The Conference USA Power Rankings are never a prediction for how things will end up, but rather a snapshot of how teams look at the moment. At the moment, Conference USA East looks like they have something to say about not being the better division. Marshall is back, FAU has arrived, and the defending champs in Bowling Green are riding a four-game winning streak.
1. Marshall (6-1, 3-0, Last Week: #2)
Marshall’s demise was greatly exaggerated. Whatever was ailing the Herd in 2016 (locker room issues, injuries, coaching, consistency, etc.) is no longer the case this year. Their defense is sound and fast. Their running backs are explosive. The offensive line is good. A future NFL player is at receiver. They have one of the best quarterbacks in the conference. The Special teams aren’t terrible. Their coaching staff has won big before. Marshall is the most complete team in this conference as they don’t have any glaring weaknesses. After blowing Middle Tennessee out they will welcome FIU to The Joan.
2. FAU (4-3, 3-0, LW: #7)
The biggest riser in this week’s Power Ranking is FAU. Lane Kiffin’s Owls put on a show in what was the biggest conference game in FAU Stadium history. If Jason Driskel is going to play like he did against North Texas down the stretch, FAU will average over 40 points per game. We found out how good North Texas was at handling hearing how good you are. We’ll see if FAU can do better as a huge road game to WKU is next. With WKU’s passing attack appearing to be back, it’ll be on FAU’s secondary to register stops for the second week in a row.
3. North Texas (4-3, 3-1, LW: #1)
A beatdown at that hands of FAU was shocking. Alarming? I wouldn’t go that far. It was an obvious let down spot for UNT and though no one saw UNT giving up 69 points or Jalen Guyton being held without a reception, they still control their own destiny to win the division. A home game against an ODU secondary that was torched by WKU could be the perfect bounce back game for Mason Fine.
4. Southern Miss (5-2, 3-1, LW: #3)
I wanted to move the Golden Eagles up after their comeback win over La Tech but FAU’s jump up the rankings negated that. Moving them down seems a bit ridculous but this committee of one values head-to-head so I had to move them here. While I’m a huge believer in the defense, I’m still not sure what to make of the offense. Beating La Tech on the road without the services of Ito Smith for much of the second half was mighty impressive though, as Tez Parks looked quite capable as his replacement. As long as whoever plays quarterback stays away from turnovers USM has a good shot at running the table.
5. UTSA (4-2, 1-2, LW: #5)
Marcus Davenport was ridiculous against Rice. Davenport registered 11 tackles, 3.5 TFLs, two sacks, and a 34-yard fumble return for a touchdown. He was the biggest bright spot in what was a lackluster 20-7 win for UTSA.
6. WKU (5-2, 3-1, LW: #8)
The defending champs seems to have figured things out offensively. Two weeks ago the Hilltoppers were among the worst teams at generating explosive passing plays. Over the last two games Mike White has passed for 702 yards with 10 touchdowns and averaged 8.7 yards per completetion. Against ODU Mike White was fantastic. It’s a good thing Mike Sanford Jr. figured out how to create explosive plays because WKU is about to embark on their toughest three-game stretch of the season (FAU, at Vandy, at Marshall).
7. UAB (4-3, 2-2, LW: #4)
All the goodwill UAB earned during conference play was thrown away with a loss to Charlotte. Blowing a 17 point lead in the third quarter to one of the worst teams in the country is inexcuseable. Especially when North Texas’ loss opened the door for a chance at the division title. A road game against a Southern Miss team playing with a ton of confidence will be tough.
8. Louisiana Tech (3-4, 1-2, LW: #6)
Another collapse for the Bulldogs but to do it against Southern Miss is devastating. J’Mar Smith has not lived up to the billing this season as he missed throws all night against the Golden Eagles. His inconsistency has coincided with Tech’s play this year. All offseason La Tech was outspoken about finally winning C-USA and that goal looks to be off the table now. How the Bulldogs look down the stretch will be interesting.
9. FIU (4-2, 2-1, LW: #10)
The Panthers were on a bye week and will travel to Marshall this week. At stake is a chance to move to first place in C-USA East. Against one of the flagship schools in C-USA, this is a huge opportunity for Butch Davis to announce FIU will no longer be an afterthought.
10. Old Dominion (2-5, 0-3, LW: #11)
Last Friday night Old Dominion looked like the team I expected to see at the start of the season. Unfortunately, the performance came against a WKU team that is also rounding into form. The close loss to WKU puts ODU in the same company as UTEP, the only two teams in C-USA who have yet to win a conference game.
11. Middle Tennessee (3-5, 1-3, LW: #9)
The season from hell continues for Middle Tennessee as they were once again shut down. Without the services of Brent Stockstill, Marshall dominated them 38-10. For the first time in a while, it feels like Rick Stockstill is starting to lose the fan base. The Blue Raiders must do some soul searching during this bye week.
12. Charlotte (1-7, 1-3, LW: #13)
They freaking did it. The 49ers snapped their seven-game losing streak to start the season by doing to UAB what no other team has done so far. Play with more heart. Ben DeLuca’s strip was the epitome of that heart as it looked like Spencer Brown was going to run the clock out for Blazers. Hasaan Klugh was dynamic as a runner with 140 yards and two touchdowns and looked like the player from last year. I loved seeing Brad Lambert go for the win and I’m happy to see the decision was rewarded with the go-ahead score. Always go for two y’all.
13. Rice (1-6, 1-2, LW: #12)
Despite getting a ton of players back on offense, the Owls still struggled. Going 3-for-10 on third downs isn’t going to get it down unless your defense is incredible. Rice did play well defensively, but UTSA just out-talented them in the end.
14. UTEP (0-7, 0-3, LW: #14)
The Miners were on a bye week and will host (don’t call them their rival) UTSA. Seeing Charlotte get a win might have boosted UTEP’s spirits. Watching the Roadrunners struggle against Rice probably did more. The Miners shocked UTSA in a overtime thriller last year with two weeks to prepare. Perhaps they do it again?