C-USA Fearless Predictions, Oct. 13, Part 2

Posted Oct 11, 2007

Previews and Predictions for the Week 7 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. 6Oct. 20Oct. 27 | Nov. 3Nov. 10 | Nov. 17Nov. 24Dec. 1   

How are the picks so far? SU: 40-13 ... ATS: 25-21-1

C-USA Fearless Predictions, Week 7, Part 1

Conference USA Saturday, October 13th

Tulane (1-4) at UAB (1-4)  7:00 EST
Why to watch: If Tulane and UAB hope to escape the cellar in the West and East, respectively, they’d better nab this winnable game while it’s out there.  Both schools have only managed wins over FCS opponents in 2007, so this is a rare chance to flex their muscles in a meaningful game.  The Green Wave will be trying to rebound from an excruciating loss at Army, in which the Cadets got to overtime on a Hail Mary pass on the final play of regulation.  Tulane RB Matt Forte is good enough to be on your fantasy team in two or three years, so you might as well do some advanced scouting now.  Yes, the Blazers are 1-4, but if you peel the onion on their season, you’ll notice that they’ve played pretty well, even in losses to Florida State, Tulsa, and Mississippi State.  Although it won’t show up in the standings, UAB is gradually evolving under first-year coach Neil Callaway with youth everywhere, and will be markedly better in 2008.
Why Tulane might win: The Alcorn State game aside, UAB has been a sieve in run defense, allowing 221 yards a game.  Forte, now No. 4 nationally in rushing, will perforate the soft underbelly of the Blazer interior for at least 30 carries and at least 150 yards.  The improved Green Wave pass rush, which has 16 sacks over the last three games, will track down UAB QB Sam Hunt, who’s being asked to stay in the pocket because of an injured left shoulder.  The bookend of Antonio Harris and Adam Kwentua has been the catalyst for Tulane’s recent success creating pressure.
Why UAB might win: Against far superior competition, the young Blazer defense has held up surprisingly well since getting scorched by Michigan State in the opener.  It’s picked off two passes in each of the last three games, and will have no issues stopping inexperienced Tulane QB Anthony Scelfo and Conference USA’s worst passing game.  Even with the bum non-throwing shoulder, Hunt has been playing well while developing a nice rhythm with freshman WR Frantrell Forrest.  He’ll have success moving the ball on a Green Wave secondary that’s 90th nationally in pass efficiency defense.
Who to watch: LB Mike Tashman is a shining example of the youth movement taking place in Birmingham these days.  Only a true freshman, he’s rewarded the staff for giving him the job in the middle by leading the Blazers in solo stops and tackles for loss.  Built like a safety at just 6-0 and 210 pounds, he’ll need to bring his best to stop Forte on Saturday.
What will happen: After coming close in its last three losses, UAB is ready to break through with a win over a Tulane team that’s still smarting from last week’s loss at West Point.
CFN Prediction: UAB 27 ... Tulane 23... Line: UAB -3
Must See Rating: (5 Hideki Matsui's "collection" - 1 The Heartbreak Kid) ... 1.5

