BY NEIL BISMAN
With the exception of idle Marshall and Rice, every team will have at least one conference game under their belt after this weekend. And with all due respect to the Thundering Herd and Owls, it’s not as though we need to wait for the two winless squads to start the party. Without further ado, here is your Conference USA Weekend Preview…
LSU at Tulane: If you have never heard of Matt Forte before, don’t feel bad because you are not alone. The Tulane running back ran for five touchdowns and 303 yards on 40 carries in the Green Wave’s victory over Southeastern Louisiana and was named this week’s Walter Camp Offensive Player of the Week for the entire nation. Is this a sign of things to come for the Slidell, Louisiana product? Forte averaged an impressive 5.3 yards per carry last year before going down with a left knee injury. This game won’t be close so the only thing to keep an eye out for is how Forte does in a true test, such as going against the LSU defense.
Prediction: LSU 59 – Tulane 14
UTEP at Southern Methodist: It may have been against Texas Southern, but the UTEP offense did show signs of life last week in their 52-12 rout over the Tigers. Southern Methodist put up just seven points a week ago in their loss to TCU but they too showed signs of life on offense. SMU was a dreadful 0-for-3 on fourth down inside the TCU 25 and are going to have to start converting those types of opportunities if they want to make any noise in conference play. In a game like this – where both offenses are question marks, its usually safest to side with the home squad but UTEP has a little bit more talent so now may be a good time to buck that trend.
Prediction: UTEP 24 – SMU 20
Louisiana-Lafayette at UCF: Louisiana-Lafayette has had an extremely tough time stopping the opposition from scoring this season, allowing powers such as Ohio, McNeese State and Troy to put up 31, 38, and 48 points, respectively. In other words, it’s a pretty safe assumption that UCF running back Kevin Smith is going to have a field day.
Prediction: UCF 49 – Louisiana-Lafayette 10
UAB at Tulsa: Plain and simple, Tulsa was just outclassed in their blowout loss to Oklahoma a week ago. The Golden Hurricane offense has yet to find a replacement for running back Courtney Tennial and until they do, the offense will have a giant hole in it. Running backs Tarrion Adams and Jamad Williams get another chance to claim the job all to themselves against a UAB team that appears to be getting better and better with each passing week. Tulsa has way too much talent though for the Blazers to pick up their first conference win of the season on Saturday.
Prediction: Tulsa 37 – UAB 17
East Carolina at Houston: Without question the best game of the week, East Carolina travels to Houston in what could be a possible Conference USA Championship Game preview. Both teams do have their hurdles in the way to make it a reality but it is certainly possible. East Carolina’s brutal stretch of games continues and while they may be just as good as Houston, the losses are going to catch up to them mentally eventually. The Cougars have looked impressive since their season-opening loss to Oregon but that was a game in which they did not have star running back Anthony Aldridge. Expect Aldridge to have a big day and propel Houston to their third straight victory while East Carolina wonders if they will ever see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Prediction: Houston 31 – East Carolina 20