C-USA Fearless Predictions, Oct. 6, Part 2

Posted Oct 4, 2007

Previews and Predictions for the Week 6 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. 15Sept. 22 | Sept. 29 
Oct. 13 | Oct. 20Oct. 27 | Nov. 3Nov. 10 | Nov. 17Nov. 24Dec. 1   

How are the picks so far? SU: 37-9 ... ATS: 23-16-1

C-USA Fearless Predictions, Week 6, Part 1

Conference USA Saturday, October 6th

Houston (2-2) at Alabama (3-2)  3:00 PM ET GamePlan
Why to watch: After going through a three-game gauntlet of Arkansas, Georgia, and Florida State, Alabama gets a relative break with a visit this week from Houston.  The Tide quickly raised expectations after beating the Hogs in the final seconds, but has settled back closer to reality with tight losses to the Dawgs and the ‘Noles.  ‘Bama will try to use this week’s visit from the Cougars to work on its most pressing issues, namely the play of QB John Parker Wilson and problems with the defense and special teams, before resuming SEC play next week.  Houston continues to be tough to read in its first season after the graduation of franchise QB Kevin Kolb.  Although his replacements, Case Keenum and Blake Joseph, have flashed potential, the defense has had too many lapses, and last week’s excruciating 37-35 home loss to East Carolina could come back to haunt the defending Conference USA champs.
Why Houston might win: The Cougars have enough weapons in its complex offense to put a dent in an Alabama defense that’s at least a year away from being up to Nick Saban’s usual standards.  The Tide has soft spots on the interior, and has allowed seven touchdown passes over the last three games.  Houston will counter with Anthony Alridge, one of the fastest backs in the country, and an improving passing game that averages 281 yards through the air and features standout receiver Donnie Avery.  Keenum hurt his hand last week, but is expected to play on Saturday. If he can’t go, there’s minimal drop-off to Joseph, who went 24-of-29 for 250 yards and two touchdowns out of the bullpen versus East Carolina.
Why Alabama might win: The Houston defense had trouble throughout September stopping opponents, such as Alabama, that can move the chains on the ground or through the air.  The Cougars allowed an average of 34 points in games with Oregon, Colorado State, and East Carolina, only having success when it traveled to lowly Tulane.  Look for a rebound from Wilson, who’ll make good use of WR D.J. Hall, and a fourth career 100-yard day from freshman RB Terry Grant.  If Houston can’t cut down on its turnovers and special teams blunders, the Tide will roll all afternoon.
Who to watch: Alabama LBs Rolando McClain and Ezekial Knight have been two of the bright spots on a defense that’s been just slightly above average.  The team’s top two tacklers, respectively, display great lateral quickness and a knack for making plays behind the line of scrimmage.  McClain and Knight will be keeping a close watch on Alridge to be sure Houston homerun hitter stays in the park.
What will happen: While Houston will move the ball, Alabama will be able to answer with a diverse offense that’ll keep the Cougars defense guessing.  Grant will upstage Alridge with 125 yards rushing and a couple of mad dashes to the end zone.
CFN Prediction: Alabama 36 ... Houston 23 ... Line: Alabama -11
Must See Rating: (5 Paris on Letterman - 1 Singing Bee) ... 2.5

