2007 C-USA Championship Fearless Prediction
UCF RB Kevin Smith
UCF RB Kevin Smith
Posted Jun 11, 2007

Preview and Prediction for the 2007 C-USA Championshop - UCF vs. Tulsa

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. 17 | Nov. 24

How are the picks so far? SU: 72-25 ... ATS: 43-45-1

UCF (9-3) vs. Tulsa (9-3)

Dec. 1, 12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN

Tulsa has its sights set on a second Conference USA championship in the last three years.  To get there, it must first get through UCF, a program that whacked the Hurricane, 44-23, during the regular season.

National Rankings
UCF Tulsa
Total Offense
33rd   425.67 ypg 1st  548.58 ypg
Total Defense
53rd  371.75 ypg 111th  471.75 ypg
Scoring Offense
13th  37.92 ppg 9th  40.67 ppg
Scoring Defense
65th  28.08 ppg 102nd  34.67 ppg
Run Offense
10th  237.33 ypg 35th  179.25 ypg
Run Defense
46th  139.33 ypg 90th  186.58 ypg
Pass Offense
98th  188.33 ypg 3rd  369.33 ypg
Pass Defense
68th  232.42 ypg 111th  285.17 ypg
Turnover Margin
47th  0.17 101st  -0.67
at NC State W 25-23
Texas L 35-32
Memphis W 56-20
UL Laf W 37-19
at ECU L 52-38
at S Florida L 64-12
Tulsa W 44-23
at So Miss W 34-17
Marshall W 47-13
at UAB W 45-31
at SMU W 49-20
UTEP W 36-20
at UL Mon W 35-17
BYU W 55-47
Oklahoma L 62-21
UAB W 38-30
L 48-47
W 38-31
at UCF L 44-23
SMU W 29-23
at Tulane
W 49-25
W 56-7
at Army
W 49-39
at Rice
W 48-43
Position Ratings
relative to each other
CF 5 highest
1 lowest
3.5 Quarterbacks 5
5 RBs 3
3 Receivers 4
4 O Line 3
4 D Line 3.5
4 Linebackers 3.5
4.5 Secondary 2
3.5 Spec Teams 3.5
4 Coaching 3.5

By winning an East Division that was earmarked for Southern Miss in the preseason, UCF has already exceeded expectations, moving to within a win of the school’s first-ever conference championship.  Ironically, it was against Tulsa that the Knights’ year really took off, snapping an ugly two-game skid and beginning a torrid stretch of six wins to close out the regular season.  The catalyst has been RB Kevin Smith, who leads the country in rushing and scoring, steadily climbing the single-season charts for most yards on the ground in NCAA history. 

For all the pub Smith gets, the bigger story in Orlando may be the defense, which has completely turned things around since yielding 116 points in back-to-back implosions versus East Carolina and South Florida.  Fueled by the push up front of linemen Leger Douzable and Bruce Miller, and the coverage skills of corners Joe Burnett and Johnell Neal, UCF leads the league in sacks and interceptions.  They’ll need more of both to slow down the high-powered Tulsa passing game.  

UCF has a top-tier head coach, a future NFL back, and a brand new stadium, Bright House Networks, that’ll be on display Saturday afternoon.  A rising star in the FBS, the Knights are one win from a conference championship and a Liberty Bowl berth, the next steps in the evolution of a program that’s only been around for a little more than a decade.

Although Tulsa had high hopes heading into the season, it really didn’t know what to expect from its team.  The coaching staff was new, both lines had to be rebuilt, and the offense was going from a more traditional pro-style attack to Gus Malzahn’s hurry-up, no-huddle system.  The one constant?  QB Paul Smith, the face of the Hurricane’s success since 2005, and easily the team’s most valuable player.  While not a tailor-made fit for the offense, he’s been the program’s savior this fall, accounting for 51 touchdowns, routinely bailing out a defense that’s been an old gold and royal blue sieve. 

UCF may be rolling, but it’s not the only hot team in this game.  Tulsa hasn’t lost since facing the Knights on Oct. 20, reeling off five in-a-row behind the nation’s No. 1 total offense, including a 56-7 rout of defending champ Houston that’ll go down as one of the most complete games in school history.  The Hurricane may need to summons up that kind of a total team effort to win this weekend at Bright House Networks, where the Knights have been fantastic all year.  

