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C-USA Fearless Predictions, Sept. 22, Part 2
Posted Sep 20, 2007

Previews and Predictions for the Week 4 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. 15 | Sept. 29 
Oct. 6Oct. 13 | Oct. 20Oct. 27 | Nov. 3Nov. 10 | Nov. 17Nov. 24Dec. 1   

How are the picks so far? SU: 23-7 ... ATS: 16-10

Conference USA Week Four Predictions, Part 1

Conference USA Saturday, Sept. 22

SMU (2-1) at TCU (2-1)  8:30 PM CSTV
Why to watch
: After three games, few schools other than Michigan and Notre Dame have been more disappointing this season than TCU.  Ranked to start the season and considered by many to be the premier non-BCS program of 2007, the Horned Frogs disappeared in the second half of the Texas game and then lost the Mountain West opener to Air Force.  With dreams of a BCS bowl run long gone, they’ve got to refocus on the fly before a once-promising season completely slips away.  Long-time rival SMU has some regrouping of its own to do if it has any chance for a bowl game.  The Mustangs’ only win of the year over lowly North Texas has been sandwiched by disheartening losses to Texas Tech and Arkansas State.  While the offense is displaying a pulse, the defense has been horrid, showing no sign that it’s adapting to wholesale turnover along the defensive line.
Why SMU might win: If star RB Aaron Brown can’t get back on the field, the Horned Frogs simply don’t appear capable of out scoring the Mustangs the way they’re currently constructed.  Freshman Andy Dalton has been ineffective behind center, and Brown’s replacements in the backfield have not hit holes with any authority.  TCU is averaging just 19 points a game, which won’t be enough against an SMU offense that’s begun to percolate with Justin Willis at the controls.  The Mustangs have scored 73 points over the last two weeks, getting six touchdown passes and 760 total yards from their sophomore leader.
Why TCU might win: Yes, the Frogs are stumbling on offense, but the Mustangs will be the perfect remedy.  SMU is allowing almost 42 points a game, and is ranked 117th in the country in total defense.  Arkansas State just got done shredding the feeble unit for 516 balanced yards and 45 points in a runaway victory.  Even with issues on a patchwork offensive line and Brown at less than 100%, TCU will find away to get healthy at the expense of one of the nation’s most hapless defenses.
Who to watch: This is a turning point game for Dalton, who has the support of the coaching staff, but needs to start making better decisions and more plays downfield.  His interception late in regulation as the Frogs were driving for the win is the type of play that needs to be corrected.  Against an SMU defense that won’t apply much pressure and is horrible in coverage, Dalton should have the best game of his brief career.
What will happen: Defense still wins games, and in that area, the Horned Frogs enjoy a decided advantage over SMU.  They’ll keep Willis from going berserk, and get enough on offense to prevent a three-game losing streak.
CFN Prediction: TCU 35 … SMU 10 ... Line: TCU -19.5
Must See Rating: (5 Curb Your Enthusiasm - 1 Kid Nation) ...

Colorado State (2-1) at Houston (2-1)
  4:30 PM CSTV
Why to watch: A couple of the nation’s better mid-major backs, Colorado State’s Kyle Bell and Houston’s Anthony Alridge, will be on display as these two schools meet for the first time in 34 years.  The Cougars rebounded from an opening day loss to Oregon by beating up Tulane to get a jump start on the rest of the Conference USA West.  No one quarterback can replace Houston’s Kevin Kolb, so Art Briles is trying two, using sophomore Blake Joseph and redshirt freshman Case Keenum extensively in both games.  Colorado State is winless this season, but could very easily be 2-0 after losing to Colorado and Cal by a combined nine points.  Although the Rams are clearly a better team than the 2006 edition, no one is going to pay attention until they begin executing better in the red zone and end the current nine-game losing streak that started last October.
Why Colorado State might win: The Houston defense is plenty fast, but it’s still prone to giving up the big play and isn’t very stingy against the better running teams.  Oregon gashed the Cougars for 339 yards on the ground two weeks ago, so look for Bell to soften the unit with about 30 carries and 125 yards.  Bell’s return has also helped QB Caleb Hanie, who’s completing 70% of his passes and has thrown four touchdown passes in the first two games.  The keys for Hanie will be to protect the ball in Houston territory and find a new go-to guy now that TE Kory Sperry is out for the year.
Why Houston might win: It’s one thing to allow a couple of homers to Cal, but when the feeble Colorado offense zings you for 31 points, your defense is going to be vulnerable to quick-strike offenses, such as Houston’s.  Alridge makes defensive coordinators change gameplans, and the two-headed quarterback is beginning to develop a rhythm with a talented receiving corps that includes WRs Jeron Harvey and Donnie Avery, and TE Mark Hafner.  Colorado State has gotten very little penetration in the early going, which presents a problem against this fleet-footed Cougar offense. 
Who to watch: Healthy again after missing most of last season, Houston’s high-motor, hard-hitting S Rocky Schwartz is back to making plays again for the Cougar defense.  After tallying six tackles a week ago in New Orleans, he’ll be counted on this week to cheat up a little in order to gang up on Bell.
What will happen: Until Colorado State can start learning how to win close games, it’s going to find ways to lose, especially away from Fort Collins.  Houston will get another banner all-purpose day from Alridge to ward off the challenge from the Rams.     
CFN Prediction: Houston 36 … Colorado State 27... Line: Houston -7
Must See Rating: (5 Curb Your Enthusiasm - 1 Kid Nation) ...

