Thursday, October 21, 2010

Prediction Thursday- UTEP

Mike Price is, in my opinion, the best game day coach in C-USA. UTEP is really a marginal collection of players- they have the same number of folks as Tulane on yesterday's Phil Steele list.

But Price gets the League and approach. Rather than agonize over offensive approaches and trick plays, Price has merely coached up the right guys. I mean, does anyone really believe four year starter Trevor Vittatoe is an elite prospect? He isn’t really mobile, sprays the ball around. He is not on some draft boards, late round on others.

Yet from day one, he was prepped and ready to go- a four year, routine 30 TD, 3000 yard, C-USA numbers machine. His career numbers in TDs surpass Peyton Manning and Byron Leftwich. He is arguably the MVP of the League- driving a blah UTEP team to a real good 5-2 start. And Price has a couple of plus skill players: RB Donald Buckram (up and down this year after 1500 yards rushing last year) and WR Kris Adams. That might be all UTEP really has that is real good. But Price is all about finding and coaching talent at the skill positions- and guys like Orleans Darkwa are not touted as realistic major contributors there. Thus, the Miners are -10 over Tulane.

Frankly, the Tulane from earlier in the season would be a lay-up here. That Green Wave outfit could win this game outright; ten points would have been gravy. But they’ve been blown out two weeks in a row- bringing into doubt the ability to stay close when presented with C-USA firepower.

Certainly, Tulane did not deserve to win either the Army or Tulsa game. But I can’t shake the feeling they were a mite unlucky. The defense allowed a respectable total versus Army, the offense had 500+ yards under duress versus Tulsa. No matter what happens on the other side of the ball, these are efforts that probably are not normally indicative of being routed.

So, yes, I can see something "even". Tulane allowing 400 yards on defense and generating a like number under the increasingly productive Ryan Griffin. Unfortunately, Trevor Vittatoe probably turns those yards into more points than Griffin. That is what this game is about: equal talent, but Price is light years ahead of Toledo as a exploiter of said talent. But is it worth ten?

I looked at UAB upset effort. The Blazers had a fortunate day on offense, 500 yards- but like I suggested above, UAB just couldn’t turn it in to actual points. I can definitely see Tulane struggling to the same 21 point effort where the results simply don’t add up to the production assets. Plus, a team can run on the Miners- but I increasingly think the Tulane running back trifecta simply isn’t very good. I don’t know if Tulane can run the ball inside the 20- turn that field position into touchdowns

And the Tulane defense just doesn’t seem adept at stopping these sort of big number C-USA quarterbacks. The Green Wave seems to do okay with quarterbacks that are limited: Houston, Rutgers, Army- but the real schooled distributors kill them. The experienced distributors can deal with the decent pass rush Tulane gets.

Sort of feels like five TDs to three- and the return follies, coach and general team karma just don’t seem to be of the sort where Tulane can get a free score through preparation. That is not enough to cover ten. UTEP -10 over Tulane is the pick.