and Zack Sledge.  Against a soft Memphis front that’s next to last in the league at stopping the run, SMU will put a greater emphasis on keeping it on the ground with capable backs James Mapps and DeMyron Martin.
Why Memphis might win: If there’s one thing that’s led most to SMU’s demise, it’s been the play of the defense, which has never regrouped from the loss of last season’s key cogs up front.  Six opponents have scored more than 40 points on the Mustangs, who are No. 115 in the country in total defense.  The Tigers will take advantage of their surroundings, unleashing QB Martin Hankins and his posse of talented receivers on an SMU secondary that will be completely overmatched.  A few tweaks of the offensive line also sparked Joseph Doss and the running game last week, which means double trouble for the Mustang D.
Who to watch: Memphis WR Duke Calhoun is finishing the regular season with a flurry, going over the 100-yard mark in four of the last five games, capped by a career-high 159 yards on four catches last Saturday.  The 6-4 sophomore is just one of a number of mismatches that the SMU defensive backs will be trying to shut down at the Liberty Bowl.
What will happen: While Memphis is motivated, SMU already has one foot in the offseason.  It’ll show.  The Tigers will blast the Mustangs right from the opening kickoff, getting 300 yards and three touchdown passes from Hankins.
CFN Prediction
: Memphis 37 … SMU 23 ... Line: Memphis -7.5
Must See Rating: (5
The inside of your eyelids after eating two pounds of turkey  - 1 The inside of a gym with every 120 calories equaling a mile on the treadmill) ...1.5

Tulsa (8-3) at Rice (3-8)   3:00 EST
Why to watch: The only thing standing between Tulsa and a West Division title is a pesky and dangerous Rice team.  Any hopes that the Owls had of returning to the postseason ended a few weeks ago, but denying the Hurricane a chance to play in the Conference USA Championship game would provide momentum heading into the offseason.  Rice may not be able to stop anyone, but as long as QB Chase Clement is flinging the ball all over the field, it’s a threat to pull an upset.  Tulsa escaped West Point with a win last week, but got to this point by ransacking Houston, 56-7, two weeks ago.  With Clement and Hurricane QB Paul Smith facing a couple of porous defenses, no lead—and few offensive records—will be safe Saturday afternoon.
Why Tulsa might win: The Rice defense can’t stop anyone, let alone a Hurricane attack that’s spitting out 544 yards and 40 points a game.  Smith has excelled in the hurry-up, no-huddle offense, tossing 34 touchdown passes, while spreading the ball around to six or seven different receivers every week.  Against the Owls, which have allowed more than 40 points seven times this season, Tulsa will be able to name its final score.
Why Rice might win: The one thing the Owls do well, throwing the ball, has been a problem for the Tulsa defense since September.  If given a chance, Clement will throw the ball 60 times on Saturday, many of which will wind up in the mitts of Jarett Dillard, Toren Dixon, and James Casey.  Tulsa’s 104th-ranked defense is still processing the fact that it allowed 328 yards and three touchdown passes to Army’s Carson Williams a week ago.  Clement will put up sick numbers, wearing out the Hurricane defensive backfield by the second half.
Who to watch: By way of DeAnza (Calif.) Junior College, Tulsa WR Brennan Marion has emerged as one of the best long-ball hitters in the country.  While his receptions are infrequent, they always pay dividends in the form of a touchdown or a first down.  Marion has only 25 catches, but they’ve gone for a whopping 904 yards and nine touchdowns, numbers that’ll give the Rice defensive backs nightmares.
What will happen: Ideally, Tulsa would blow through Rice in the first half, and start getting ready for UCF or East Carolina early in the third quarter.  It won’t happen.  The Owls will hang tough behind the passing of Clement before finally giving way to Smith’s aerial assault in the final quarter.
CFN Prediction
: Tulsa 45 … Rice 35 ... Line: Tulsa -12
Must See Rating: (5
The inside of your eyelids after eating two pounds of turkey  - 1 The inside of a gym with every 120 calories equaling a mile on the treadmill) ...2

C-USA Fearless Predictions, Week 13, Part 2


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