Conference USA breakdowns and matchups
O'Brien's Game Day Preview
Saturday, September 14, 2002
Pirates confident as league
USA Preseason Preview and Power Poll package which appeared in
the just-published Bonesville.net The Magazine was
written by Denny O'Brien. It was inadvertently attributed to Ron
Cherubini because of a technical error.
East Carolina put a lot of
emphasis on conference games last fall, a mentality that has carried over
into this season.
That's why Pirates head coach
Steve Logan isn't in an all-out panic mode following his team's 0-2 start.
Even though ECU is mired in a five-game losing streak, Logan knows the Bucs
have a clean slate in Conference USA.
That was essentially the
message in a surprisingly upbeat locker room following the Pirates' 27-22
loss to Wake Forest Saturday.
"Their head is way up right
now," Logan said. "They know they're a good football team. That's the
thing about it."
"We've had two scrimmages and
we're going to start conference play next week. That's what I know."
Stressing the importance of
each conference game paid dividends last season.
In 2000, the Pirates may have
overlooked a couple of opponents, as UAB and Memphis pulled upset specials
that cost them the C-USA crown. But that wasn't the case last year, as the
Pirates won the league games in which they were decided favorites en route
to a second-place finish.
"One game means no less than any other,"
Logan said. "You want and expect to win every game."
"I do know that with one loss in a
conference you still can win a championship. That's been proven. With two
losses in a conference you can't win a championship. That's been proven. So
we need to go win."
Tulane at East Carolina
The Pirates and Green Wave enter the game in
slightly reversed situations. East Carolina is 0-2 for the first time since
1986. Tulane is 2-0 for the first time since Tommy Bowden bolted for
Both boast potentially explosive offenses,
to go along with revamped defenses. It has all the ingredients of a
When ECU has the ball
Turnovers have been the most consistent
aspect of the Pirates' offense thus far, having committed nine in their
first two games. But don't expect the Bucs to stray away from their core
philosophies, mixing in the run with the short-to-intermediate passing game,
while occasionally taking their shots down field.
However, the big play, which has been
successful against Tulane in recent years, could be neutralized somewhat by
the Green Wave's new defensive schemes.
"They have a new defensive coordinator who
came in and really simplified their schemes," Logan said. "They are running
to the ball, getting more helmets on the ball than they did the last two
years. It's a simple scheme and just lets the kids just free up and play
The running game is slowly coming around for
the Pirates and the offensive line is giving Paul Troth ample time to
throw. More of the same should be the story for the Pitt County offense in
the league opener.
When Tulane has the ball
New personnel sometimes calls for schematic
changes on offense. That's not entirely the case in the Big Easy.
"They are still running the offense with
five wide receivers, shotgun snap and see how many five-yard hitches you can
throw," Logan said. "They have intermixed more of a running game than they
have had and we have redesigned our defense hopefully to match up well with
this kind of offense."
Quarterback J.P. Losman and receiver Roydell
Harris are as lethal a passing combination as there is in the league, but
much of the Pirates' defensive attention will likely fall the way of running
back Mewelde Moore, who is Tulane's leading rusher (237 yards) and receiver
(8 catches, 110 yards).
The Wave has four new starters along the
offensive front, meaning the Pirates could be successful at rushing the
passer. The only problem is, Losman is just as adept at running the
football as he is throwing it.
The Pirates and Wave have the best special
teams units in C-USA. It's as simple as that.
Kevin Miller has been perfect on both field
goal attempts for the Pirates, even nailing a 50-yarder last week against
Wake Forest. Punter Jarad Preston has picked up where he left off last
season, averaging a solid 45-yards per boot, which is tenth-best in the
The Green Wave has itself a pretty good
kicking specialist, too. Kicker/punter Seth Marler won the Lou Groza award
last season as the nation's best kicker.
In the return game, both boast potential
gamebreakers, meaning special teams could be an all-out stalemate on
Common sense tells you the turnovers will
eventually taper off for the young Pirates. This week is as good as any.
Pirates 27, Wave 23.
C-USA Power Poll
1. Southern Miss
(2-0) - Southern Miss of new is beginning to look like Southern
Miss of old. Not good news for C-USA foes.
2. Cincinnati (1-0) - Off week means 'Cats are more than ready
for West Virginia.
(1-1)- Cards flying high again after romp over upstart Duke.
