C-USA Fearless Predictions, Oct. 27, Part 2

Posted Oct 25, 2007

Previews and Predictions for the Week 9 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. 13 | Oct. 20Nov. 3Nov. 10 | Nov. 17Nov. 24Dec. 1   

How are the picks so far? SU: 48-18 ... ATS: 31-27-1

C-USA Fearless Predictions, Week 9, Part 1

Conference USA Saturday, October 27th

Memphis (3-4) at Tulane (2-5)  3:00 EST
Why to watch: Can Tulane RB Matt Forte rush for more than 200 yards for a fourth straight game?  On the heels of a conference-record 342-yard day in last week’s upset of SMU, the senior will be the headliner and the focus of NFL scouts in Saturday’s game in the Superdome.  It was the second time this year that Forte rushed for more than 300 yards in a game, propelling him into the top spot among FBS rushers.  Memphis is also coming off a nice performance last Saturday, a 38-35 win over Rice and a rare road victory.  The Tigers have played relatively well in 2007, pulling within a game of .500 and already surpassing last season’s win total.  At 4-4, they’d be right in the mix in the East division, and not out of line to dream about a postseason game.
Why Memphis might win: The return to health of QB Martin Hankins and the recent play of RB Joseph Doss are harbingers of good news as Memphis prepares to visit Tulane.  The Green Wave’s 102nd-ranked pass defense has allowed 12 touchdown passes this year, and will wilt when faced with a Tiger attack that has tremendous depth and size at the receiver position.  While Tulane’s strength on defense is its pass rush, it’ll be neutralized by a Memphis offensive line that’s allowed just seven sacks all year.
Why Tulane might win: Forte is one of those offensive players that forces defensive coordinators to alter gameplans just to stop him.  He’s a pro-caliber back that gets better with more carries and is also a weapon as a receiver.  In Tulane’s two wins this season, Forte has rushed for 645 yards and nine touchdowns.  While another 300-yard day may be out of reach this weekend, he’ll stay on a roll versus a Memphis defense that ranks 81st in the country against the run.
Who to watch: Doss was a revelation for the offense a week ago, rushing for a career-high 175 yards and a score on 24 carries, nearly matching his season total in four quarters.  With a threat from the backfield, Memphis is substantially harder to contain and far less predictable.  If Doss can even approach that kind of output this Saturday, Hankins will be the one putting career numbers against the Tulane defense.
What will happen: Both defenses are horrible, but while Tulane is one-dimensional, Memphis has the potential for offensive balance.  That’ll be the difference in a game dominated by the offensive playmakers.
CFN Prediction: Memphis 35 … Tulane 27 ... Line: Tulane -1
Must See Rating: (5 America's Most Smartest Model - 1 Marie Osmond on DTWS) ... 1.5

Rice (1-6) at Marshall (0-7)  4:30 EST
Why to watch: Keep moving, folks.  Nothing to see here.  The seasons for Rice and Marshall have been one combined colossal car wreck, marked by pathetic defense, no running game, and just a single win in 14 tries.  Along with SMU, the loser of this game in Huntington will be a strong contender for worst Conference USA program of 2007, a distinction neither school cares to share.  Both offenses have enough talent at the skill positions to entertain what’ll be a small television audience and an uninspired crowd at Edwards Stadium.  Rice WR Jarett Dillard has caught seven touchdown passes and was a Biletnikoff finalist in 2006.  On the Marshall side, QB Bernard Morris is third in the league in total offense, and TE Cody Slate will be halfway to an NFL career once this season comes to a merciful end.
Why Rice might win: With Chase Clement playing catch with Dillard and Toren Dixon, the Owls will be able to move the chains on a 116th-ranked Marshall pass defense that’s allowed 14 touchdown passes and picked off just one, tied for fewest in the country.  With just seven sacks all season, the Herd doesn’t have the pass rush needed to disrupt Clement or force Rice into third-and-long situations.
Why Marshall might win: After coming close the last three weeks against Memphis, Tulsa, and Southern Miss, the Herd is ready to break through versus its most beatable opponent since the Sept. 15 visit from New Hampshire.  Rice, too, is struggling on defense, languishing at the bottom of Conference USA in pass, scoring, and total defense.  The Owls will have no answers for Morris’ dual-threat potential, or the running of Darius Marshall, a true freshman emerging as the program’s workhorse of the future.
Who to watch: Slate has more name recognition coming off last year’s monster freshman campaign, but junior college transfer Darius Passmore has emerged as Morris big-play receiver this fall.  He’s helped ignite the Marshall passing game with 38 catches for 521 yards and five touchdown passes in his debut season.  Rice is beatable on the boundary, meaning Passmore will cross the century mark in receiving yards for the second straight week and third time all year.
What will happen: As has been the case all year, the offenses will be way ahead of the defenses in a game that would be mildly entertaining if both teams weren’t out of bowl contention.  Marshall will snap its eight-game losing streak, getting the kind of production from Morris that Herd fans thought would be more frequent when he left Orlando for West Virginia.
CFN Prediction: Marshall 33 … Rice 31 ... Line: Marshall -8.5
Must See Rating: (5 America's Most Smartest Model - 1 Marie Osmond on DTWS) ... 1.5

