The Rise of the Upstarts
When Conference USA decided to add Charlotte, Old Dominion, and UTSA they took a big chance on adding program who were still in their infancy stages as football programs.
Old Dominion was really competetive at the FCS level in the Colonial Athletic Association, making two appearances in the playoffs but when they joined C-USA they had only been playing football for five years.
UTSA had been in the now-defunct Western Athletic Conference before going to C-USA but similar to the Monarchs they also joined while only fielding a program for two years.
Charlotte was the most ridiculed selection by Conference USA as the 49ers have only started playing football since 2013.
Conference USA selected these three schools based off of potential and their location and after suffering growing pains in their first years in the league all three schools made a resounding statement Saturday as each school whopped the most recognizable schools the league has to offer.
Saturday night Old Dominion became bowl eligible with an emphatic beatdown of traditional G5 power Marshall 38-14. After the game the team dumped gatorade on Bobby Wilder to celebrate the occasion.
In Murfreesboro, Tennessee, UTSA was doing their own uprise against the status-quo by defeating 20-point favorite Middle Tennessee 45-25. In Frank Wilson’s first season in San Antonio the Roadrunners are 5-4 and a win away from reaching their first bowl game in school history.
Last year Charlotte was the worst team in FBS. In their first season in C-USA the 49ers went winless in conference play. Entering the season many projected the 49ers to be one of the worst teams in FBS again. Yesterday the 49ers pulled off the biggest upset in C-USA by defeating Southern Miss on the road 38-27.
With the win Charlotte moved to 4-5 for the season with two of those wins coming against C-USA’s flagship schools in Marshall and Southern Miss and both taking place on the road.
With their performances on Saturday all three schools have put C-USA’s Old Guard on notice that their rise to the top of the conference will be taking place in the near future.
Southern Miss Isn’t The Same Under Jay Hopson
In my C-USA Power Rankings I alluded to how Southern Miss’ offense hasn’t looked as explosive under Jay Hopson despite returning preseason Offensive Player of the Year Nick Mullens.
On Saturday it was confirmed. The Golden Eagles were outplayed and out-coached on Saturday and suffered an embarrassing defeat at the hands of Charlotte who’s only been an FBS member for two years.
Southern Miss has now lost three out of their last four games and with a 5-4, 3-2 record they are easily the most disappointing team in C-USA.
Hopson was a popular hire given his ties to Southern Miss but after defeating Kentucky to start the season the honeymoon period is over. After being selected as the favorite to win C-USA West in the preseason the Golden Eagles could potentially not even qualify for a bowl.
The remaining schedule is at Old Dominion, at North Texas, vs Louisiana Tech. USM still has a an outside shot for C-USA West but must win out and hope UTSA loses a game.
Despite what has been a disappointing year so far I would be surprised if Hopson doesn’t reach a bowl game.
But with UTSA and North Texas trending up and Louisiana Tech remaining a consistent threat under Skip Holts, USM no longer appears to be a shoe-in as a division favorite in the future.
Rice Is The Worst Team In The Conference
Rice hosted FAU and got dominated 42-25. Entering the game FAU was on a seven-game losing streak with their only win coming against an FCS opponent.
FAU’s offense registered their best game in school history. Rice was too small to block up front and too slow to keep up with FAU’s skill position players.
It was obvious that despite the fact both teams entered the contest with the same record FAU had the brighter future as young players were making plays all over the field against Rice’s veteran core.
With their most winnable game off the schedule, David Bailiff now stares down the barrel of a 1-11 season in his 10th year in Houston.
In three years Rice has gone for conference champs to the worst team in the conference. They should move on from David Bailiff and start fresh and try to keep pace with UNT and UTSA.