Players to watch: One of Tulsa’s biggest concerns entering the season was whether it would have enough quality receivers to effectively run Malzahn’s offense.  It took a couple of weeks, but when Smith’s favorite targets emerged, they quickly elevated into two of the most dangerous deep-ball threats in the league.  A pair of first-year players, true freshman Trae Johnson and JUCO transfer Brennan Marion, have combined for 93 catches and 21 touchdown receptions, averaging more than 22 yards a grab.  UCF is one of the only opposing secondaries Marion didn’t torch this season, something the junior is hoping to reverse the second time around.

UCF’s Smith has had a fantastic season, cranking out 2,164 yards and 25 touchdowns, but the junior would be the first to admit that he’s gotten plenty of help from an offensive line that features three All-Conference USA first teamers.  Tackles Josh Sitton and Patrick Brown, and center Kyle Smith have been the unsung heroes for a Knight offense that averaged 43 points over the second half of the season.  The line has consistently dominated at the point of attack, opening gaping holes for Smith, while keeping QB Kyle Israel from having to make plays from his back.  Like it did throughout the year, UCF will enjoy an edge in trenches against a Tulsa line that has DT Moton Hopkins, and a bunch of question marks.      

Tulsa will win if... Smith doesn’t throw any picks.  When he threw no more than one interception in a game this season, the Hurricane was 7-0.  In the five games he was picked at least twice, Tulsa was 2-3, struggling to even beat UAB and SMU.  Even for Smith, playing a mistake-free game won’t be easy against a ball-hawking and athletic UCF back seven that’s taken a whopping 17 passes the other way during the six-game winning streak.  

UCF will win if... Smith continues to run downhill.  The Knights best defense for stopping Tulsa will be a running game that can control the tempo of a game, and wear out most defenses.  Enter Smith, who’s been a locomotive since the opener at NC State, tearing through defenses that are far better than the one he’ll line up against this weekend.  The added bonus of 24K’s presence is that it opens up the field for Israel, who’ll play-action to death a leaky Tulsa secondary. 

What will happen: If defense and a strong running game still win championships, UCF will be popping the bubbly Saturday afternoon.  In the battle of the Smiths, Kevin will outplay Paul, rumbling for 175 yards and three scores in a coming-out performance for both he and the Knight program.

Line: UCF -7 ... CFN Prediction: UCF 41 ... Tulsa 31 

This year's first meeting
Oct. 20
UCF 44 ... Tulsa 23
Kevin Smith ran for scores from 13, 15, four and 44 yards out as UCF cruised comfortably to the win after the second quarter. Tulsa took a 14-10 lead early on thanks to two of Paul Smith's three touchdown passes, but the Golden Knight defense took over just as Kevin Smith started to heat up. The Golden Hurricane only gained 379 yards of total offense and got down 41-17 before getting back on the board with a nine-yard Cameron Clemons catch.
Player of the game: UCF RB Kevin Smith ran 33 times for 170 yards an three touchdowns
Stat Leaders: UCF - Passing: Kyle Israel, 21-29, 224 yds,1 TD
Rushing: Kevin Smith, 33-170, 3 TD. Receiving: Sergio Joachim, 9-98
Tulsa - Passing: Paul Smith, 34-56, 316 yds, 3 TD, 4 INT
Tarrion Adams, 10-47. Receiving: Dion Toliver, 8-56

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The defense isn't getting any better. UCF's Kevin Smith is going to run on everyone, but for the Golden Hurricane to struggle so much against Kyle Israel and the passing game shows just how bad things are. If the offense isn't humming, the results will be disastrous. Winning out is a must to have any hopes of navigating through the traffic and win the West, and to do that, the D has to come up with at least one stop at some point. Just one.

2006 Conference USA Championship
Houston 34 ... Southern Miss 20
Houston scored 14 points in the second half on a 46-yard Kevin Kolb touchdown run and a 33-yard pass to Biren Ealy to pull away for good and win the Conference USA title. Southern Miss couldn't get the offense moving in the second half managing only a 31-yard Darren McCaleb field goal after rolling in the first half. Jeremy Young threw an eight-yard touchdown pass to Chris Johnson and ran for an eight-yard score. Jackie Battle and Vincent Marshall each ran for first half scores.
Player of the game ... Houston QB Kevin Kolb completed 19 of 31 passes for 258 yards and two touchdowns and ran five times for 37 yards and a touchdown
Stat Leaders: Houston - Passing: Kevin Kolb, 19-31, 258 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: Kevin Kolb, 5-37, 1 TD  Receiving: Vincent Marshall, 8-100
Southern Miss - Passing: Jeremy Young, 17-32, 186 yds, 1 TD
Damion Fletcher, 15-90  Receiving:
Ed Morgan, 4-49


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