Conference USA Week 7 Expanded Preview Blog
Posted Oct 7, 2008

The big storylines and overviews for all the Conference USA games.

Conference USA Storylines Blog

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| M-West | Pac 10 | SEC | Sun Belt | WAC

CFN Writers
ACC By Adam Kurkjian; Big East By J.P. Girouard; Big 10 By Tony Castricone; Big 12 By Sean Martin; Conference USA By Greg Vacek; Independents By Adam Nettina; MAC By Adam Nettina; Mountain West By Jim Riffel; Pac 10 By Dan Greenspan; SEC By Gabe Harris and Barrett Sallee; Sun Belt By John Martello; WAC By Jon Tavares

UAB (1-5) at Houston (2-3) Thursday Oct 9 - 8:00 pm ET (CBSCSN)
The Blazers rolled up 455 total yards, but it wasn't enough as UAB lost on a 25-yard field goal by Vinny Zaccario with two seconds left to give Memphis a 33-30 victory. He finished with 93 rushing yards on 18 attempts and 235 passing yards on 14-of-25 tosses. UAB will be on the road this week as the Blazers travel to Houston to meet the Conference USA foe Houston Cougars in a second straight Thursday night contest.  After the Houston game, UAB plays at home Oct. 18 vs. Marshall before an open date Oct. 25.

-- The Cougars are coming off a bye week following their 41-24 road win over then No. 23 East Carolina on Sept. 27 in Greenville, N.C.   The Cougars used the week off to get healthy and focus on a Thursday night matchup hosting UAB.

UAB: UAB might have lost to Memphis, and it might be 1-5, but it's playing relatively well and battled hard in the last-second loss to the Tigers. Joe Webb was magnificent both running and passing, but he didn't do it all by himself. Rashaud Slaughter ran well and the receivers did a decent job of making things happen after the catch. The defense continues to struggle, it did next to nothing to stop the Memphis offense cold, and now comes a date with the
"I'm very excited to get back on the field and play a game," Coach Sumlin said. "We've had a chance to heal up and get back to a normal practice routine. But we're ready to play.”
UAB has to …
eliminate mistakes and penalties and get and some defensive stops. UAB had costly penalties and breakdowns against Memphis and will need to outscore a potent and accurate UH offense that will take advantage of mistakes. 
The Cougars have topped 25 points in every game this season, including three games of at least 37 points.  Heading into this week’s game against UAB, the Cougars are averaging 37.2 points per game, a total that ranks 17th in the nation.  Getting defensive stops will be difficult as UH is tied for fifth in third down conversions at 53.9 percent.
Houston has to …
pressure Quarterback Joe Webb.  Always a rushing threat, the Cougars need to limit his scrambling and passing options.  Quarterback Joe Webb was outstanding for the Blazers in the loss, accounting for four touchdowns, including three on the ground.
Keep an eye on … 
Houston Senior DE Phillip Hunt. The Preseason All C-USA defensive end is One of the top defensive players in the nation... listed on both the Lombardi Award and the Nagurski Trophy Watch Lists entering this season.
The number to know: 82.2 -- Completion percentage by Case Keenum in the 41-24 win over East Carolina on Sept. 27, 2008. He completed 37-of-45 passes.

UCF (2-3) at Miami (FL) (2-3) 3:45 pm ET (ESPNU)
The defense forced four turnovers as the Knights snapped a three-game slide and won their first conference game of the year downing SMU, 31-17.  Freshman Ronnie Weaver rushed career-high 123 yards and a touchdown, and Michael Greco completed 4-of-8 tosses for 94 yards and two scores in a second half effort.  UCF will step away from C-USA play this coming weekend to take on Miami-Florida.
Miami came out on the losing end of a 41-39 shootout against rival Florida State. The Hurricanes managed just 51 yards rushing and passing game struggled with quarterback Robert Marve going 17-of-40 passes with two interceptions. The Hurricanes take a break from ACC action and attempt to rebound as they host UCF

UCF: Knights coach George O'Leary named senior Daren Daly the Knights' starting kicker, with true freshman Nick Cattoi serving as the backup.  O'Leary plans to continue the quarterback competition, letting junior Michael Greco and true freshman Rob Calabrese battle for the starting job and playing time every week.

Miami (FL): Hurricanes Coach Randy Shannon said starting RT Reggie Youngblood will likely miss the rest of the season with a leg injury. On Monday, Shannon said the Hurricanes lost starting LB Colin McCarthy and starting senior DE Eric Moncur for the season due to injuries.

UCF has to … rely on its defense to limit Hurricane opportunities.  UCF needs to pressure Miami’s Redshirt freshman quarterback Robert Marve and keep up with their high tempo offense by holding their running game in check.  Miami uncharacteristically turned the ball over three times last week.  The Knights will need to convert on opportunities and rely on Quarterbacks Michael Greco and Rob Calabrese to have success on the ground (both have combined for a total of 296 rushing yards this season) and in the air.

Miami has to … get Graig Cooper moving.  He has carried the load when the Hurricanes struggled in the passing game. The Hurricanes need to get Cooper active early against an experienced UCF run defense that has allowed only 104.4 ypg.  Although last week Cooper was held to just six carries for 31 yards, he leads the team with 322 yards and three scores on the ground.

Keep an eye on … UCF’s Joe Burnett.  He turned in an all-around effort in the Knights victory against SMU, as he posted seven tackles, a fumble recovery and interception.