Southeastern Louisiana (2-1) at Tulane (2-1)
  7:00 PM
Why to watch
: It’s not often these days that Tulane is expected to win a game, so it better deliver this Saturday night when I-AA Southeastern Louisiana makes the one-hour trip south to the Superdome.  Although new head coach Bob Toledo sees progress in his first year with the Green Wave, it sure isn’t evident in the box scores.  Tulane has been outscored 72-27 in losses to Mississippi State and Houston, and never led at any point in either game.  Hosting a second-division foe will allow the Green Wave a chance to work on a few things, namely to get acclimated with an offense that’s shifting from one-back sets to more traditional formations that include a fullback and a tight end.  Southeastern Louisiana is coming off a record-setting, 79-7 win over Division II Kentucky Weslyan.  It was a confidence-builder for a Lion program that was destroyed by New Mexico State and Kansas in its first two games.
Why Southeastern Louisiana might win: With the passing of Brian Babin and the dual-threat potential of RB Jay Lucas, the Lions are capable of hurting a Tulane defense that lacks size and speed, and is ranked 109th in the country.  On defense, Southeastern Louisiana is a frenetic bunch that’s twice picked off four passes in a game this month, and has the speed to rattle QB Scott Elliott with outside pressure.
Why Tulane might win: The Green Wave is actually doing a surprisingly good job of protecting Elliott, who’ll have the time to pick apart a secondary that gave up seven touchdown passes in its other two games this month with I-A opponents.  The Lions lack the size up front to hold up at the point of attack, meaning Tulane RB Matt Forte will be the workhorse en route to 100 yards on the ground and another 50 yards catching passes out of the backfield.
Who to watch: Tulane freshman Casey Robottom isn’t very big, but he’s quickly growing into one of the team’s top receivers.  One week after catching the first four passes of his career and being named the team’s offensive player of the week, he’ll keep the momentum going against an overmatched Lion secondary.
What will happen: This is Tulane, where nothing comes easy.  The Green Wave will have a few unsettling moments before Forte literally carries it to the first win of the 2007 season.
CFN Prediction: Tulane 37 … SE Louisiana 23... Line: No Line
Must See Rating: (5 Curb Your Enthusiasm - 1 Kid Nation) ...

Texas Southern (2-1) at UTEP (2-1)
  9:05 PM
Why to watch
: Three close, draining games with regional rivals has UTEP pining for a lightweight, such as Texas Southern, before the Conference USA opener begins next week with a trip to SMU.  With a well-timed stop here or a conversion there, the Miners could be above .500 entering this week’s game.  Instead, they’re hoping to get healthy, physically and emotionally, at the expense of a I-AA opponent, while trying to correct breakdowns on the defensive side of the ball.  Texas Southern sees its trip to El Paso as an opportunity to make local headlines, and generate something positive in an otherwise dreadful start to the 2007 season.  The Tigers are 0-3, coming off uninspired losses to Prairie View, Alabama State, and Jackson State.
Why Texas Southern might win: If UTEP plans to move the ball Saturday night, it’s probably going to happen on the ground.  QB Trevor Vittatoe and the nation’s 85th-ranked passing attack have been slow to evolve, and they won’t get a free ride just because the Tigers are in town.  Texas Southern is No. 8 in the country in pass defense, while picking off twice as many passes as touchdowns allowed.  The onus for moving the chains will fall to Terrell Jackson, Marcus Thomas, and Donald Buckram, who’ve been collectively so-so this year.
Why UTEP might win: Texas Southern can’t score, even against a shaky Miner defense.  The Tigers’ ground game has been just slightly more productive than the one in South Bend, and the quarterbacks have thrown more than twice as many interceptions as touchdowns.  Playing with a lead for a change will be good for a UTEP offense that hasn’t been able to relax and just execute all season.  At some point in the game, Miner defenders Quintin Demps and Braxton Amy will remind observers why they form the most dangerous safety tandem in Conference USA.
Who to watch: After sitting out most of last year with a broken leg, UTEP LB Jeremy Jones is beginning to play like he did in 2005, making plays in every direction and disrupting opposing running games.  Twice this fall, he’s had 13 tackles in a game, great news for a defense that has unproven players littered throughout the front seven.
What will happen: For the first time this season, UTEP will breathe a sigh of relief, getting support from the passing and running games, and a defensive effort that’ll help improve its unattractive three-game totals.
CFN Prediction: UTEP 47 … Texas Southern 10 ... Line: No Line
Must See Rating: (5 Curb Your Enthusiasm - 1 Kid Nation) ...

Conference USA Week Four Predictions, Part 1

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