1. Southern Miss (1-0, Last week: #2)
Last result: Southern Miss 44 Kentucky 35
Southern Miss had the best win of the conference last week and did so in impressive fashion After trailing 35-10 in the second quarter, the Golden Eagles would go on to close the game on a 34-0 run.
Ito Smith was a phenomenal, rushing for 173 yards and one touchdown on 37 carries. Nick Mullens was shaky in the first half, but bounced back with two rushing touchdowns and one passing touchdown in the second half.
Shannon Dawson’s offense looked incredible against an SEC defense and Jay Hopson was able to start his Southern Miss tenure with a bang.
Next Week: vs. Savannah St.
2. Western Kentucky (1-0, 1-0, LW: #1)
Last result: Western Kentucky 44 Rice 16
The Hilltoppers did nothing wrong to lose their spot as it was more what Southern Miss accomplished. WKU won their conference opener easily over Rice as they were able to do just about anything they wanted on offense.
In his WKU debut, Mike White threw for 517 yards and three touchdowns. In short, he was very impressive.
The offense gained 649 total yards and had zero turnovers for the night. On defense the Hilltoppers picked up where they left off last season as they limited Rice to 288 total yards and had two takeaways.
WKU continues to dominate CUSA as the win over Rice was their 13th straight victory in conference play.
Next week: at Alabama
3. Marshall (0-0, LW: #3)
Last result: BYE
Marshall was the only team to not play last week but I wasn’t impressed from what I saw out of the rest of the conference to move them down a spot.
Next week: vs Morgan St.
4. Middle Tennessee (1-0, LW: #4)
Last result: Middle Tennessee 55 Alabama A&M 0
After a frustrating preseason that featured many players getting hit with the injury bug, MTSU took out all of their frustration against Alabama A&M and dominated.
Brent Stockstill looked great as he passed for 329 yards and five touchdowns in the first half. The defense also performed well as they forced five first-half three-and-outs.
There wasn’t much to takeaway from this game as A&M isn’t very good but next week’s road game against Vanderbilt will tell us a lot more about the Blue Raiders.
Next week: at Vanderbilt
5. Louisiana Tech (0-1, LW: #5)
Last result: Louisiana Tech 20 Arkansas 21
The Bulldogs lead Arkansas 20-14 early in the fourth quarter and was in field goal range to make it a two possession game. But a missed 39-yard field goal by Jonathan Barnes gave Arkansas a second chance and the Hogs took advantage.
It’s a frustrating loss no doubt, but La Tech can take solace in knowing that their defense looked great to start the season after losing a ton of contributors off of last year’s team.
Freshman J’Mar Smith looked capable in his first career start with 218 passing yards. Should Skip Holtz decide to to stay with him with Ryan Higgins expected to come back after his one-game suspension, it could be for the better.
Next week: vs South Carolina St.
6. UTEP (1-0, LW: #6)
Last result: UTEP 38 New Mexico St. 22
Brent Pease’s offense looked great and the main reason is because Aaron Jones is back. Jones rushed for 249 yards and two touchdowns. Zack Greenlee passed for 229 yards and three touchdowns.
The Miners didn’t come close to amassing those numbers last year with Jones not in the backfield.
Next week: at Texas
7. Old Dominion (1-0, LW: #9)
Last result: Old Dominion 54 Hampton 21
The Monarchs move up because they did what you are supposed to do against an FCS school. The game was never in doubt as David Washington tossed four touchdowns to give the offense some much needed confidence going forward
Ray Lawry looked like his usual self and even did some damage as a receiver as he had 110 rushing yards, 62 receiving yards, one rushing touchdown, and one receiving touchdown.
Lawry may need to be more of a factor in the passing attack as Zach Pascal proved to be the only wideout Washington trusted.
Next week: at Appalachian St.
8. UTSA (1-0, LW: #10)
Last result: UTSA 26 Alabama State 13
The Roadrunners won in Frank Wilson’s debut but looked unsettled at times as the team trailed 7-6 to end the first quarter.
The fact they didn’t win by a more comfortable margin didn’t surprise me as this team is going to need some time to gel.
One of the biggest questions entering this game was the quarterback position and that was answered as Dalton Sturm looked great. Sturm passed for 274 yards and two touchdowns and will be the starter going forward.
Next week: at Colorado St.
9. FAU (1-0, LW: #7)
Last result: FAU 38 SIU 30
FAU started the game with a vanilla approach and paid for it as Southern Illinois was able to take a 24-21 lead at the half. Fortunately the Owls started the second half more aggressive and was able to outscore SIU 17-6 and win the game.
Driskel looked decent, the offense’s hurry-up tempo was effective at times but all-in-all it was an uneven performance as the Owls blew a prime opportunity to build some much needed confidence.
The defense giving up over 500 yards to an FCS opponent is extremely disappointing in what was overall a very concerning win.
Next week: at Miami
10. FIU (0-1, LW #8)
Last result: Indiana 34 FIU 13
Dropping the Panthers two spots may be a bit harsh as they did lose to a Big Ten school but to lead 13-12 in the fourth quarter and allow the Hoosiers to score 22 unanswered is unacceptable.
The offense still lacked an identity, the defense still looked devoid of depth, and Ron Turner still appears to not know how to make any adjustments.
I thought Alex McGough would take the next step but that didn’t seem to be case. If he doesn’t get better FIU is going to be in a lot of trouble come conference play.
Next week: vs Maryland
11. North Texas (0-1, LW #12)
Last result: SMU 34 North Texas 21
Seth Littrell’s debut didn’t get off to a great start as he was the only CUSA head coach to not win his first game. SMU jumped out to a 17-0 lead and never looked back.
The offense certainly looked better as Jeffery Wilson figures to be a major factor on the ground. But quarterback play remains the issue. Alec Morris had three interceptions and looked shaky throughout the game as Mason Fine eventually replaced him.
Next week: vs Bethune Cookman
12. Rice (0-1, 0-1, LW: # 11)
Last result: Rice 16 Western Kentucky 44
No shame in losing to the Hilltoppers on the road. But after having all offseason to prepare, the Owls looked lost.
The offense was a mess as Tyler Stehling was erratic all game, and the defense looked slow. There doesn’t seem to be many athletes on this roster and for a school based in Houston that’s shocking. Even if it is Rice.
If they don’t beat Army next week David Bailiff is going to be firmly on the hot seat.
Next week: at Army
13. Charlotte (0-1, LW: #13)
Last result: Charlotte 14 Louisville 70
Louisville was the obviously the better team and Bobby Petrino clearly wanted to make a statement. There obviously isn’t much to like after a game like that but this team won’t go anywhere if Kevin Olsen is going to be the main guy.
Next week: vs Elon