LAST WEEK: 4-2
REGULAR SEASON: 67-29 (.698)
SMU (7-5) at UCF (9-3), Orlando, 11 a.m. (ESPN/ESPN2)
I learned a few things this fall in picking 96 Conference USA football games. Primarily, I learned the league is about as predictable as a baby's mood. After breezing through the season's first four weeks (34-6), I went a pedestrian 33-23 over the last nine. I had a losing record three weeks out of four starting with Week 7 before regaining a degree of respectability over the season's final three weeks (13-5).
I learned that I know nothing about East Carolina football (though they surely have the worst defense east of the Bluff City). Over the season's last eight weeks, I missed the ECU game five times (two Pirate wins and three defeats). And I wasn't much better picking the UTEP Miners, missing four consecutive weeks (three of them Miner losses . . . I wanted to believe).
As for the home team, I was a cool 10-2 picking Tiger games. Which places me only two misses behind predicted sunrise over the last three months. (Missed their win over Middle Tennessee and yes, I picked Memphis to beat Tulsa, a game they lost by merely 41 points.)
As for tomorrow's C-USA title tilt in Florida, UCF has hosted this game twice before, so Knight coach George O'Leary should have his team focused properly. The Knights have won seven of eight (though their only loss since September came at home to Southern Miss, on November 13th). SMU has won two straight games on three occasions this season, but a win tomorrow would be the Mustangs' first three-game streak. UCF and SMU faced six common opponents this season and combined to win 11 of the 12 games (SMU lost to Houston). My performance in picking these teams' games? I was 9-3 with the Knights, 7-5 with the Mustangs.
UCF has the top defense in C-USA and is playing at home. And I love the way their freshman quarterback, Jeff Godfrey, played in the Liberty Bowl last weekend.
The pick: UCF 27, SMU 20