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Conference USA Week 4 Power Rankings

Middle Tennessee and Old Dominion are this week’s biggest risers.

NCAA Football: Middle Tennessee at Vanderbilt Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

1. Middle Tennessee (3-1, 1-0, Last Week: #4)

Last result: Middle Tennessee 38 Louisiana Tech 34

I have been extremely critical of MTSU being picked to win CUSA East and after the first half against Louisiana Tech I thought there was no way the Blue Raiders were capable of winning the division.

Trailing 20-7 at halftime, the offense was out of sync and the defense couldn’t stop Trent Taylor and Ryan Higgins. Then the offense exploded for 31 second half points and the defense had a goal line stand to hold on to the win. This was a huge win for a program that hasn’t been able to take the next step. MTSU had the best win last week so I’m moved them up to the top spot.

Next week: at North Texas

2. Western Kentucky (2-2, 1-0, LW: #1)

Last result: Western Kentucky 30 Vanderbilt 31 OT

Tough, tough, loss for WKU. To give up a touchdown on the last play of the game with the game in hand is demoralizing. Going for two in overtime was the right call but the Tops just didn’t execute.

The loss means WKU’s faint hopes of a NY6 bid are dashed but I didn’t see anything for cause of concern when the Tops enter conference play. In two weeks WKU will go on the road and play Louisiana Tech. But first, a tune up against an FCS squad.

Next week: vs Houston Baptist

3. Southern Mississippi (3-1, 1-0, LW: #2)

Last result: Southern Mississippi 34 UTEP 7

Southern Miss started slow, trailing 7-3 after the first quarter but then rattled off 31 straight points to close the game. That’s the second time this season Southern Miss has went on the road and closed the game with a flurry of points.

The defense can be shaky but I don’t think anyone in CUSA West has an offense capable of taking advantage. Also, with everyone else in CUSA West taking a loss (aside from North Texas), the Golden Eagles look like prime candidates to appear in the conference title game.

Next week: vs Rice

4. Louisiana Tech (1-3, 0-1, LW: #3)

Last result: Louisiana Tech 34 Middle Tennessee 38

The Bulldogs had their chances to finish off MTSU for a huge win and couldn’t seal the deal. The defense fell apart, the offense bogged down, and now at 1-3 Tech has no room for error if they are to qualify for a bowl game this year.

This was always going to go down as a transition year for Skip Holtz but the fact they have been really close against Arkansas and MTSU on the road has to be frustrating. Next week’s contest against UTEP is an elimination game for CUSA West contention.

Next week: vs UTEP

5. Marshall (1-2, LW: #5)

Last result: Marshall 28 Louisville 59

Chase Litton was a late scratch due to a concussion and the offense suffered as Garet Morrell didn’t look ready in his first career start as he failed to pass for over 100 yards. Lamar Jackson dominated Marshall’s defense to the tune of five passing touchdowns.

I still think Marshall will be a factor for the CUSA East division crown but their performance out of conference is really concerning and it doesn’t get any easier as they take on the ACC’s Pittsburgh Panthers to end their non-conference schedule.

Next week: at Pittsburgh

6. Old Dominion (2-2, 1-0, LW: #8)

Last result: Old Dominion 33 UTSA 19

Old Dominion looked great on offense in the conference opener against UTSA as David Washington played his best game of the season with 207 passing yards, two passing touchdowns, 69 rushing yards, and one rushing touchdown. Jeremy Cox stepped up in place of Ray Lawry and added 103 rushing yards and two touchdowns and the Monarchs even added another threat in the passing game alongside Zach Pascal as Jonathan Duhart led the team with six catches for 86 yards and two touchdowns.

Someone has to rise up and create some separation in the middle of Conference USA and right now the Monarchs look like a team that is capable of being the best out of the third tier.

Next week: at Charlotte

7. UTSA (1-3, 0-1, LW: #6)

Last result: UTSA 19 Old Dominion 33

UTSA fans can pretty much forget about making any plans to a bowl game after last week’s loss to ODU. Dalton Sturm reverted back to his performance against Colorado State and the defense struggled to get off the field.

The Roadrunners’ offense has struggled on the road this season as they are averaging 16.5 points per game away from San Antonio and with road games against Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee, and Texas A&M still on the schedule it’s safe to say UTSA must be perfect in the Alamodome the rest of the way. Next up is the best team in CUSA West.

Next week: Bye

8. UTEP (1-3, 0-1, LW: #7)

Last result: UTEP 7 Southern Miss 34

UTEP’s woes on offense continued as the team failed to have a quarterback pass for over 100 yards against Southern Miss. Zack Greenlee no longer appears to be the answer as Ryan Metz got some playing time in this one. Aaron Jones was still his awesome self, rushing for over 100 yards but UTEP won’t be going anywhere this season if they don’t get better quarterback play.

Next week: at Louisiana Tech

9. North Texas (2-2, 1-0, LW: #10)

Last result: North Texas 42 Rice 32 2OT

After trailing 17-0 early in the game, the Mean Green battled all the way back for a crucial road win for Seth Littrell. The defense forced three turnovers and made the game-winning defensive stand, stuffing Rice on 4th & 1. Mason Fine wasn’t amazing, but the true freshman looked much better. Though the passing attack is still struggling, the rushing attack continues to be a revelation in Seth Littrell’s first year in Denton as Jeffery Wilson rushed for 157 yards and three touchdowns.

North Texas has a chance to send a huge message to C-USA (and Texas recruits) as they host Middle Tennessee next week.

Next week: vs Middle Tennessee

10. FAU (1-3, LW: #9)

Last result: FAU 27 Ball State 31

FAU lost yet another close one in the game’s final minutes making Charlie Partridge’s record 4-9 in one-possession games. The offense looked much better, but injuries continue to be an issue on the offensive line as Tarrick Thomas went down during the game and will miss the rest of the season

What’s most disappointing is FAU’s much-hyped defensive secondary has been ordinary this season and was the culprit in Ball State’s game-winning touchdown drive. Things aren’t looking good in Boca Raton and the fan base wants answers for what appears to be another disappointing season in Partridge’s third year.

Next week: at FIU

11. Rice (0-4, 0-1, LW: #12)

Last result: Rice 35 North Texas 42 2OT

This loss hurts. Up 17-0, Rice had the game and gave it away. For David Bailiff, losing against first-year head coach Seth Littrell is going to be tough to explain for why Rice should keep him. The Owls are officially the worst team in C-USA West.

Next week: at Southern Miss

12. FIU (0-4, LW: #11)

Last result: FIU 14 UCF 53

FIU is officially a dumpster fire as Ron Turner was relieved of his duties Sunday morning. FIU was embarrassed against UCF as the loss makes them 0-3 at home this season. The Panthers will hope to spread their fire to Boca Raton this week with a win in the Shula Bowl.

Next week: vs FAU

13. Charlotte (0-4, LW: 13)

Last result: Charlotte 20 Temple 48

The 49ers were off to a promising start against Temple as they led 7-3 after the first quarter. Then they gave up 28 unanswered points in the second quarter. Baby steps.

Next week: vs Old Dominion