Conference USA Sunday, October 28th

UCF (4-3) at Southern Miss (4-3)  8:00 EST, ESPN
Why to watch: Four teams in the East have just a single conference loss, two of which will be playing in Hattiesburg Sunday night.  With the season more than half over, it may not be too early to label this an elimination game in the division, especially for UCF, which lost to East Carolina earlier in the month.  The Knights are coming off their best game in a while, a 44-23 dismantling of Tulsa that ended an unsettling two-game losing streak.  The offense continues to be led by RB Kevin Smith, a 1,000-yard rusher that was leading the country on the ground before Tulane’s Matt Forte shredded SMU for 342 yards.  Southern Miss appears to be back on the rails after ending a two-game losing streak of its own by beating SMU and Marshall in consecutive weeks.  Like the Knights, the Eagles are fueled by a back, sophomore Damion Fletcher, who’s gone over 100 yards in three of the last four games.
Why UCF might win: Just because it’s Southern Miss, don’t assume the program has a killer defense.  The Eagles have been just average this year, three times allowing more than 30 points in a game, and infrequently getting much pressure on the quarterback.  Smith should have another big day against a unit that’s 59th nationally versus the run, looking soft against sub par running games from Rice and SMU.  On offense, the USM passing game has missed QB Jeremy Young, who remains questionable with an ankle injury, and will be without top receiver Chris Johnson, who broke his arm in last Sunday’s game.
Why Southern Miss might win: This may not be a vintage Eagle defense, but when it only has to worry about one player, it’ll be just fine.  Southern Miss knows Smith is going to touch the ball 30-35 because he’s very good and because the UCF passing game is non-existent.  The Knights are 11th in the 12-team Conference USA through the air, which will allow USM to stack the line without paying the price.  Since opening Bright House Networks Stadium on Sept. 15, UCF has been a different team on the road than it’s been in Orlando.  In back-to-back road games earlier in the month, the Knights were obliterated 116-50 by East Carolina and South Florida.
Who to watch: If you’d like an indication of who’s winning this game without looking at the scoreboard, follow Smith and Southern Miss LB Gerald McRath, a sure-fire all-star selection in December.  If McRath can contain Smith the way South Florida did two weeks ago, UCF has no chance in this game.  If, however, Smith consistently breaks containment and rips off eight-yard gains, the Knights will remain atop the division.  It’s that simple.
What will happen: The defenses and running backs will rule the day in a game that’ll see-saw back and forth for all 60 minutes.  Southern Miss will prevail on a fourth quarter touchdown from Fletcher and a late stop from the defense.
CFN Prediction: Southern Miss 28 … UCF 23 ... Line: Southern Miss -3
Must See Rating: (5 America's Most Smartest Model - 1 Marie Osmond on DTWS) ... 2

C-USA Fearless Predictions, Week 9, Part 1