Week 7: American Previews, Predictions

Connecticut (1-4) at Tulane (1-4) Oct. 11, 8:00, ESPNEWS 

Here’s The Deal: SMU is the worst team in the American. Connecticut and Tulane want to be sure they don’t enter the discussion following Week 7. The Huskies and Green Wave are off to rocky starts, going 0-8 combined against fellow FBS opponents. And if either team hopes to be in the bowl-eligibility hunt in November, winning this week at Yulman Stadium is an absolute must. 
Why Connecticut Might Win: Defense has not been the problem this season in East Hartford. The unit, in fact, is holding its own under difficult circumstances, especially against the run. And the Huskies’ issues against the pass might not get noticed versus a Tulane team having quarterback issues. The Green Wave is 118th nationally in passing efficiency, and starting QB Tanner Lee is a question mark with a shoulder injury. 
Why Tulane Might Win: As inconsistent as the Green Wave offense was at the end of September, UConn was worse. The Huskies average only 14 points per game, and neither the ground game nor the passing attack will intimidate the athletic back seven of the Tulane defense. At a minimum, the Green Wave can count on a ground game that’s gotten 100-yard days from Sherman Badie and Lazedrick Thompson this fall. 
Who To Watch Out For: It’s about time for the Tulane D-line to have a bigger impact on games. Tanzel Smart and ends Royce LaFrance and Tyler Gilbert have upside potential, yet they’ve combined for only 1.5 of the Green Wave’s seven sacks. That production must change against a Connecticut O-line that’s allowed more sacks than all but four FBS teams. 
What’s Going To Happen: In a battle of offensive futility, Tulane has the closest thing to a staple, Badie and Thompson operating behind a line that does a nice job of run blocking. The backs will be the difference at home, producing points and extending drives that might otherwise end in punts. 
Prediction: Tulane 23 … Connecticut 17 
Line: Tulane -3 o/u: 45.5 
Must Watch Factor: 5: Last Week Tonight – 1: Bad Judge … 1 

Tulsa (1-4) at Temple (3-1) Oct. 11, 12:00, ESPNEWS 

Here’s The Deal: Temple was happy to a week off, but it’s also eager to get back to work. The Owls are off to a solid start in Matt Rhule second season, moving two games over .500 with road blowouts of Vanderbilt and Connecticut. The early success has the program thinking postseason for a change, but this week’s visit from Tulsa begins a stretch of six challenging games in six weeks. The Golden Hurricane has been anything but golden in the first half of the 2014 season. Since winning the opener with Tulane, Tulsa has dropped four straight, three by no less than 25 points. 
Why Tulsa Might Win: Have the receivers been used enough this season? No. But the Hurricane houses a collection of game-changers on the outside, including Keevan Lucas and Keyarris Garrett. Now, it’s up to erratic QB Dane Evans to properly feed them. Yeah, Temple has been solid defensively, but it hasn’t faced a good passing attack all year. 
Why Temple Might Win: The Owls’ edge under center is significant. Evans is a crapshoot, but Temple’s P.J. Walker is an up-and-comer. He’s accounted for nine touchdowns in four games, and now he gets to carve up a porous Tulsa defense. The Hurricane has yet to keep a team under 31 points, and both the pass defense and run defense have been atrocious. Opponents are averaging more than six yards a carry on Tulsa. 
Who To Watch Out For: This is a good spot for Rhule to get his backs more involved with the offense, while taking some heat off Walker. Tulsa can’t stop anyone at the point of attack, and Jamie Gilmore and Kenneth Harper are better than their early season numbers indicate. 
What’s Going To Happen: Tulsa wants no part of a trip to Philadelphia as it remains mired in a four-game slump. And it’ll show. Temple is on a bit of a high after slamming Connecticut two weeks ago. The Owls will build on that 36-10 win by riding the coattails of Walker to a comfortable victory at the Linc. 
Prediction: Temple 36 … Connecticut 23 
Line: Temple -17 o/u: 58 
Must Watch Factor: 5: Last Week Tonight – 1: Bad Judge … 1.5 

Houston (2-3) at Memphis (3-2) Oct. 11, 7:00, CBS Sports Network 

Here’s The Deal: Houston might be moving out of American contention. Memphis could be taking its place. The Tigers are fresh off the most impressive win of the Justin Fuente era, a 41-14 demolition of Cincinnati at Nippert Stadium. While the program had played well in non-conference games, few saw last week’s performance coming. Memphis returns home looking to keep the Cougars sliding. While Houston only lost by five to UCF last Thursday, it performed dreadfully in the process. 
Why Houston Might Win: The defense has been playing pretty well at Houston. The Cougars have given up no more than 17 points in three of the last four games. They’ve got excellent range and team speed, and they rank second in the league in takeaways. S Adrian McDonald and linebackers Derrick Mathews and Efrem Oliphant are capable of making it a small field for the Tigers Saturday night. 
Why Memphis Might Win: The Tigers are coming off a performance that drew little criticism, even from the coaching staff. The Tank Jakes-led defense is stout, while the offense has only been stopped by Ole Miss. QB Paxton Lynch is limiting his mistakes, and the O-line is creating daylight for whoever is running the ball. Right now, Memphis is confident and well-coached, the antithesis of this week’s visitor. 
Who To Watch Out For: After leading rusher Doroland Dorceus was lost for the year, former Memphis WR Sam Craft treated like an opportunity. The athletic sophomore exploded in the first serious action of his career, rushing 38 times for a career-high 170 yards and a score. The effort spoke to program’s line play and next-man-in mindset. 
What’s Going To Happen: Memphis is hot. Houston is not. Neither trend will be altered this week at the Liberty Bowl. New Cougar QB Greg Ward is a dangerous and unique playmaker. But the fundamentally-sound Tigers will capitalize on Houston mistakes to bag another impressive win. 
Prediction: Memphis 31 … Houston 21 
Line: Memphis -9 o/u: 49.5 
Must Watch Factor: 5: Last Week Tonight – 1: Bad Judge … 2 