4. TCU (1-1) -
The Frogs bounce back with laugher over Northwestern.
5. Tulane (2-0) -
Wave makes huge jump after semi-surprise over Houston.
6. Memphis (1-1) -
Tigers hung with Ole Miss for as long as they could.
7. Houston (1-1) -
Cougars back down to earth after thumping from Green Wave.
8. East Carolina
(0-2) - Turnovers have Pirates submerged in five-game losing
9. UAB (1-1) - Win over Troy State gives the Blazers bragging
rights in battle of 'Bama mid-majors.
10. Army (0-1) -
Loss to I-AA Holy Cross doesn't help league power rating.
Army at Rutgers
Does it get any worse than this?
Rutgers enters this contest fresh off its
34-11 loss to Buffalo. That wouldn't be so bad if we were talking about the
Bills. But we're not.
Meanwhile, Army, thought to be much-improved
over last season, stumbled to a 30-21 setback to I-AA Holy Cross. And it
was at home!
This has all the makings for a snoozefest,
and picking a winner might be easier by flipping a coin. Heads, Army...
Tails, Rutgers. Tails it is -- Scarlet Knights 24, Black Knights 20.
West Virginia at Cincinnati
The Mountaineers have dominated
their series with the Bearcats, with the only blemish being a 7-7 tie in
1940. But it wouldn't be a stretch to suggest that this is the best
Cincinnati team ever to make the trek to Morgantown.
The 'Cats are talented and have a lot of
heart, evidenced by their furious season-opening rally against TCU. West
Virginia, on the other hand, is a bit of a mystery after blowing out I-AA
Chattanooga, then having the favor returned to them by Wisconsin.
Cincy is much more comfortable in its
spread-out attack, as the Mounties are still learning Rich Rodriguez's
schemes. That's good enough reason to side with the 'Cats, 31-20.
Louisiana-Lafayette at Houston
If Ricky Bustle wasn't aware of the
challenges facing him as the Ragin' Cajuns' head coach, he's now painfully
Houston turned the ball over seven times in
its league loss to Tulane and is a significant drop-off in competition for
the Cajuns, who opened the season with losses to Texas A&M and Minnesota.
The Cougars should still have enough,
though, as UL-L is still bustling up its program. Cougars 24, Cajuns 13.
Memphis at Southern Miss
Coaches rarely use payback as a motivating
force. But don't be surprised if Southern Miss skipper Jeff Bower reminds
his team of last season's 22-17 loss to the Tigers.
The Golden Eagles are knocking on the Top 25
door and a win over Memphis could go a long way toward helping them break
If the Tigers could steal a win in the Rock,
they could be well on their way to that much-anticipated return to
postseason play. They won't though, because Southern Miss is just too
good. Eagles, 28-10.
SMU at TCU
TCU showed now signs of a hangover against
Northwestern, following up a heartbreaking loss to Cincinnati with a 48-24
mauling of the Wildcats.
This week, though, the afterglow of a
blowout victory should carry over, especially when you consider that SMU
suffered an embarrassing 38-7 drubbing at the hands of Navy in its opener.
The Frogs will have no problem in the
Metroplex Bowl, stomping the 'Stangs, 40-7.
Pittsburgh at UAB
The Panthers and Blazers are a study of two
programs heading in opposite directions.
Walt Harris has Pittsburgh climbing the Big
East ladder, while Watson Brown's Blazers are on the C-USA decline.
The contrasting situations should be evident
on the scoreboard, with Pitt taking home a 30-16 victory.
Game of the Week:
Louisville at (24) Colorado State
Louisville bounced back nicely at Duke last
week without breaking so much as a sweat in a 40-3 rout of the Devils. A
trip to Fort Collins means its back to business for the Cards.
Last year's bout between the two was as
painful to watch as the bruising hits delivered by Cardinals defensive end
Dewayne White in a 7-2, mistake-filled victory.
This time around shouldn't too different,
with both schools showcasing their defenses in front of a national
television audience. So if that's your forte, pull up a chair and order a
pizza. If not, check out the box score in the Sunday paper.
If neither option floats your boat, here's a
quick prophetic summation. The Rams stand toe-to-toe for much of the game,
until Cardinals QB Dave Ragone puts the Rams away late, 21-9.
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02/23/2007 01:47:12 AM