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C-USA Fearless Predictions, Sept. 15, Part 2
Posted Sep 13, 2007

Previews and Predictions for the Week 3 Conference USA Games, Part 2

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. 22 | Sept. 29 
Oct. 6Oct. 13 | Oct. 20Oct. 27 | Nov. 3Nov. 10 | Nov. 17Nov. 24Dec. 1 

How are the picks so far? SU: 16-4 ... ATS: 12-7

Conference USA Fearless Predictions, Week Three, Part 1

Conference USA Saturday, Sept. 15

SMU (1-1) at Arkansas State (0-1)  7:00 PM
Why to watch: Arkansas State’s anticipated follow-up to almost knocking off Texas in the opener never happened last weekend.  The Indians game with Memphis was postponed due to severe weather, and was rescheduled for Sept. 27.  Two weeks ago, they lost to the Longhorns 21-13, out gaining the 40-point favorites by almost 50 yards.  Was Arkansas State overlooked or laying the groundwork for a Sun Belt Conference title run?  Saturday’s visit from SMU will begin to answer that question.  The Mustangs righted their ship last Saturday, beating North Texas five days after being trounced by Texas Tech in front of the home crowd.  With a road game at TCU next week, they’re staring at a 1-3 start if they don’t get out of Jonesboro with a victory.
Why SMU might win: After starting slowly, Justin Willis and the SMU offense began finding its groove last Saturday night.  Willis threw for a career-high 353 yards and two touchdowns on 30-of-42 passing, spreading the ball around and making plays when the pocket broke down.  He’ll get help from DeMyron Martin, a big back that’ll soften the weakest area of the Arkansas State defense, the front seven.
Why Arkansas State might win: Okay, it doesn’t help to open with Texas Tech and North Texas, but the SMU pass defense has been downright hideous, allowing over 1,000 yards and seven touchdown passes in just two games.  That’s good news for Indian QB Corey Leonard, who was sharp in and out of the pocket two weeks ago against a far better Texas defense.  Arkansas State will also move the ball on the ground as well with Reggie Arnold facing off with a Mustang defense that’s totally rebuilt up front.
Who to watch: When SMU receivers run patterns Saturday night, they better know where S Tyrell Johnson is at all times.  The Sun Belt’s pre-season Defensive Player of the Year is a force out of the secondary with the cover skills of a cornerback.  Against Texas, he led the way on defense with 14 tackles and an interception.
What will happen: In games against common opponents, sort of, SMU got housed by Texas Tech, and Arkansas State went toe-to-toe with Texas.  The Indians will be up for another challenge, using a balanced offense and a veteran secondary to hold off the Mustangs in a tight game.
CFN Prediction: Arkansas State 30 … SMU 26 ... Line: Arkansas State -3
Must See Rating: (5 Britney at the VMAs - 1 Big Shots) ... 2

BYU (1-1) at Tulsa (1-0)
  9:00 PM CSTV
Why to watch: While Tulsa hasn’t played in two weeks, BYU enters this game battle-tested, having beaten Arizona and lost a close one to UCLA that ended the school’s 11-game winning streak.  There’ll be no time to sulk for the Cougars, who must go on the road this Saturday to play a Hurricane team that remembers how badly it was beaten in Provo last year.  Tulsa has had two weeks to continue fine-tuning Gus Malzahn’s hurry-up, no-huddle offense.  Although progress was seen throughout the opening day win over Louisiana-Monroe, the Hurricane will have to turn things up a notch or two this Saturday against a BYU defense that’s only allowed 34 points in a pair of games with Pac-10 teams.
Why BYU might win: The Cougars are going to run the ball until Tulsa proves it can stop them, the same formula that worked so well last September.  The Hurricane couldn’t stop Monroe’s Calvin Dawson earlier this month, and will have even more problems with a massive BYU front wall that’ll create daylight for Manase Tonga, Harvey Unga and Fui Vakapuna.  If Tulsa attempts to stack the line, QB Max Hall, who leads the Mountain West in total offense, will make it pay through the air.
Why Tulsa might win: Sure, BYU can move the ball, but can it turn yards into enough points to out score an improving Tulsa offense?  The Cougars are 49th nationally in total offense, but only 93rd in scoring offense because of breakdowns and silly penalties in opposing territory.  Hurricane QB Paul Smith is a heady game manager who’ll spread the ball around to his backs and receivers, while limiting costly mistakes and turnovers.
Who to watch: Coming off a seven-catch, two-touchdown effort against a really good UCLA defense, BYU’s Austin Collie is beginning to play like the receiver he was before leaving for a Mormon mission.  He’s going to be Hall’s preferred target again on Saturday night, and might even pitch in on a Cougar special teams unit that had way too many gaffes last weekend.
What will happen: The balance of the BYU offense is going to be too much for a Tulsa defense that’s rock solid at linebacker, yet questionable elsewhere.  While the Hurricane’s hurry-up attack has a bright future, it’ll take a step backwards against a fundamentally sound Cougar defense.
CFN Prediction: BYU 27 … Tulsa 17 ... Line: BYU -6.5
Must See Rating: (5 Britney at the VMAs - 1 Big Shots) ... 2.5

