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Three Things We Learned From Conference USA In Week 7

Conference races are in full effect as C-USA East and C-USA West have unexpected teams leading the division halfway through the season.

Florida International v Charlotte Photo by Mike Comer/Getty Images

Western Kentucky is the Favorite but ODU and FIU Are In First Place

After defeating preseason C-USA East favorite Middle Tennessee on the road in 100 Miles of Hate, Western Kentucky is now the de-facto favorite to win back-to-back division titles. But don’t sleep on Florida International and Old Dominion.

After firing Ron Turner FIU is now on a three-game winning streak under interim head coach Ron Cooper. Trailing 26-13 with 7:12 left on the road against Charlotte the Panthers roared back for the win as Alex McGough’s 9-yard touchdown pass to Jonnu Smith with over a minute left proved to be the deciding score.

FIU is 3-0 in conference play with two of those wins coming on the road. FIU looks like a completely new team under Cooper capable of scoring in bunches. Alex Gardner and Anthony Jones have been major factors on offense and McGough has grown into a leader and a better decision maker.

In one-posession games they are 2-0 under Cooper, proving their mental toughness which is something they failed to display under Turner.

Right behind FIU and ahead of WKU is Old Dominion as they are 4-2 overall and 2-0 in conference play. While WKU was playing a double-overtime thriller the Monarchs were at home resting during their bye week.

The Monarchs are on a three-game winning streak in which they have outscored their opponents 121-52 and will play the Hilltoppers next week on the road. Like FIU, the Monarchs’ offense has made great strides over the course of their winning streak as David Washington has become a reliable passer while Jeremy Cox has added another dimension to the offense to go with Ray Lawry on the ground.

The Tops have by far the best conference win of the trio. The schedule is also in their favor as they will hosts ODU next week and FIU in two weeks. The unlikely leaders in C-USA East are going to have to win in Bowling Green, Kentucky, if they are to take the crown away from the defending champs.

Southern Miss is no longer a shoo-in to win C-USA West

Entering the season C-USA West was predicted to be Southern Miss and everyone else but the season isn’t turning out that way. Louisiana Tech, North Texas, UTSA and the Golden Eagles are all tied for first place.

UTSA barely defeated Rice after their huge win last week against Southern Miss, Louisiana Tech took care of business against UMass, and North Texas was on a bye as Southern Miss was getting clobbered by LSU.

Although still dynamic, Southern Miss doesn’t look like the juggernaut from last season under Todd Monken and the gap is closing between their conference rivals.

This is Skip Holtz's most explosive Louisiana Tech team as Carlos Henderson (more on him) had another ridiculous day with 12 receptions for 326 yards and 5 touchdowns. UTSA has already displayed how far they have come in Frank Wilson’s first year in San Antonio and North Texas is 3-3 with a decent shot at going to a bowl game in Seth Littrell’s first year.

The schedule still sets the Golden Eagles up nicely as they go at North Texas and get rival La Tech at home to close the season but it appears C-USA West is going to come down to the final weekend.

Carlos Henderson is the best receiver in C-USA

Entering the season a ton of acclaim went to Richie James, Taywan Taylor, Zach Pascal and Henderson’s teammate Trent Taylor as those players were named to the All-CUSA Team during Conference USA Media Day.

All four of them have lived up to their hype as they each lead their respective teams in receptions but none of them have been as explosive and dynamic as Henderson.

Carlos Henderson was named the Walter Camp Football Foundation’s National Player of the Week after his performance against UMass in which he had 12 receptions for 326 yards and 5 touchdowns.

Henderson had 8 receptions for 232 receiving yards with 3 touchdowns against WKU last week. He is tied for the FBS lead with 10 touchdown catches and ranks third in total receiving yards at 884 while also leading FBS receivers with an average of 147.3 yards per game.

Louisiana Tech’s offense has been incredible this season and a big reason has been Henderson’s ability to take the top off of defenses.

He may not have have received any preseason hype, but Henderson looks like a prime candidate to take home the Biletnikoff Award.