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C-USA Fearless Predictions, Nov. 17, Part 2

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Nov 15, 2007


Previews and Predictions for the Week 12 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. 20Oct. 27 | Nov. 3Nov. 10 | Nov. 24Dec. 1   

How are the picks so far? SU: 60-24 ... ATS: 38-38-1

C-USA Fearless Predictions, Week 12, Part 1

Conference USA Saturday, November 17th

UCF (7-3) at SMU (1-9)   3:00 PM
Why to watch: A little luck and a whole lot of RB Kevin Smith have UCF sitting alone atop the East Division with two games remaining in the regular season.  Needing help, the Knights got it last weekend when East Carolina inexplicably lost to 1-8 Marshall, opening the door for a new leader to emerge in the division.  Later on in the same day, Smith erupted for 320 yards and four touchdowns, bailing out a UCF program that was having a hard time putting away lowly UAB.  The Knights’ magic number for clinching a spot in the Dec. 1 Conference USA title game now stands at two.  SMU is playing out the string in this nightmare season, knowing it’ll have a new coach in 2008, and hoping to give Phil Bennett an elusive conference win as a going-away present.  In a season filled with frustration, the Mustangs may have hit a low point last weekend, losing a heartbreaker to Rice on a last-second field goal off the foot of Clark Fangmeier.
Why UCF might win: Smith is about to become the next in a long line of backs that have trampled the SMU defense this season.  The Mustangs allow almost 200 yards a game on the ground, and are even worse defending the pass, troubling signs with the Knights coming to Dallas.  UCF is averaging more than 40 points a game over the last month, a number they’ll again approach versus an SMU defense that gives up more than 37 points a game.  Not to be forgotten, the Knight D is either first or second in the league in sacks, pass efficiency defense, and total defense.
Why SMU might win: The Mustangs are a care-free team that’s opening up the playbook, and playing as if they have nothing to lose at this point in the year.  In other words, they’re a dangerous opponent.  The SMU offense has been churning out points since league games began, getting consistent production on the ground and through the air from QB Justin Willis.  In Emmanuel Sanders and Zack Sledge, he has a pair of reliable receivers that’ll challenge a UCF pass defense that gave up three touchdown passes in games with Memphis, East Carolina, Tulsa, and UAB.
Who to watch: Tulane’s Matt Forte is on the brink of rushing for 2,000 yards.  Smith isn’t far behind.  Needing another 232 yards to reach a new milestone, he’s liable to do it this weekend at Ford Stadium.  And with the possibility of four more games, there’s no telling how high he’ll climb on the charts for most yards rushing in a single season.
What will happen
: SMU has lost its last four games, but only by a combined 24 points.  The Mustangs will hang tough again into the second half before Smith takes over, and rips through a tired and overmatched defensive unit.
CFN Prediction: UCF 38 … SMU 24 ... Line: UCF -13
Must See Rating: (5
On HBO, "Michigan vs. Ohio State: The Rivalry"  - 1 Writer strike induced reruns) ... 1.5

