BY NEIL BISMAN
CONFERENCE USA INSIDER
Clear the schedule for…Texas at Central Florida: With Southern Miss taking on East Carolina this weekend as well, this game may not be the most important in the conference race but it may be more important in the grand scheme of things. A win for UCF would give them two big-time scalps in just two games and would also give the conference a much-needed boost in respectability. Texas has looked anything but dominant thus far, struggling at home against Arkansas State and then needed a big second-half to knock off TCU. Now Texas must take its act on the road in what should be a tough environment as UCF opens up its new on-campus stadium. If Kevin Smith is able to run amok against a big Texas front line as he did against North Carolina State than an upset may not seem as far-fetched as it was once previously thought to be. Either way, expect this one to be close.
Prediction: Texas 34 – UCF 24
Don’t forget about…Southern Miss at East Carolina: The winner here takes a huge step in their quest to claim Conference USA’s East Division. East Carolina comes into this game on a huge high after knocking off in-state rival North Carolina while Southern Miss comes in licking their wounds following a 39-19 loss at Tennessee. Things may have gone a little bit differently though for Southern Miss had they not been without star running back Damion Fletcher for most of the second half. Fletcher is expected to play though and could cause big problems for the East Carolina defense. Southern Miss is a slight favorite according to Las Vegas but with East Carolina’s two impressive showings against the big boys and having the home-field advantage makes them the favorite in my humble opinion.
Prediction: ECU 20 – Southern Miss 17
Why isn’t more attention being paid to…BYU at Tulsa: This is a match-up of two great non-BCS squads who should be receiving more attention on the national level. BYU smoked what was supposed to be a much-improved Arizona team in their first game and lost to a talented UCLA team last week. Tulsa was able to shake off a slow start against Louisiana-Monroe in their only game thus far but has been waiting around idle since then. The layoff combined with running back Courtney Tennial being out for the year could spell trouble for Tulsa.
Prediction: BYU 27 – Tulsa 21
Also on the slate…Texas Tech at Rice: Rice has looked abysmal in their first two games and there is no reason to expect anything different in their third game.
Prediction: Texas Tech 56 – Rice 7
New Hampshire at Marshall: New Hampshire quarterback Ricky Santos may be one of the best players in the Football Championship Subdivision but he will have his problems against a Marshall team that played West Virginia very tough a week ago.
Prediction: Marshall 45 – New Hampshire 21
Alcorn State at UAB: UAB looked much improved a week ago in their loss against Florida State and should build on some of that momentum as they take on a bad Alcorn State team.
Prediction: UAB 49 – Alcorn State 10
SMU at Arkansas State: Arkansas State is a better team than most are giving them credit for and SMU is not as good as people are giving them credit for, which isn’t much to begin with.
Prediction: Arkansas State 28 – SMU 20
Houston at Tulane: This game comes down to once question, can Tulane stop Houston running back Anthony Aldridge? The answer is no.
Prediction: Houston 35 – Tulane 14
UTEP at New Mexico State: Which UTEP team will show up is the question on everybody’s mind. Is it the offensively-inept team that showed up against New Mexico or the one who put points on the board against Texas Tech? We’ll go with the former.
Prediction: New Mexico State 24 – UTEP 14
Jacksonville State at Memphis: Memphis may show signs of rust after having last week’s game at Arkansas State canceled due to weather but luckily for them they get a weak Jacksonville State team to shake it off against.
Prediction: Memphis 31 – Jacksonville State 13