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Conference USA Breakdowns and Matchups

Denny O'Brien's Game Day Slants
Saturday, November 30, 2002


All of league's championship contenders at risk


Six Conference USA teams are still fighting for a share of the league title and all of them are in action today, including two that will collide at 'The Rock.'

East Carolina at Southern Miss

When ECU has the ball

East Carolina needs a significant turnaround from last week's performance against a stingy Frogs defense.

According to Logan, the Pirates will face a similar style of play in Hattiesburg.

"We couldn't pass protect long enough to do anything, couldn't run the reverse or spread them out," Logan said. "We tried everything to generate a first down. We're going to have the same problem against Southern Miss."

Logan and offensive coordinator Doug Martin must figure a way to make room for running back Art Brown and give Paul Troth the protection he needs to work.

More I-formation and shotgun snaps quickly come to mind.

Advantage: Even

When Southern Miss has the ball

The Golden Eagles' offense begins with running back Derrick Nix. When he's on, the Eagles soar. When he's not, they struggle.

"He has been inconsistent," Logan said. "You can tell when he is feeling good or feeling bad.

"Against Tulane he was feeling good and running hard. But you look at the film and he will get hurt with the ankle and be out for two games. Then he comes back and he will struggle a bit then get back into the groove."

If he finds the groove, it should open things for USM's struggling passing game. Quarterbacks Mickey D'Angelo and Dustin Almond have been anything but consistent, even though they have a strong corps of receivers to work with.

However, USM has just too many question marks, while the Pirates may have found a little something last week against Texas Christian.

Advantage: Even

Special teams

The Pirates have a decided edge here.

Kevin Miller and Jarad Preston are legitimate C-USA first-teamers at kicker and punter. When Southern Miss lines up to kick the pigskin, it's always an adventure.

ECU also boasts a more dynamic return game, with USM showing no evidence of a game-breaker.

Advantage: East Carolina


Two weeks ago, it would have seemed a stretch to suggest a young Pirates team could sail into Hattiesburg and escape with a win. What a difference a week makes. With it's shocker over TCU, East Carolina now has the confidence to win at "The Rock" and is catching Southern Miss fresh off two-straight losses. USM has a history of limping down the stretch and the Pirates have faired better in this series on the Eagles' home field. Special teams will be the difference this year. Pirates 23, Eagles 19.

Around Conference USA



 Texas Christian  5   2
 Louisville  5   2
 East Carolina  4   2
 Cincinnati  4   2
 Southern Miss  4   3
 UAB  4   3
 Tulane  4   4
 Houston  2   5
 Memphis  2   5
 Army  1   7


UAB at Cincinnati, 1:00 PM
ECU at Southern Miss, 3:00 PM
Louisville at Houston, 3:00 PM
Memphis at TCU, 3:00 PM

Louisville at Houston

The Cardinals can wrap up a share of the C-USA title at Houston. The Cougars, on the other hand, have called a wrap on Dana Dimel's tenure.

Dave Ragone should have little trouble shredding the Cougars' secondary, considering the ease with which other quarterbacks have consistently done so.

It should provide a nice tune-up for the Cardinals' before their fifth-consecutive bowl appearance — wherever that may be. Cardinals 45, Cougars 17.

Memphis at Texas Christian

Surprisingly, this one could get interesting.

Memphis coach Tommy West is known for his defensive tactics and the Tigers coach has to be drooling after viewing the tape of the Frogs' loss to East Carolina. What's more, Memphis's spread attack could be troublesome for the TCU defense. Just ask Louisville.

But unless TCU's tank is empty, the Frogs should take care of business. They will, 28-14.

UAB at Cincinnati

UAB's Jekyll and Hyde campaign continued last week with a thumping from Louisville.

Speaking of thumping, there was quite a bit of that going on following Cincinnati's game at Hawaii Saturday, when a major brawl erupted and continued for several minutes after the Bearcats lost a close game which involved many penalties, almost all of which went against Cincy.

There will be a bit more thumping in Clifton, where the Bearcats will take out their frustrations and lay one on the Blazers. UAB remains bowl-less — 'Cats 31, Blazers 20.

Not the time to talk bowls, says Logan

Denny O'Brien's C-USA Power Poll

1. TCU (8-2, 5-2) - Despite loss in Greenville, Frogs are still league's best.

2. Louisville (7-4, 5-2) - Cards approaching third-consecutive league title.

3. Cincinnati (5-6, 4-2) - UC below .500, but is playing some of the best ball in C-USA right now.

4. Southern Miss (6-5, 4-3) - Losers of two straight, humbled Eagles must bounce back quick.

5. East Carolina (4-6, 4-2) - Shocker over Frogs gives Pirates shot at conference crown.

6. Tulane (7-5, 4-4) - Wave shakes off snafu against Army to rout Southern Miss.

7. UAB (5-6, 4-3) - Louisville extinguished Blazers' fire.

8. Houston (4-7, 2-5) - Administration obviously not satisfied with Dimel, who was canned this week.

9. Memphis (3-8, 2-5) - Will West be the next to go?

10. Army (1-10, 1-7) - Knights await date with Middies.

In a conference that lacks much gridiron tradition, Southern Miss and East Carolina are developing one.

For the third consecutive season, the Pirates and Golden Eagles square off on Thanksgiving weekend in what may ultimately emerge as Conference USA's premier rivalry.

Just don't expect many warm exchanges of holiday greetings when these two tee it up Saturday.

"When I talk to the kids about Southern Miss, I tell them how physical it is going to be," Pirates coach Steve Logan said. "If you're going to win against Southern Miss, you are going to have to bring a lot of physical play to the game.

"They have a very good football culture in that state. I've lived there and coached at Mississippi State, and I understand the kids a little bit. They're tough, just dirt-tough kids and we've got to match that. If you don't, then you are going to get run out of the stadium real quick."

'The Rock', as they call M.M. Roberts Stadium, has been unkind to foes this season — Southern Miss is 4-1 at home. On the other hand, history suggests the Pirates have found more success at the Eagles' home, including a 14-9 mudder in 2000.

If the Pirates can notch another win at M.M. Roberts Stadium, they will maintain their hopes of sharing the conference crown. That would mean a fourth-consecutive bowl appearance, an unprecedented statistic at East Carolina.

For the time being, though, Logan is steering all conversation away from that notion.

"We have not talked about it," Logan said. "The youth and chemistry of this football team, in a lot of ways, has been real inspiring.

"I've had fun coaching these kids from the standpoint that we have lost some games and been man-handled at times, but when practice comes the next week, they have been upbeat and willing to practice. I've told them a while ago that it is critical that they embrace one game at a time."

That's why the Pirates have turned all their attention to rival Southern Miss.

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02/23/2007 01:46:43 AM

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