Can we just hit the reset button on this week? The weekend was brutal to Conference USA. Without a win of significance, Middle Tennesse, FAU, Rice, UTEP, and UTSA all suffered blowouts. CUSA title contender Marshall played like garbage in a road loss to Ohio and UTEP suffered a huge blow as Aaron Jones suffered an ankle sprain. Let's pile on the doom and gloom with three things we learned this weekend.
Lousiana Tech's defense is missing Manny Diaz and Oscar Giles
Skip Holtz suffered two major blows this offseason as his two best defensive coaches Manny Diaz and Oscar Giles were poached by Mississippi State and Houston, respectively.
While the Bulldogs should still have a solid defense this season, they looked sorely out of sync against Western Kentucky this week. Brandon Doughty completed 28 of 38 passes for 441 yards, one touchdown, and zero interceptions. Even after losing star running back Leon Allen, the Hilltoppers were able to rack up 41 points and 585 total yards.
The Hilltopper offense is probably the best one LA Tech will see throughout the remainder of the schedule but they'll need a more cohesive effort to gain the results they became accustomed to last year. All-conference defensive tackle Vernon Butler will need to be more of a disruptive force up the middle as he had just one tackle for loss against WKU.
Marshall may have more growing pains this season than anticipated
Michael Birdsong was solid enough against Purdue in his first start but the junior transfer quarterback looked miserable against Ohio in week two.
Finishing with a depressing QB rating (4.6), Birdsong threw two picks on just 48% passing. Not even a 170 yard rushing performance from Devon Johnson could prevent a disappointing out of conference loss for the Herd.
Standing at an imposing 6'5", 240 pounds, Birdsong has all the tools to be a successful pocket passer. Replacing Rakeem Cato is a difficult task but the offensive weapons surrounding him should make his job easy. Birdsong will need to find mental clarity on the field and play within himself.
Rice's rushing attack is scary
Conference USA, meet Samuel Stewart. The 5'9", 200 pound freshman totaled 130 yards on 25 carries as he found the endzone twice against Texas. One of those touchdowns was generated by a twisting four yard dive into the Longhorn endzone following a speed option pitch.
Thought to be the strength of an otherwise struggling team, UT's defensive line was unable to win many battles against Rice's salty offensive line. The Owls were able to control time of possession by a staggering 28 minute differential on the strength of their running game.
Darik Dillard, Austin Walter, and the rest of the Owl's stable of backs is nothing to scoff at either. This team should be able to grind out yards against all CUSA defenses.