Alcorn State (0-2) at UAB (0-2)
  7:00 PM
Why to watch: While it’s not going to show up in the standings, UAB showed dramatic improvement from a 55-18 loss to Michigan State in the opener, playing Florida State to a stalemate deep into the third quarter.  For a program that has a first-year head coach and a ton of underclassmen in key spots, it was a sign of progress and something to build upon.  Following two tough road games, the Blazers now return home with a rare opportunity this season to play the role of favorite.  Alcorn State out of the I-AA SWAC is 0-2 as well, but lopsided losses to Grambling State and Arkansas-Pine Bluff are problem signs for a program that was picked in pre-season polls to finish third in the league’s Eastern Division.                                           
Why Alcorn State might win: You can’t blame the Brave defense for the program’s slow start in 2007.  Alcorn State has played well, despite constantly being on the field and having to clean up the offense’s mess.  Led by LBs Antonio Cooper and Lee Robinson, an All-America candidate, the Braves had ten sacks last weekend, which is going to cause problems for an unproven UAB offensive line that has six underclassmen in the two-deep.  
Why UAB might win: The numbers won’t bear it out yet, but the Blazers are getting better on defense, in large part due to the return of FS Will Dunbar, who had 17 tackles and an interception return for a touchdown in Tallahassee.  The positive trend for UAB will continue against an Alcorn State offense that’s managed just 13 points and 116 rushing yards in a pair of games versus average defensive units.  After playing Michigan State and Florida State, the Alcorn State attack is going to look like a pick-up team to UAB.              
Who to watch: UAB coach Neil Calloway didn’t want to make Joseph Webb his starting quarterback, yet wanted his athleticism on the field, so he moved him to wide receiver in August.  So far, the move looks like a stroke of genius.  While still a work-in-progress at the new position, he leads the Blazers with 12 catches for 187 yards and two touchdown receptions.                              
What will happen: In dire need of a feel-good game, UAB will get a touchdown run and pass from QB Sam Hunt, while taking out two weeks of frustration on hapless Alcorn State.
CFN Prediction: UAB 36 … Alcorn State 10 ... Line: No Line
Must See Rating: (5 Britney at the VMAs - 1 Big Shots) ... 1