UAB (2-8) at Memphis (5-5)   3:30 PM
Why to watch: Memphis delivered one the league’s biggest surprises of 2007 last weekend, knocking off Southern Miss in Hattiesburg to remain alive for a postseason game.  The Tigers played their most complete game of the year, getting four touchdown passes from Hattiesburg High graduate Martin Hankins, and holding the Eagle running game well below its season average.  With home games left against UAB and SMU, they’re well-positioned to land a bonus game that appeared out of reach back in August.  The Blazers earned yet another moral victory last weekend before fading to UCF in the second half of a 45-31 defeat.  Even in losing, UAB got encouraging results from the play of QB Joseph Webb, the successor to Sam Hunt next season, who peppered the Knight secondary for three touchdown passes and added 33 yards on the ground.
Why UAB might win: Webb gave a much-needed spark to a Blazer offense that has languished throughout much of the year.  The Memphis defense, which has twice allowed 56 points in a game and ranks 94th nationally, represents an opportunity for UAB to keep the good times rolling into the offseason.  On defense, the Blazers strength is against the pass, which is a good thing when facing a Tiger team that gets most of its offense through the air.
Why Memphis might win: The Tigers will get their yards through air, but will put a greater emphasis on the running the ball with Joseph Doss against the nation’s worst run defense.  UAB has allowed four of its last seven opponents to rush for more than 300 yards, which will force Memphis to seek more balance when it has the ball.  The Tigers pass protect as well as any team in the league, and have a deep set of rangy receivers, which will be more than the young and undermanned Blazer defense.
Who to watch: After being slowed by an injury early in the year, Memphis WR Duke Calhoun has started to heat up, giving Hankins another deep threat in his arsenal.  Over the last four games, the 6-4 Calhoun has caught 25 passes for 389 yards and three scores, presenting a match up problem for the UAB defensive backs.
What will happen: After beating Southern Miss, Memphis can ill-afford another surprise this weekend.  Nothing ever comes easy for the Tigers, who’ll need to rally after halftime behind Hankins and Doss to move one step closer to a December bowl game.
CFN Prediction: Memphis 33 … UAB 21 ... Line: Memphis -11
Must See Rating: (5
On HBO, "Michigan vs. Ohio State: The Rivalry"  - 1 Writer strike induced reruns) ... 1.5

Marshall (2-8) at Houston (6-4)   3:30 PM
Why to watch: Which Houston team will show up on Saturday?  For that matter, which Marshall team will show up? Both schools went way off script last weekend, the Cougars suffering their worst-ever Conference USA loss to Tulsa, and the Herd shocking East Division-leading East Carolina.  Houston’s implosion propped the Hurricane into the West Division lead, and pretty much ended its hopes for repeating as league champions.  With Texas Southern visiting next weekend, the Cougars can get to 8-4 and the Texas Bowl by getting past Marshall Saturday afternoon.  Where was this Herd team all season?  Winners of one game, and hearing rumors that the head coach was in trouble, Marshall spun its best game of 2007, playing with nothing to lose and quieting the East Carolina offense.  A week after keeping speedy Pirate RB Chris Johnson in check, the Herd will try to do the same to Cougar burners, RB Anthony Alridge and WR Donnie Avery.
Why Marshall might win: The Herd displayed the kind of offensive balance against East Carolina that’ll give Houston fits this weekend.  QB Bernard Skinner is capping his career on a high note, making plays with his arm and legs, and the running game is getting production from Darius Marshall, Chubb Small, and Kelvin Turner.  Last week’s 56-point debacle to Tulsa was proof positive that the Houston defense has plenty of soft weak areas that can be exploited by the Marshall playmakers.
Why Houston might win: The Cougars may not be repeating as league champs, but last week’s collapse was an aberration.  With Alridge and Avery at the skill positions, this is still one of the most combustible offenses in the country, especially when facing a Marshall D that’s 101st in the country in both total and scoring defense.  Houston will come out angry after getting blistered all week by Art Briles, attacking the average Herd corners, and dominating an opposing pass rush that’s 11th in the league in sacks.
Who to watch: Going forward, it’s important for Houston that QB Case Keenum rebound in a hurry from his worst game of the year.  Just a freshman, he can’t act his age by dwelling on a tough loss and pedestrian numbers.  Keenum’s quickness outside the pocket and accurate throws have been key factors in an offense that averages more than 500 yards a game.
What will happen: Other than UAB, exactly who has Houston taken behind the woodshed in the last two months?  The answer is no one.  The Cougars will again have a hard time putting a lesser opponent away, only enjoying some breathing room late in the game.
CFN Prediction: Houston 36 … Marshall 24 ... Line: Houston -11
Must See Rating: (5
On HBO, "Michigan vs. Ohio State: The Rivalry"  - 1 Writer strike induced reruns) ... 1.5

C-USA Fearless Predictions, Week 12, Part 1