Tulane (1-3) at Army (2-3)
  7:00 PM ESPNU
Why to watch: With a victory this week, Army can get even after six games for just the second time in the past decade.  Okay, so the first two wins came against Rhode Island and Temple, but this is West Point where a win’s a win.  Beating the Owls soundly a week ago snapped the Cadets’ nine-game losing streak against FBS opponents and gave rookie coach Stan Brock his most complete victory with the Academy.  Although Tulane lost to LSU last Saturday, the 34-9 final score doesn’t indicate that the Green Wave played with passion and actually had a lead just before halftime.  While it got pasted in the second half by the nation’s No. 2 team, the strong effort was an indication that first-year head coach Bob Toledo is making some progress in his new job.  In terms of next level potential, Tulane RB Matt Forte is a hidden gem who wouldn’t be so anonymous playing in a larger venue and with better blocking.
Why Tulane might win: Led by Antonio Harris and Reggie Scott, the Green Wave pass rush has been remarkable the last two weeks, racking up 11 sacks, including a half dozen against LSU last Saturday.  Tulane will manhandle a very limited Army offensive line, forcing young QB Carson Williams into costly mistakes.  The Cadets have one of the nation’s worst offenses, averaging just 272 yards and 18 points a game, and have been careless with the football.
Why Army might win: The Army defense has been surprisingly effective this season, allowing just 21 points a game, while even keeping Boston College from going wild two weeks ago.  Led by hard-hitting safety Caleb Campbell, the Cadets will be able to contain a Tulane attack that has Forte, but not a whole lot else.  The Green Wave is already on its second quarterback, sophomore Anthony Scelfo, and is putting up just 12 points a game versus FBS opponents.  Without balance, it’ll struggle to sustain drives against a fundamentally-sound Army D that brings the payload.
Who to watch: The closest thing the Cadets have to a gamebreaker on offense is WR Jeremy Trimble, who leads the team in receptions and is a dangerous punt returner, averaging 20 yards a return after taking one back for six last week.  He’ll have to remain a security blanket for Williams, who’s developing slowly as the starter.
What will happen: Tulane’s first trip of the year away from the Superdome will not be a prosperous one.  Army will force a bunch of three-and-outs, winning a close one on an Owen Tolson field goal.
CFN Prediction: Army 22 … Tulane 20 ... Line: Army -6.5
Must See Rating: (5 Paris on Letterman - 1 Singing Bee) ... 1.5

UAB (1-3) at Mississippi State (3-2)  2:30 PM ET
Why to watch: Although Mississippi State’s three-game winning streak came to an end in Columbia last Saturday, the program continues to take baby steps in Sylvester Croom’s fourth season in Starkville.  If the Bulldogs are going to maintain their slim hopes for a sixth win and bowl eligibility, they’ve got to dispose of UAB, the last team they’ll be favored to beat until Ole Miss visits in the Egg Bowl on Nov. 23.  At the rate quarterbacks are going down, the team might also want to begin formulating a Plan C and D at the position.  Starter Michael Henig has a broken hand and his backup, Josh Riddell, tore knee ligaments last week, leaving Croom with a pair of freshmen on this week’s two deep.  While it’s going to be a painfully long year at UAB, rookie head coach Neil Callaway likes where his team is headed, and appreciates the effort his young kids are putting forth.  Since getting blown out by Michigan State in the opener, the Blazers have lost to Florida State by 10, shut out Alcorn State, and lost to Tulsa by eight.  Considering the turnover from last year, things could be much worse.
Why UAB might win: There’s no quit in the Blazers, something that’s been evident over the last three weeks.  The running game has shown signs of life in each of the last two games, and assuming they’re healthy, QBs Sam Hunt and Joseph Webb are a pair of dual-threats that can make plays against the Mississippi State defense.  With third-stringer Wesley Carroll taking snaps for the Bulldogs, Callaway’s defense can focus all of its attention on stopping RB Anthony Dixon without giving a second thought to the passing game.
Why Mississippi State might win: Even without the support of a passing attack, Dixon should find running room against a leaky UAB defense that’s giving up 236 yards a game on the ground.  He’s a horse that’s already run for 434 yards and six touchdowns, and has the size to wear down the opposition in the second half.  In the three games the Blazers have played against FBS opponents, they’ve allowed over 900 yards on the ground, a flashing red flag heading into this week’s game.
Who to watch: A Blazer offensive line that’s allowing its quarterbacks to be treated like piñatas this season will get to know Bulldog DE Titus Brown real early in Saturday’s game.  A relentless pass rusher off the edge, Brown has eight tackles for loss and an SEC-high six sacks, numbers that are going to increase with UAB in town.
What will happen: If the Mississippi State line does its job, Dixon will score a couple of times and surpass his career high of 131 yards rushing established earlier this year.  In moral victories, UAB will move to 4-1.  In the real world, however, the Blazers will slip to 1-4.
CFN Prediction: Mississippi State 31 ... UAB 16 ... Line: Mississippi State -19
Must See Rating: (5 Paris on Letterman - 1 Singing Bee) ... 1.5

C-USA Fearless Predictions, Week 6, Part 1


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