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October 4, 2013

Week Six Preview

American Athletic Conference competition begins in widespread fashion this week with four games on the docket, highlighted by UCF's visit to Memphis.

While the Tigers have suffered some down seasons recently, second-year head coach Justin Fuente looks to be righting the ship. Memphis ended 2012 on a three-game winning streak and while they've gotten out to a 1-2 start this season, they could easily be 3-0 if a few breaks had gone their way. The defense, led by the nation's sack leader Martin Ifedi, can wreak havoc on opposing offenses and they've done a good job limiting the run.

UCF may have won eight straight in the series, but this won't be another cakewalk.

Elsewhere in the American, the second-most intriguing matchup could be Rutgers' visit to SMU. The 3-1 Scarlet Knights look like they could be a contender. SMU is 1-3 after playing a tough non-conference schedule - can they start reeling off some wins to resurrect their season?

Meanwhile, two of the American's winless teams square off against two of the league's better teams as No. 7 Louisville travels to 0-4 Temple and 0-4 USF hosts 3-1 Cincinnati.

Here's a look at every game involving the American, future league members East Carolina, Tulane, Tulsa and Navy, plus UCF's non-conference opponents (Akron, FIU, Penn State, South Carolina).

Yahoo! College Football Scoreboard

Lines are for entertainment purposes only, picks are head-to-head.