East Carolina (4-1) at South Florida (2-3) Oct. 11, 7:00, ESPNU 

Here’s The Deal: No. 19 East Carolina travels to Tampa looking to beat South Florida for the first time in five tries. The Pirates remain the favorite to win the American and represent the Group of Five conferences in a major bowl game. They had a relatively easy time with SMU last week, their first game with an unranked opponent since the opener. The Bulls come out of a bye week seeking their first signature win of the Willie Taggart era. They’re a game under .500, with the high-point coming in a victory over Connecticut. 
Why East Carolina Might Win: Too much offense. Even if South Florida can keep the Pirates below their scoring average, 43 points, it’ll still be too much output for a Bull attack that’s yet to score more than 17 points on an FBS defense. Shane Carden is a top-flight gunslinger, RB Breon Allen averages 8.8 yards a carry and the receiving corps has developed excellent complements to leading man Justin Hardy. 
Why South Florida Might Win: The Bulls are home to the hotter defense in this one. They’ve given up just 41 points over the last two games, including 27 to Wisconsin. Meanwhile, East Carolina showed cracks in its win over SMU, yielding 24 points to a team that had scored just 12 in the first four games. LB Nigel Harris is the ringleader of a D that’s fast to the ball, and prone to stripping it out of the other guy’s grasp. 
Who To Watch Out For: As if South Florida needs more to worry about this week, ECU is getting back one its emerging offensive weapons. WR Cam Worthy has served his two-game suspension, and he’s itching to get back on the field. In his last outing against a very good Virginia Tech secondary, he caught a career-high six passes for 224 yards. 
What’s Going To Happen: South Florida may have owned the past in this series, but East Carolina controls the present. The Pirates have already proven they can win on the road, and they’re offense will be too much for a sputtering Bull program that’s impotent in the passing game. 
Prediction: East Carolina 38 … South Florida 19 
Line: East Carolina -15 o/u: 58 
Must Watch Factor: 5: Last Week Tonight – 1: Bad Judge … 2 

Cincinnati (2-2) at Miami (3-3) Oct. 11, 12:00, Fox Sports Ohio 

Here’s The Deal: Consistency continues to elude Miami, whose 3-3 is a perfect fit for a program that continues to be no better than average. The Hurricanes followed up a key win over Duke with a 28-17 loss to Georgia Tech to put their Coastal Division dreams a little further from their grasp. They take a break from league play this week before returning to ACC action in two weeks. Cincinnati’s season has taken a dramatic shift. The Bearcats have been blown out in consecutive weeks, last Saturday by Memphis, and QB Gunner Kiel is expected to sit out with a rib injury. 
Why Cincinnati Might Win: Munchie Legaux is not the usual backup quarterback. In fact, he has extensive starting experience to go along with the grit to battle back from a potentially career-ending knee injury. He knows the system, and he’s surrounded by a deep ensemble of big-play wide receivers capable of getting behind an erratic Miami defense. Legaux will be fired up for this opportunity to once again play a meaningful role. 
Why Miami Might Win: The Bearcats are in shambles on defense after being shredded for 91 points by Ohio State and Memphis. The Tigers rolled up 610 yards last week, and Cincy is last in the country in third-down defense. This is the week that the consistent Brad Kaaya emerges, spreading the ball around to playmakers Duke Johnson, Joseph Yearby, Phillip Dorsett and Clive Walford. 
Who To Watch Out For: What can Tommy Tuberville expect from Legaux this week? At a minimum, he’ll be rusty and so amped up early on that his balls tend to sail. The Hurricanes will look to rattle the senior with their tempo-changing linebackers, Denzel Perryman and Thurston Armbrister. Perryman is the run game warden, while Armbrister leads the team with five sacks. 
What’s Going To Happen: Legaux’s story won’t have a feel-good ending as long as the Cincinnati D continues impersonating a swinging gate. Johnson will go for 150 yards rushing for the second time in the last three weeks, staking Miami to an early lead, and making life in the pocket a little simpler for Kaaya. 
Prediction: Miami 38 … Cincinnati 21 
Line: Miami -14.5 o/u: 58.5 
Must Watch Factor: 5: Last Week Tonight – 1: Bad Judge … 2.5