Only two weeks left in the regular season. Man did the season fly. For teams who won’t be bowling there are only a few more games to build for the next year. As for the others, a chance to be a part of history is still on the table.
As it stands there will definitely be four teams from Conference USA playing in the month of December as Louisiana Tech, Western Kentucky, Old Dominion, and Middle Tennessee are already bowl eligible.
UTSA, Southern Miss, North Texas and Charlotte are the only teams in C-USA who has a shot to join them. The Roadrunners and Golden Eagles need to win just one more game to go bowling, whereas the Mean Green and the 49ers need to win out.
Last week Louisiana Tech clinched a spot in the Conference USA Championship Game by defeating UTSA. The Bulldogs can host the championship game by defeating Southern Miss next Saturday.
The East has yet to be decided. Western Kentucky can clinch the division by defeating Marshall next Saturday but Old Dominion still has an outside shot. The Monarchs must have WKU lose to Marshall but first they must take care of business in their final two games. The first one requires a win in the Sunshine State.
Choosing C-USA Record: 66-25
Game of the Week
Old Dominion at Florida Atlantic (Old Dominion -8)
Just a few weeks ago FAU was dead in the water as they were winless in conference play and undergoing a seven-game losing streak.
Against Rice, FAU played their most complete game of the season. Against UTEP, FAU battled back from an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter to win the game. In both contests FAU played up to their potential.
Although Old Dominion has by far the better record the Monarchs don’t need any convincing in knowing how dangerous this game is. Last year ODU lost to a 2-9 FAU team in the final game of the season with a chance to reach their first ever bowl game.
ODU will not take this game for granted. I see this game is going to come down to which rushing duo will have the most success.
Old Dominion’s Ray Lawry and Jeremy Cox have combined for 1,371 yards and 20 touchdowns. FAU’s Greg Howell and Devin Singletary have been excellent out of the backfield as well as they have combined for 1,420 yards and 18 touchdowns.
The difference between the two is that Old Dominion is a much better passing team as the Monarchs are ranked 69th in Passing S&P+ versus FAU’s 119th.
Given how effective Old Dominion’s passing defense is (14th in Passing Downs S&P+, 15th in Passing Down Success Rate, 21st in Passing Downs Sack Rate) it is important that FAU runs the ball well.
Defensively FAU ranks near the bottom in every advanced stat. Old Dominion is ranked 47th in Rushing S&P+ and 11th in Rushing IsoPP. If the Owls can’t force the Monarchs into passing downs they don’t have a chance and even that may not lead to success as David Washington is having the best season in his career.
Finally healthy, Washington has passed for 2,091 yards, 20 touchdowns and three interceptions this year. Zach Pascal is the big name but Jonathan Duhart’s emergence this season has forced secondaries to respect ODU’s passing attack should they consider doubling Pascal.
Given FAU’s inability to stop the run this year ODU should have great success on the ground and when FAU decides to put more defenders in the box Washington should find an open target.
Old Dominion isn’t quite on the level of WKU or La Tech but they have shown all season that are a tier above everyone else in the conference. In all seven of their wins they never had a win expectancy below 95 percent.
They don’t own a single win against a team with a winning record but none of their contests against teams with a losing record have been all that close.
As a result, I don’t see this one being that much of a game either. A balanced attack will keep FAU on their heels all game as the Monarchs will put the game out of reach mid-way in the third quarter.
Old Dominion 38 FAU 21
The rest of C-USA...
UTSA at Texas A&M
UTSA needs one more win to reach their first bowl game but they’re going to have to wait until next week. The Roadrunners play well for a quarter before giving way to A&M’s depth.
Texas A&M 45 UTSA 17
UTEP at Rice
I didn’t think the Owls would win any games in conference play but after last week’s upset of Charlotte I see them closing conference play with a two-game winning streak to give a glimmer of hope that Bailiff will be back in Houston next season.
Rice 35 UTEP 31
Middle Tennessee at Charlotte
MTSU has self-destructed now that Brent Stockstill is done for the year. Winning on the road with a freshman quarterback is difficult and the Blue Raiders are finding out the hard way after getting blown out last week against Marshall. After giving I’Tavius Mathers only 15 carries last week something tells me Tony Franklin is going to make sure he gets more touches in this one. Blue Raiders win a close one behind a big day from Mathers,
MTSU 38 Charlotte 31
Southern Mississippi at North Texas
Nick Mullens’ status is still up in the air so we might see Keon Howard make his second career start. As I’ve mentioned before, winning on the road with a freshman quarterback is difficult. If Mullens starts I think USM will get the win.
but as it stands I see North Texas getting back on track with a big day from Jeffrey Wilson (edit: apparently Wilson is out too. I’m flipping to Southern Miss as a result as I don’t see UNT capable of moving the ball without him.)
Southern Mississippi 28 North Texas 17
Marshall at FIU
This is a complete toss up. FIU’s defense is much better than MTSU’s and will play with some fire after the news of Butch Davis’ hire earlier this week. However, with Alex McGough and Jonnu Smith both out I don’t see them moving the ball often. I still don’t think Marshall’s offense is any good but they do just enough to get the road win this weekend.
Marshall 23 FIU 14