Bowl-bound teams battle
Abdul Michael Conteh
Heading into the last two games of the
regular season, most of the conference is fighting for the four automatic
berths and trying to get six wins to at least be bowl eligible.
Louisville is the current reigning king
in Conference USA after dethroning Southern Miss last week.
The conference has only one team in the
top 25 and Southern Miss is holding on to that spot for dear life. Memphis
almost made its season but fell short to intrastate rival Tennessee, but
its bowl chances are barely alive.
Unlike other conferences, C-USA always
has an upset or two that keeps all of them out of the top 25 picture. None
of the teams are juggernauts, but not having too many slouches in the conference
can hurt from time to time.
Southern Miss at Alabama-Birmingham
-- Both the Blazers and the Golden Eagles are coming off losses and are
trying to place themselves in a position to get the best bowl game possible.
The Golden Eagles are devastated after their 49-28 loss to Louisville,
which took away their outside chance at a Bowl Championship Series bowl
game, and maybe the C-USA championship.
Quarterback Jeff Kelly had a miserable
game against the Cardinals, throwing four interceptions. He was repeatedly
hurried into making bad decisions. Southern Miss must shake off the loss
because one more mistake and it will be the end of the Golden Eagles' championship
hopes. The Alabama-Birmingham Blazers are also recovering from a loss to
the Cincinnati Bearcats, 33-21.
The Blazers' game plan is to try to rattle
the Golden Eagles early with either a score off defensive dominated series.
They'll have to force Southern Miss to lose some self-confidence.
The key matchup will be the hobbled Southern
Miss offensive line against the Blazers' tough front seven, who are still
giving up only 91.8 running yards per game. Either Southern Miss will take
last week's frustration out on UAB or the Golden Eagles will lay a huge
duck on the road.
Army at Louisville -- The Cardinals
are on a high after knocking of Southern Miss but must not look past this
week's game against Army. Army is 1-7, but the Black Knights did beat Louisville
last year, -52 in a double overtime shoot-out at West Point.
Cardinal quarterback Dave Ragone has been
extremely effective and ranks No. 12 in the nation in quarterback passing
Army's main focus is to keep scoring and
hope to get into another shoot-out like last year's contest. That duty
falls mainly on running back Michael Wallace, who leads C-USA with 916
yards this season, good for an average of 114 yards per game. If Army's
ground game is non-existent, expect a blowout.
Cincinnati at Memphis -- The Bearcats
need a crucial victory on the road against the Memphis Tigers. The Bearcats
need one more victory to be bowl eligible. With only Southern Miss remaining
on the schedule, this should be treated as a must-win game.
Cincinnati hasn't won a road game all season
and the Tiger defense is as tough as it gets. Quarterback Deontey Kenner
threw for 352 yards in a victory over Alabama-Birmingham. The Bearcats
must keep a balanced running and passing attack to keep the Memphis defense
at bay. The Memphis Tigers lost a close 19-17 game to the Tennessee Volunteers.
To be bowl eligible, they must win their final two games of the season.
Memphis has beaten Cincinnati for two consecutive
years and won the last five meetings in the Liberty Bowl. Memphis' main
goal is to keep the score low so the offense has a chance to put some points
on the board.
Navy at Tulane -- The Green Wave
kept its bowl eligibility alive after a 41-23 win over the Cougars. Tulane
will now play 0-8 Navy. Tulane must beware of the triple option and make
sure the defense stays disciplined enough to stick to its run-stuffing
Quarterback Patrick Ramsey is a gunslinger
and should keep trying to test Navy deep where the secondary is a little
suspect. A loss here and Tulane can kiss any chance at any bowl game good