Conference USA football features a ton of intriguing matchups this weekend as we will have four conference games, three games against G5 teams, and see one of the best teams in CUSA host an SEC team.
After a miserable two weeks that mainly featured teams take their paychecks and get hammered, I’m excited to see some competitive games as teams try and take the next step in conference play.
Choosing CUSA Record: 31-6
Game of the Week
Louisiana Tech at Middle Tennessee (Middle Tennessee -5.5)
Preseason CUSA East favorite Middle Tennessee will begin conference play hosting a Louisiana Tech squad that has exceeded expectations thus far. Red Floyd Stadium is expected to have a blackout so the atmosphere in Murfreesboro should be a good one.
Louisiana Tech is averaging 530 yards per game this season while Middle Tennessee is averaging 537.3 yards per game. Both are near the top of CUSA so expect to see a ton of points. Both schools also have two of the most dynamic receivers in CUSA in La Tech’s Trent Taylor and MTSU’s Richie James.
S&P+ is calling this game a coin flip as both are given a 50 percent chance of winning and that says a lot given that the Blue Raiders are at home. The advanced stats believe that one of Louisiana Tech’s biggest advantages in this matchup is their ability to run against the Blue Raiders defense as La Tech ranks 5th in Rushing Success Rate whereas Middle Tennessee’s defense ranks 110th.
The biggest advantage for MTSU is that their Passing Success Rate is 5th in the country and will be going up against a defense that has a tendency to allow successful passing plays, as the Bulldogs rank 125th.
I think this game is going to come down to who can run the ball. MTSU’s offense is at its best when I’Tavius Mathers gets going but Tony Franklin sometimes forgets about him, making the offense one-dimensional. MTSU’s defense has been gouged by the run this year as they have allowed 267.5 rushing yards per game against FBS teams.
La Tech’s rushing attack isn’t where it was last year with Kenneth Dixon but Jarred Craft has proven to be capable with 314 rushing yards and two touchdowns this year.
I didn’t buy the preseason hype of MTSU winning CUSA East this year in large part because of their defense and I think in this conference opener we will see La Tech push them around and get whatever they want on the ground.
There will be a lot of points in Murfreesboro but I see La Tech getting a few more stops than MTSU. Bulldogs win a shootout.
Louisiana Tech 48 Middle Tennessee 37
The Rest of CUSA...
Charlotte at Temple
I took a chance on Charlotte last week against Eastern Michigan and they preceded to lay an egg. As it turns out, their still a long way from competing on this level.
Charlotte 13 Temple 42
UTSA at Old Dominion
I don’t have any type of feel for this one. UTSA looked really impressive last week and seemed to turn a corner. Old Dominion on the other hand looks to have the same problems last year on the offensive side of the ball where they can’t be consistent. I’ll go with the wily-vet Bobby Wilder in a close one.
UTSA 21 Old Dominion 24
Vanderbilt at Western Kentucky
WKU has the talent to make it two years in a row over Vanderbilt and seem to be catching them at the right time as the Commodores had to prepare for Georgia Tech’s triple option offense last week. Tops start slow, but finish strong.
Vanderbilt 23 Western Kentucky 38
Ball State at FAU
Ball State has looked pretty good under Mike Neu and seems to have a clear identity but I see FAU’s defense getting back on track and forcing at least two turnovers to win a close one.
Ball State 21 FAU 27
North Texas at Rice
Mason Fine looked overwhelmed at Florida last weekend, and the offense looked all out of sorts. Against even competition I think we see what Seth Littrell’s offense can look like at its best against a reeling Rice team.
North Texas 35 Rice 28
UCF at FIU
UCF lost to Maryland at home in double overtime. FIU lost to Maryland at home 41-14. UCF avenges last year’s loss in a big way.
UCF 44 FIU 16
Louisville at Marshall
I was a big believer that Marshall would upset Louisville in the offseason. Not any more. Marshall gave up 65 to Akron. 65! Imagine what Lamar Jackson is going to do. Marshall owns a four-game winning streak over Louisville so I imagine a lot of Cardinal fans are going to make the trip to Huntington this week and celebrate a big win.
Louisville 68 Marshall 28
Southern Miss at UTEP
Both teams laid major duds last week. I liked UTEP a week ago to pull off the upset but after a disappointing performance against Army, I see Southern Miss getting back on track by feeding Ito Smith. Golden Eagles win a close one.
Southern Miss 38 UTEP 30