The number to know: 200 This will be the first meeting between Miami and UCF, schools that are only 200 miles from one another.


Tulsa (5-0) at SMU (1-5) 8:00 PM ET

-- The Golden Hurricane remained perfect on the season, as David Johnson threw for 177 yards and four touchdowns in a 63-28 drubbing of Rice this past weekend. Johnson hit on 13-of-25 pass attempts with one interception for Tulsa, which moved to 5-0 behind 577 total yards of offense. Brennan Marion hauled in four balls for 76 yards and a touchdown, while Damaris Johnson had the same amount of catches for 59 yards and a score of his own. Tarrion Adams guided the ground attack with 112 yards on 23 carries and Charles Opeseyitan even got involved with 94 yards and a touchdown on 10 totes. Tulsa will hit he road this weekend to challenge SMU in a conference battle.

-- SMU turned the ball over four times and managed just 25 rushing in a 31-17 setback to UCF over the weekend. Quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell threw for 351 yards and a touchdown on 29-of-45 pass attempts for the Ponies, but he was intercepted three times. Aldrick Robinson was clearly his favorite target, pulling down 10 balls for 210 yards and a touchdown. Emmanuel Sanders added six receptions for 51 yards, as SMU suffered its fourth loss in a row. The Mustangs will return home next weekend and try to improve on their 1-5 record in a bout with Tulsa.

Tulsa: Todd Graham said he isn't concerned that his unbeaten Tulsa football team isn't ranked in this week's Associated Press or Coaches Top 25 polls.  “I think we're the only undefeated team that's not in the Top 25 in either the AP or Coach's poll. I'm not worried about that. If we keep winning, that'll take care of itself.” Graham said,  “We're just focused on trying to keep our kids grounded and being prepared. Each week, it'll become more and more intense. It becomes more and more dialogue and a distraction … we try hard to prepare our kids for that. Our focus is just beating SMU. If you beat SMU, you get ready for the next week. The ranking stuff will take care

of itself.”

SMU:   SMU is struggling trying to run the ball.  SMU is averaging 34.2 yards per game and hasn't generated more than 61 rushing yards in a game this season.  In an effort to provide a spark, June Jones moved Freshman receiver B.J. Lee to running back Saturday but Lee injured his shoulder after five carries.

Tulsa has to … disrupt passing lanes.  With SMU’s vertical passing attack, receivers Robinson and Sanders are their explosive threats.  Slowing their routes will allow time for TU to get pressure on Quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell.

SMU has to … play a perfect game.  It will be tough to beat a Tulsa team that leads the nation in Scoring offense and a very strong scoring defense.  Last week the Mustangs had some alignment and assignment problems that they will need to overcome. As coach Jones said after the UCF loss, “We’re not good enough that we can make those plays and still overcome them, and win games.”

Keep an eye on …  SMU WR Aldrick Robinson.  Last Saturday was his second straight week with 100+ yards and a score, and he has scored in every game this season but one.

The number to know: 479.3 – The SMU defense is allowing 41.3 points and 479.3 yards per game.

Tulane (2-3) at UTEP (2-3) 9:05 PM ET

--  The Green Wave couldn’t overcome four turnovers in a 44-13 loss to Army this past weekend. Two of the miscues were returned for scores by Army's defense, as Tulane saw its two-game winning streak come to an end. Despite an offensive  output of 486 total yards the Green Wave defense could not stop Army’s rushing attack.  Tulane will square off against Texas-El Paso this CUSA West division showdown.

-- Trevor Vittatoe passed for four touchdowns, including the game-winner in double-overtime, as the Miners defeated Southern Miss 40-37 in league play. Vittatoe completed 25-of-43 pass attempts for 266 yards and he threw a pair of touchdowns in the overtimes.   UTEP, which is now 2-0 in conference play for the third straight year will host Tulane.

Tulane: Receiver Jeremy Williams will be lost for at least a month with a broken right hand and possible knee injury.  Senior Michael Batiste, junior Chris Dunn and sophomore Alan Mitchell, are the most likely replacements.  Williams had surgery Tuesday to repair two broken bones in his hand. He was to have an MRI later in the day to check for cartilage damage in his right knee.  Tulane will be short on Linebackers as Travis Burks is out with a hamstring pull and backup Devin Holland is bothered with a knee injury.

UTEP: The Miners have 12 sacks in five games after having just 16 all of last year. They are 12th in the nation in turnover margin, and they are averaging 5.8 tackles for loss per game.

Tulane has to … convert on scoring opportunities.  Tulane has allowed 17 touchdowns while only reaching the end zone 12 times.  Tulane has averaged 144 ypg on the ground and has outgained its opponents through the air by more than 145 ypg.   Opponents have thrown for more than 250 ypg against the Miners and have scored 16 touchdowns through the air.

UTEP has to … spread the ball around.  Attack the Green Wave defense with a balanced run and pass attack.  A total of 11 different Miners caught passes from QB Trevor Vittatoe last weeks victory.  It may be more difficult this week as the Green Wave leads the conference in total defense giving up 263.0 ypg.

Keep an eye on … Tulane RB Andre Anderson.  He ran for 107 yards (on 21 carries) and caught six passes for 59 yards against Army. Anderson is ninth in the nation in rushing with 597 yards in five games.

The number to know: 17 -- Tulane is second in the country with the most players having caught a pass this season, 17.