Week 7 of the C-USA slate doesn't have any huge league match-ups. Rice will host Houston in a crosstown rivalry, East Carolina and SMU have yet another chance to get a marquee out of conference win, and Tulsa and UTEP have manageable league games.
|Southern Miss at Memphis
|NC State at East Carolina
|Houston at Rice
|SMU at Navy
|UTEP at UAB
|Metro Sports (Local EP)
|Tulane at Tulsa
Miner Rush's Picks Last Week: 6-1
Miner Rush's Picks Season to Date: 32-5
The Best Chance to Make C-USA Look Good
Winner: The SMU Mustangs who take on Navy
I realize Navy isn't a BCS squad, but the Midshipmen have a good football team. Only ECU takes on a BCS foe this week. I don't believe East Carolina will beat N.C. State. ECU's offense is starting to hit on all cylinders but their defense is among the worst in the nation. East Carolina is ranked 114th in total defense and 117 in scoring defense. They are giving up 42 points per game. The Pirates are 3-0 in in C-USA play, but eventually that defense will cost them one of those epic games they've been battling in. East Carolina wasn't able to hang with Virginia Tech or North Carolina. I don't see this one being any different.
An SMU win over Navy isn't a huge, marquee win, but it will help the Mustangs garner some national respect which is needed for the team many consider to be the best in the west. I am interested to see how SMU handles Navy's stellar rushing attack (10th in the country). Also, Navy has the nations 26th ranked total defense. If SMU gets past Navy, they will assume the role of C-USA West front-runner heading into their matchup with Houston next week.
SMU 31, Navy 24
East Carolina 27, NC State 34
Tulane at Tulsa: Hurricane Watch
Everybody thought Tulane turned the corner when they beat Rutgers on the road a few weeks ago. Then, Army blew them out just a week later. Tulsa struggled score points in their 21-18 loss to SMU. I expect GJ Kinne and company to get back on track at home this week.
Tulsa 45, Tulane 24
Rice vs. Houston: No Problem in Houston
Rice quite simply doesn't have the firepower to keep pace with Houston regardless of who is playing quarterback. UH will start David Piland who entered the season as the 5th string quarterback. Last week, Piland showed flashes and completed 30 passes in Houston's blowout loss to Mississippi State. Lucky for him, Rice's defense has nothing on those Bulldogs. I would like to pick an upset here, but I think Kevin Sumlin will get through this one with a heavy dose of Bryce Beall. Rice simply doesn't have any chance at getting to Piland and he will do enough to get back across town with the W.
Houston 38, Rice 10
Southern Miss at Memphis: The Tigers
Memphis is reeling in Larry Porter's first season and they were taken out badly by an average Louisville team last week. Southern Miss lost a sloppy one at home to East Carolina. Memphis doesn't have the offense to force a shootout at any level. I expect Austin Davis and company to pad their stats a bit this week.
Southern Miss 38, Memphis 13
The Conference USA Game of the Week
UTEP vs. UAB
UTEP and UAB is the game of the week because this game will either reinforce our beliefs that this UTEP team is really on schedule to compete in the West Division or expose UTEP as a team who has capitalized against weak competition. UTEP doesn't have to win this game to have a successful season. They do have to win this game to have a special season. UTEP has won a road game this year at New Mexico. But, UNM is quite literally the worst team in the nation.
Despite UTEP's 5-1 record, the Miners are still underdogs to 1-4 UAB. Vegas is giving UTEP 2.5 points to beat the Blazers. Of the 22 teams in the FBS that have 5 wins, UTEP is the only team to not have a single vote in the AP or Coaches Poll. If UTEP wants to send a message to the doubters, they have to continue to beat the teams they are supposed to. David Isabelle is a good player. He's going to make plays with his feet at home. Neil Callaway might be coaching for his job. I'm not going to kid you and say UAB is a powerhouse program. They are not. But, they are better than UNM, NMSU, Memphis, and Rice.
For UTEP to take that next step towards respectability, UAB is quite simply what's next. Earlier this week, Mike Price joked about the fact that UTEP isn't getting any respect. If you don't think he's playing that card up to his boys, you're crazy. There are too many seniors on this squad to think 5-1 is the end game.
If I was you, I'd take the points and run.
UTEP 34, UAB 21