SMU (1-4) at Southern Miss (2-3)   7:30 EST
Why to watch: Hobbled by injuries and thoroughly frustrated by last week’s loss to 0-4 Rice, Southern Miss will be playing with its back against the wall this Saturday night.  The one-time favorites to win the Conference USA East have dropped below .500, and cannot afford another conference loss this early in the year.  The Eagles’ biggest headache is at quarterback, where starter Jeremy Young is out with a high ankle sprain, backup Stephen Reaves is playing through an abdominal strain, and third-stringer Martevious Young is done for the year with a broken right fibula.  If you’re in the Hattiesburg area and can take snaps, contact Jeff Bower.  SMU is set at quarterback with Justin Willis, but that’s where the stability stops in Dallas.  In what was being hailed as a breakthrough season, the Mustangs have been wretched, starting 1-4 and putting Phil Bennett’s career at the school in jeopardy.  Like Rice last week, SMU needs to use Southern Miss as a springboard for the rest of the season.
Why SMU might win: This is not your father’s Southern Miss defense.  The Eagles have allowed at least 21 points and two touchdown passes in each of the last four games, a trend Willis and backs DeMyron Martin and James Mapps are going to maintain.  Considering the problems Southern Miss is battling on offense, if it gets behind, like last week, it simply doesn’t have the consistency in the passing game to effectively from behind.
Why Southern Miss might win: The Eagles defense may have issues, but the SMU defense is really bad.  The Mustangs give up 498 yards a game, and are 114th nationally in scoring defense, a welcome sight for the embattled USM attack.  If Reaves is ineffective, count on seeing a steady diet of Damion Fletcher to the left and Damion Fletcher to the right.  The Eagles all-star back will toy with a rebuilt SMU front wall that couldn’t keep UTEP from rumbling for more than 300 yards on the ground two weeks ago.
Who to watch: As if he needs additional reasons to look for Shawn Nelson, Reaves’ inability to really heave the ball downfield makes the intermediate routes to his tight end a natural fit in this week’s gameplan.  Nelson has scored in each of the last three games, and will dominate an SMU pass defense that’s been riddled all season.
What will happen: Southern Miss has issues on both sides of the ball, so it’s a good thing that bumbling SMU is this week’s opponent.  Fletcher will be a one-man gang on the ground, running for 150 yards and two scores, and carrying the Eagles back to the .500 mark.
CFN Prediction: Southern Miss 31 ... SMU 17. Line: Southern Miss -9
Must See Rating: (5 Hideki Matsui's "collection" - 1 The Heartbreak Kid) ... 1.5

Middle Tennessee (1-5) at Memphis (2-3)  8:00 EST
Why to watch: After defeating Marshall just two days after the violent death of a teammate, Memphis has a chance to get to the .500 mark at the halfway point of the season.  While it may not seem like much, it would represent a step in the right direction for a program that won just two games a year ago.  Tommy West is saying otherwise, but the Tigers could be headed toward a full-blown quarterback controversy starting this weekend.  While starter Martin Hankins might return from a hip pointer this week, his backup, Will Hudgens, impressed in last week’s victory, going 30-of-45 for 346 yards and two touchdowns.  More important, he didn’t throw a pick, something that’s plagued Hankins throughout his college career.  As 1-5 teams go, Middle Tennessee has been no pushover this fall.  The Blue Raiders slapped 42 points on Louisville, held up well at LSU, and came within a last-second field goal from knocking off Virginia last Saturday.  In multi-dimensional true freshman QB Dwight Dasher, they also have a potential cornerstone player to build around for the next four seasons.
Why Middle Tennessee might win: Dasher couldn’t be more appropriately named, using his legs and shifty moves to break down opposing defenses, such as Memphis, which is giving up 412 yards and 30 points a game.  He’s led the team in rushing the last three games without committing a turnover.  Since escaping the gauntlet of Louisville and LSU, the Blue Raiders D has performed beyond expectations, allowing just 49 points in three games and clamping down on opposing quarterbacks.  Whoever takes snaps for the Tigers will have a difficult time moving the ball on a veteran MT secondary.
Why Memphis might win: The Tiger passing game may not go ballistic Saturday night, but it will do enough to keep drives going and move the team into scoring position.  Over the last four games, Memphis has thrown nine touchdown passes and just one pick, aided by the healthy return of top receiver Duke Calhoun.  The Tigers won’t need to light up the scoreboard to defeat a Middle Tennessee team that hasn’t been able to establish a running game and has been held to 21 or fewer points four times this season.
Who to watch: Headed by Calhoun, Memphis has a very deep and sizable corps of receivers that’ll challenge opposing secondaries the entire year.  When Calhoun was out, Maurice Jones, Steven Black, and Carlos Singleton stepped up their games, and now that the headliner is back, the Tigers have one of the best group of pass-catchers in Conference USA.
What will happen: Beating Marshall a week ago signaled a turning point in the season for Memphis.  While not ready to challenge in the East, the Tigers will get enough from the passing game to get past an inconsistent Middle Tennessee State that’s playing away from home for the first time in a month.                 
CFN Prediction: Memphis 38 ... Middle Tennessee 21. Line: Memphis -4
Must See Rating: (5 Hideki Matsui's "collection" - 1 The Heartbreak Kid) ... 1.5

C-USA Fearless Predictions, Week 7, Part 1