Texas (2-0) at UCF (1-0)  3:30 pm ESPN2
Why to watch: Cinderella took it on the chin last week, as Boise State, TCU and Southern Miss lost, and Hawaii was taken to overtime by Louisiana Tech.  Might UCF be able to fill the void?  Although it’ll take a Herculean effort against sixth-ranked Texas, the Knights will be emboldened by an opening day win at NC State and the unveiling of their new on-campus digs, Bright House Networks Stadium.  George O’Leary is trying to engineer a rebound from last year’s disappointing 4-8 campaign, and would like nothing more than to knock South Florida from the back page for a weekend.  Texas is unblemished through two games, but it hasn’t been easy.  The ‘Horns had their hands full with Arkansas State in the opener, and trailed TCU in the second half before pulling away with 27 unanswered points.  In two weeks, Texas has slipped behind Oklahoma in the polls and court of public opinion, and would benefit from a wire-to-wire rout.
Why Texas might win: If you can stop Kevin Smith, you’re well on your way to shutting down the UCF offense.  The Knights’ star back opened with 217 yards and two touchdowns in Raleigh, but will find very little running room against the stout interior of the Texas defense.  Tackles Frank Okam and Derek Lokey will dominate the line of scrimmage, putting intense pressure on QB Kyle Israel and a suspect group of receivers to make plays.  The speed and quickness of the Longhorn linebackers is another mountain of a problem that UCF won’t be able to scale.
Why UCF might win: Through two weeks, Texas has displayed no consistency on the offensive side of the ball.  Against Arkansas State, the ‘Horns had problems moving the ball on the ground.  Last week versus TCU, they were picked off twice and shut out for the first 33 minutes of the game.  Despite getting good protection, Colt McCoy has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns in 2007, and will get tested by a Knight secondary that features four returning starters.
Who to watch: Very quietly, Texas RB Jamaal Charles has run for 100 yards in both games, which is once more than he did it last year.  The catalyst in last week’s TCU win, he’s averaging over five yards a carry, a luxury for the offense as McCoy works through his early season struggles.
What will happen: While there’ll be an air of excitement for one of the biggest games in UCF history, it won’t be enough to spark a Knight upset.  Texas will win the battle on the ground, frustrating Smith and springing Charles for a couple of crowd-quieting bursts.
CFN Prediction: Texas 35 … UCF 13 ... Line: Texas -19 
Must See Rating: (5 Britney at the VMAs - 1 Big Shots) ... 2.5

UTEP (1-1) at New Mexico State (1-1)  8:00 PM
Why to watch: There’ll be plenty of balls in the air Saturday night as UTEP and New Mexico State renew their I-10 rivalry in Las Cruces.  With Mike Price and Hal Mumme on the sidelines, anything can and will happen on the offensive side of the ball.  The Miners have had somewhat of a strange start to the season, upsetting New Mexico in a defensive struggle before losing a close game with Texas Tech in a shootout.  On a team that’s loaded with new starters everywhere, consistency and sustained excellence is going to be a problem in 2007.  New Mexico State nearly authored an upset of its own at rival New Mexico last Saturday, but faded in the fourth quarter.  While the Aggies are piling up the passing numbers as expected, they’ll need QB Chase Holbrook to cut down on his picks for the team to be successful this fall.  New Mexico State travels to Auburn next week, making a win this week that much more critical to the program’s big picture.
Why UTEP might win: The Miners entered this season committed to more balance on offense, especially with a new starter under center.  So far, they’ve been up to the challenge, which is going to cause problems for a suspect Aggie D.  Marcus Thomas, Terrell Jackson, and Donald Buckram form a solid trio of backs for UTEP, and when part-time QB Lorne Sam leaves the pocket, New Mexico State won’t have the athletes to catch him.  The Miners ran for 215 yards against Texas Tech last week, a trend that’ll continue, if for nothing else to keep Holbrook & Co. on the sidelines.
Why New Mexico State might win: In its first test this season against a pass-happy offense, the young UTEP defense failed, allowing 484 yards passing to Graham Harrell and Texas Tech.  What’s worse is the fact that the Miners’ rebuilt front seven has produced just one sack despite facing more than 100 passes this season.  Holbrook will have all day to survey the UTEP defense, and throw strikes to his favorite receivers, Chris Williams and Derek Dubois.  If the Miners get roped into a track meet, their passing game isn’t quite ready to keep up.
Who to watch: While it doesn’t happen that often, when New Mexico State decides to run the ball, it’s having a lot of success this month.  Credit for that goes to sophomore Tonny Glynn, who’s averaging more than ten yards on his 16 carries.  As a change-of-pace, UTEP must now pay attention to the occasional inside hand-off that Glynn can take for big chunks of real estate.
What will happen: In one of the more entertaining games this weekend that no one outside the region will watch, the Aggies and Miners will trade punches for four quarters.  Unlike last weekend, Holbrook will protect the ball in the final frame, leading New Mexico State to an emotional victory.
CFN Prediction: New Mexico State 34 … UTEP 31 ... Line: New Mexico State -6.5
Must See Rating: (5 Britney at the VMAs - 1 Big Shots) ... 2

Conference USA Fearless Predictions, Week Three, Part 1


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