With one game (Southern Miss versus UTSA) already in the books, we look at the other four games being played Saturday, and what's at stake for each team.
Army @ Western Kentucky- 11 AM CST
What's at stake for WKU: The Hilltoppers stand at 4-5 in their inagaural year in Conference USA. The Toppers could've already been bowl-eligible, yet four of their five losses this year have been by less than 10 points. Army presents an opportunity to notch one more win on the path to bowl eligibility. These next two games are must -wins for WKU, as sitting on five wins in the finale against a Marshall team that could be in position for a New Year's bowl berth could present a daunting task.
Rice @ Marshall - 1:30 PM CST
What's at stake for Rice: Oh, nothing really. Just the chance to prove once again that the Owls are the class of Conference USA. Rice is riding a six-game winning streak since starting the season 0-3 (with a confusing road loss to Old Dominion). Rice currently sits in second place in Conference USA West, and a loss against Marshall would put it a game and a half back of Louisiana Tech for first.
What's at stake for Marshall: A perfect season, duh. Rakeem Cato's chances at a New York Heisman invite. A perfect home record. Their Top 25 Ranking. The chance to avenge the 2013 Conference Championship loss. Need we say more?
Middle Tennessee @ FIU- 2:30 PM CST
What's at stake for Middle Tennessee: Bowl eligbility. This is a pretty good Blue Raiders team whose losses have been to a rejuvenated Memphis team, an undefeated Marshall team, a strong Minnesota team (other than the loss to Illinois) and an up-and-down BYU team. MTSU has been overshadowed by Marshall in the East, but is easily a top four CUSA team. A win here sets the Blue Raiders up for a third straight 8 win season, with highly winnable games against FAU and UTEP to come before a possible bowl berth. Should Marshall possibly slip up in the last two games, MTSU could grab a spot in the CUSA Championship.
What's at stake for FIU: Improvement? FIU suffered through a 1-11 season last year. With three (ok, does the win against Wagner really count?) wins this season, there has been marketed improvement from Ron Turner's team. After a heartbreaking loss against ODU, can the Golden Panthers bounce back against a quality opponent?
North Texas @ UTEP- 9:00 PM CST
What's at stake for North Texas. #HIT6. The goal all year for the Mean Green has been for this young team to reach the .500 mark and bowl eligibility. As I stated in the game preview article Wednesday, the team probably didn't realize that it could take them till the end of the year to reach it. This is a chance for Andrew McNulty to further tighten his grip on the starting quarterback job for next year, and for the defense to prove they can stop a star, as sophomore running back Aaron Jones, who is having a monster season, is expected back for the Miners.
What's at stake for UTEP: Bowl eligibility. Like MTSU, this UTEP team has suffered two closes losses to Texas Tech at the beginning of the year and Western Kentucky last week. With a win, the Miners will be bowl eligible for the third time in 11 years, and heck Miner coach and UTEP alum Sean Kugler might get himself a contract extension. Aaron Jones also has a chance to become the first 1,000 yard running back for UTEP since Marcus Thomas in 2008/2009.