Like last week, an upcoming Wednesday night game (UCF at Marshall next week) results in there only being six games involving C-USA squads this week. There are only three conference games this week, but all three will help provide some clarity in the pecking order in both divisions. Let's kick it off with the schedule:
|Memphis at Louisville||12:00 PM||ESPN3.com|
|Army at Tulane||1:30 PM|
|East Carolina at Southern Miss||5:30 PM||Comcast SE|
|Mississippi State at Houston||6:00 PM||CBS CS|
|Tulsa at SMU||6:00 PM|
|Rice at UTEP||7:05 PM|
Picks & Pregame Awards are after the jump.
The Weaksauce Award:
Given to the C-USA school that scheduled the weakest cream puff of the week.
You have to credit C-USA teams for their non-conference scheduling. Obviously, the constant scheduling of BCS conference opponents is likely caused by a financial reality and not a desire for a hard fought game. But, C-USA squads aren't walking into these games like zombies either. Memphis goes to Louisville, Tulane takes on Army, and Houston hosts Mississippi State. No cupcakes there. No easy wins, either.
The Funding Women's Cross Country Award
Winner: Memphis for traveling to Louisville
Really, of the three non-con games this week none of them are completely impossible for the C-USA team to win. Who expected Tulane to beat Rutgers? UAB to take Tennessee to double overtime? Of the three, though, this one seems to be the most unlikely. Louisville is only 2-2 with wins against Eastern Kentucky and Arkansas State, but Memphis is an up and down team that is struggling to find their identity on both sides of the ball. Memphis can keep this one close, but I wouldn't want to bet on it.
The Best Chance to Make C-USA Look Good Award
Winner: Houston, who hosts a tough Mississippi State squad
Last season, Houston beat Mississippi State so this isn't new territory for the Coogs. However, this time they obviously will have a different guy in the gun. Terrance Broadway will be making his second career start against a good team. MSU blew out Memphis in week one, beat Georgia, and nearly knocked off unbeaten Auburn (17-14). The Bulldogs have the 22nd ranked scoring defense in the nation. With Keenum, I'd have no doubt that Houston would win this game. Now, we'll get a real sense as to where Houston stands now with Broadway at QB.
Last Week: 4-2
Year to Date: 26-4
|Memphis at Louisville||Louisville, 31-10|
|Army at Tulane||Army, 21-17|
|East Carolina at Southern Miss||Southern Miss; 33-30|
|Mississippi State at Houston||MSU, 27-21|
|Tulsa at SMU||SMU, 38-31|
|Rice at UTEP||See Below|
The Conference USA Game of the Week
Winner: The Tulsa Golden Hurricane at the SMU Mustangs
East Carolina at USM should be a dandy too, but this one has the makings of a crazy, wild shoot-out. Also, with Houston now an unknown, many people will regard this game as a battle between the two West front-runners. Tulsa already has a C-USA loss, so it might be in Miner fans interests' to root for the Hurricane in this one. Really, with so much football left to play we don't need to do that yet. Just find this game on the internet and watch it because it should be a really fun one with two explosive offenses led by two stellar quarterbacks, G.J. Kinne and Kyle Padron. SMU, led by Ja'Gared Davis at linebacker have the better defense, but I wouldn't expect to see a lot of stops in this one.
I'm taking SMU in this one, mostly because the game is at home, but these teams are very evenly matched and Tulsa's offense is playing lights out right now. Do not be surprised if the Hurricane win this one and steal all the C-USA West buzz next week.
The UTEP Pick
The Miners are doing everything we all hoped they would.
1. Show Improvement on Defense: Well, the Miners are now ranked 60th in total defense as compared to 110th last season. (Check!)
2. Win the Ones They're Supposed To: UTEP beat UAPB and swept the historically awful New Mexico squads. (Check!)
3. Win on the Road: Yes, it was against a school that is an underdog against NMSU this week, but it was still a win on the road. And, when you were 1-9 in your previous 10 road games, you'll take what you can get. (Check!)
Now, it's time for UTEP to take the improved defense and confidence on offense and use it to beat inferior teams in C-USA play. Rice is not a great team. But, they are the second best team we've faced this season. If UTEP is truly going to make 2010 a special season, the Miners can't let this one get away. Last year, the Miners were better than Rice and they let a winnable game slip away in a fashion I'd rather not re-live. This season, it's time for the Trevor Vittatoe and the Miners to use this game to send a message to the rest of the C-USA:
Not This Year.
UTEP 38, Rice 24