1. Not all winless teams are created equal.
You look at the standings and you see that North Texas and UTSA are a combined 0-7 and think "welp, that'll be a race to the bottom of the standings." Which means you aren't looking close enough.
North Texas would probably be 0-3 no matter what, but their red zone struggles are troubling. Their opponents have driven the ball inside the red zone 18 times and produced 12 touchdowns and two field goals. The Mean Green have made it inside the 20 yard line eight times and managed four touchdowns and four field goals. Swing such a performance in their favor, and they probably beat SMU, and maybe they beat Rice too. The offenses they face coming up (USM, WKU, Marshall) don't make their -5 turnover margin likely to change any time soon, either.
The Roadrunner defense has been steamrolled, sure, but the offense has looked good at times and more importantly, UTSA has now finished their four hardest games with all of conference play ahead of them. Blake Bogenschutz has shown multiple flashes of impressive skill, and they just lost by two to Colorado State in a game where they were called for a holding penalty in the end zone.
The Roadrunners are this close to breaking through. The Mean Green are just hoping to get out of their own way enough to stay competitive past halftime.
2. Not all .500 teams are created equal, either
There are 13 teams in Conference USA, and eight of them are 2-2. In the east, that big cluster of two-loss teams is clearly headed up by Middle Tennessee, but even they are chasing down Western Kentucky and Marshall at this point. Meanwhile in the west, UTEP - who had to come from behind to beat Incarnate Word, for chrissakes - is the only two-loss team that doesn't belong in that tie at the top of the division.
Louisiana Tech is where they are due to the fact that Kenneth Dixon is an absolute animal. He has rushed for 524 yards and five touchdowns already, which if you are bad at math means that at this pace, he will have 2,100 yards and 20 touchdowns before the Bulldogs even (hopefully) reach their bowl game.
Meanwhile, Southern Miss has a clearly improved Nick Mullens tossing the ball wherever he damn well pleases, to the tune of 1.363 yards and 10 touchdowns, both of which are second only to Brandon Doughty in conference. Dixon and Mullens will face off at season's end, and we can only hope that Mullens and Doughty meet in the conference championship game because OOH LAWDY the offense.
3. Speaking of UTEP...
This season is about to get ugly, and fast. Two games into the season, the Miners had Aaron Jones, a beast in the backfield, leading the way with 209 rushing yards.
Two games later, including yesterday's game against Incarnate Word, he is still the team's leading rusher by over 100 yards. This UTEP squad faced off, at home, against an Incarnate Word team that just moved up to FCS two years ago. Their football program's all-time record is 22-45. with more than half those wins coming at the Division !! level.
So how did UTEP do? They were out-gained 414-356, the offense only managed to score 20 points, and the defense balanced out a first-half interception return for a touchdown with getting beat by a 90-yard touchdown bomb in the second half.
I know that some of that shakiness was Ryan Metz attempting valiantly to fill in for Mack Leftwich while he recovers from his concussion, so there is improvement to be had if and when Leftwich returns. But if they struggled this much with Incarnate Word, what the hell is going to happen against the rest of their division?