No. 7 Louisville (4-0) at Temple (0-4, 0-1 AAC)
12 noon, American Game of the Week/WKCF in Orlando
THE BUZZ: Possibly a matchup between the American's best and worst teams. It's the league opener for Louisville, who cruised through their non-conference schedule of Ohio, Eastern Kentucky, Kentucky and FIU. Temple is winless with losses to Notre Dame, Houston, FCS Fordham and Idaho. In last year's meeting, the Cardinals crushed the Owls 45-17 as Teddy Bridgewater threw for 324 yards and five touchdowns. Temple LB Tyler Matakevich is accumulating tackles like crazy with 60 through four games, which is second-best in the nation. He had 24 in the loss to Idaho.
THE LINE: Louisville by 34
THE PICK: Louisville
Rutgers (3-1) at SMU (1-3)
12 noon, ESPNews
THE BUZZ: American opener for both and the first time the two schools have played. Rutgers is riding high as winners of three straight after their 28-24 come-from-behind win against Arkansas on Sept. 21. Rutgers RB Paul James, who was leading the league with 143.2 yards per game, is out this week with a leg injury but could return next week. SMU has taken their lumps with setbacks to in-state foes Texas Tech, Texas A&M and TCU, but they did get a win (barely) against FCS Montana State. The Mustangs are 11th nationally passing offense with 330.5 yards per game.
THE LINE: Rutgers by 5
THE PICK: Rutgers
Air Force (1-4, 0-4 MWC) at Navy (2-1)
12 noon, CBS
THE BUZZ: This game was in jeopardy of being cancelled due to the government shutdown, but a late approval by the Secretary of Defense allowed the game to take place as scheduled (along with Army's trip to Boston College). The victor in this game is the typical recipient of the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy, which goes to the winner of the triangular rivalry between Air Force, Army and Navy. Navy has won the trophy in eight of the last 10 years, including 2012, while Air Force possessed the trophy in 2010 and 2011. Navy is coming off a 19-7 loss at Western Kentucky, while Air Force has lost four straight to Mountain West competition.
THE LINE: Navy by 11.5
Penn State (3-1) at Indiana (2-2)
12 noon, Big Ten Network
THE BUZZ: It's the Big Ten opener for both schools who are coming off bye weeks. Penn State rebounded from their Sept. 14 loss to UCF with a 34-0 shutout win against Kent State. They also got some good news from the NCAA in the form of reduced scholarship penalties. The Nittany Lions are still in the second season of the four-year bowl ban, however. Indiana has wins vs. FCS Indiana State and Bowling Green, and losses to Navy and Missouri.
THE LINE: Penn State by 3.5
THE PICK: Penn State
UCF (3-1) at Memphis (1-2)
4:30 p.m., ESPN3
THE BUZZ: American Athletic Conference opener for both, though the two were familiar foes in Conference USA. UCF won every one of those contests, eight in a row dating back to 2005. Memphis is a much-improved team however, boasting a solid defense that's stout against the run and features the nation's sack leader in DE Martin Ifedi. Overall, Memphis leads the AAC with 13 sacks in three games while UCF has just five in four games. UCF's coaches won't allow anyone to look ahead, but this looks like your prototypical trap game sandwiched between a heartbreaking 28-25 loss to No. 12 South Carolina and an upcoming matchup at American favorite Louisville on Oct. 18. UCF QB Blake Bortles would love to have a couple throws back from that South Carolina game, but he's still a very impressive 75 of 106 for 1,174 yards and nine touchdowns.
THE LINE: UCF by 10.5
Ohio (3-1) at Akron (1-4, 0-1 MAC)
3:30 p.m., No TV
THE BUZZ: Maybe one of these weeks Akron will get lucky. The Zips haven't beaten a FBS team since 2010. The latest setback came at Bowling Green last week, a 31-14 loss. Ohio is a solid MAC team and winners of three straight vs. North Texas, Marshall and FCS Austin Peay. They opened the season with a loss at Louisville.
THE LINE: Ohio by 5
East Carolina (3-1, 1-0 C-USA) at Middle Tennessee (3-2, 1-0 C-USA)
3:30 p.m., Fox Sports Net
THE BUZZ: A Conference USA East Division showdown. East Carolina throttled in-state rival North Carolina last week to the tune of 55-31. It was the first ECU win in Chapel Hill since 1975, though they did beat them in Greenville in 2007. The Pirates got out to an early 14-0 lead, led 35-10 in the third quarter and never let UNC get any closer than 14. ECU put up 603 yards of total offense, which included 376 yards passing and 227 on the ground. Middle Tennessee traveled to Provo last Friday where they were defeated by BYU, 37-10. Both ECU and MTSU's C-USA win came against FAU: ECU crushed the Owls in Greenville, 31-13, while MTSU needed overtime to win the road, 42-35.
THE LINE: East Carolina by 7.5
THE PICK: East Carolina
Rice (2-2, 1-0 C-USA) at Tulsa (1-3)
3:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network
THE BUZZ: Tulsa struggled in their non-conference schedule with losses to Bowling Green, Oklahoma and Iowa State, though they did beat Colorado State. Rice lost to Texas A&M, beat Kansas, lost a close game to rival Houston, then last week edged FAU. Tulsa has won six in a row against Rice. The Owls lead C-USA in rushing offense (219.0).
THE LINE: Tulsa by 3
North Texas (2-2) at Tulane (3-2, 1-0 C-USA)
3:30 p.m., No TV
THE BUZZ: Tulane beat another northern Louisiana team last week as they shocked Louisiana-Monroe on the road, 31-14. That comes a couple weeks after beating nearby Louisiana Tech, 24-15. This is their first meeting with North Texas, a newcomer to C-USA this season. The Mean Green, whose defensive coordinator is former UCFer John Skladany, hung around with Georgia two weeks ago before the Dawgs pulled away late, 45-21. UNT has wins vs. Idaho and Ball State and their other loss came against Ohio.
THE LINE: North Texas by 3
THE PICK: Tulane
FIU (0-4) at Southern Miss (0-4)
4:00 p.m., CSS
THE BUZZ: Is this the week Southern Miss finally gets a win? The Golden Eagles are in the midst of one of the biggest program collapses in college football history. USM made bowl appearances in 14 out of 15 seasons from 1997 to 2011. The 2011 team went 12-2, shocking undefeated Houston in the C-USA Championship to knock them out of a BCS game, then edged Nevada in the Hawaii Bowl. Larry Fedora then packed his bags for North Carolina and Southern Miss hasn't won a game since. They went 0-12 in 2012 under Ellis Johnson, who was promptly fired. In comes Todd Monken, former offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State, who is trying to turn things around, but he's began his tenure with losses to Texas State, Nebraska, Arkansas and Boise State. The good news for Southern Miss is that FIU is dreadful and could be the worst team in FBS. Last time out, the Golden Panthers lost to Louisville to the tune of 72-0, a game in which head coach Ron Turner was "misunderstood" as the refs thought he asked for a running clock to speed up the conclusion of the game.
THE LINE: Southern Miss by 17
THE PICK: Southern Miss
Cincinnati (3-1) at USF (0-4)
7:00 p.m., ESPN3
THE BUZZ: American Athletic Conference opener for both. Cincinnati holds a 7-3 lead in the all-time series with the Bearcats taking six of the last seven matchups. In the hours after UC's 14-0 win at Miami on Sept. 21, freshman OL Ben Flick died in a car accident. In the past two games after replacing QB Munchie Legaux, UC's Brendan Kay has completed 45 of 67 passes for 578 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions. USF's latest loss came against Miami at home, 49-21. Hurricane QB Stephen Morris, who was already nursing a sprained ankle, said after the game the Bulls were a "dirty" team for intentionally trying to twist his ankle under piles and adding, "I have no respect for them at all." Looking for some sort of offensive spark, USF is on their third QB. The latest to start was Steven Bench, a former Penn State transfer, who was 13 of 27 for 189 yards with one touchdown and one interception. USF ranks 120 out of 123 FBS teams in total offense with 270.3 yards per game.
THE LINE: Cincinnati by 11.5
THE PICK: Cincinnati
Kentucky (1-3, 0-1 SEC) at South Carolina (3-1, 1-1 SEC)
7:30 p.m., Sun Sports
THE BUZZ: A week after being knocked out of the game by UCF, QB Connor Shaw's shoulder has made a quick recovery and he will return to start for South Carolina. It's been an interesting week for Gamecocks head coach Steve Spurrier, who didn't exactly deny being intoxicated during the filming of his weekly TV show following their narrow 28-25 victory at UCF. Kentucky lost last week to Florida, 24-7.
THE LINE: South Carolina by 21
THE PICK: South Carolina

Bye weeks: UConn (0-4), Houston (4-0, 1-0 AAC).



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