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Three things we learned from Conference USA in Week Nine

Conference USA remained weird and exciting over the weekend.

NCAA Football: Alabama-Birmingham at Southern Mississippi Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

The power in Conference USA East shifts to South Florida

Florida International v Rice
Butch Davis has FIU off to their best start in school history.
Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

It’s only one year. Only one weekend really. But the significance of FAU’s 42-28 victory over WKU in Bowling Green, and FIU’s blowout victory over Marshall in Huntington, can’t be downplayed.

For the first time since 2014, FAU beat WKU. The win gave FAU their first ever victory in Bowling Green. During Western Kentucky’s run of back-to-back Conference USA Championships they didn’t lose a single home during conference play. WKU has now lost two conference games at home for the first time since 2014.

In 2014 Marshall won Conference USA East for the second straight season en route to winning the Conference USA Championship Game over Louisiana Tech. The Herd defeated FIU 45-13 in Miami that season. In 2015 they defeated FIU 52-0 at The Joan.

Last season FIU beat Marshall for the first time in school history. Yesterday they recorded their first ever victory at The Joan. Seniors Alex McGough and Thomas Owens lit up the Marshall secondary all game. McGough passed for 177 yards and two touchdowns. 114 Of those yards and both of those touchdowns went to Owens. The 41 points allowed by Marshall was the most they’ve given up all season.

The win over Marshall makes the Panthers 5-2 overall and 3-1 in conference play. It’s FIU’s best start in school history. FAU is 5-3 overall and 4-0 in conference play. It’s FAU’s best start since 2007 and best ever start to conference play.

In Week 1 I said FAU and FIU are the same terrible teams they’ve always been despite their new rock star coaches roaming the sidelines. While Lane Kiffin and Butch Davis didn’t exactly meet expectation in the season opener, they are undoubtedly meeting them now and are winning much faster than anticipated.

For the first time ever, the Shula Bowl could be more than bragging rights. Three weeks from now the Shula Bowl could determine who wins Conference USA East.

Conference USA West is a mess and still North Texas’ to lose

NCAA Football: Old Dominion at North Texas
Jeffery Wilson and North Texas are still the team to beat in C-USA West.
Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

After an embarassing defeat to Charlotte, UAB bounced back and bullied Southern Miss for a 30-12 win on the road. Bill Clark will most definitely be named Coach of the Year in Conference USA. Just when you think the Blazers will revert to the team we thought they’d be in the offseason, they turnaround and pull off an upset. In Houston La Tech needed two touchdowns in the final minute to defeat Rice.

UTSA struggled with UTEP for a half before pulling away late but didn’t look impressive as they played down to their competition once again.

North Texas got exactly what they needed in having Southern Miss lose and almost ruined it. UNT trailed Old Dominion 38-35 entering the fourth quarter but prevailed with a 45-38 victory thanks to some fourth down stops by the defense.

The C-USA West standings now look like this...

Conference USA West Standings

North Texas has a two game lead over UAB, Southern Miss, and UTSA due to their head-to-head wins. The only team North Texas doesn’t own the tie breaker over is La Tech, the team they visit next week. With UTEP and Rice as the remaining conference games, if UNT beats La Tech, they’ve pretty much won the division.

But if La Tech pulls off the upset we are in for a battle royale for the top spot.

Devin Singletary is actually the best running back in Conference USA

NCAA Football: Florida Atlantic at Western Kentucky
Devin Singletary is 9th in the country in rushing yards and leads the country in rushing touchdowns.
Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

The debate between who is the best back in C-USA has been a fun one this season. Jeffrey Wilson (who I originally gave the title to) has been excellent this season, running for 834 yards and 11 touchdowns with 6.5 yards per carry. Ito Smith has been dynamite too, running for 817 yards and seven touchdowns with 5.7 yards per carry.

There’s no question that Spencer Brown is the best freshman running back in the league as he’s rushed for 909 yards and seven touchdowns with 5.6 yards per carry. It’ll be a crime to leave Brown off any All-Freshman Teams at seasons end.

As great as these backs are, Devin “Motor” Singletary is better. Given the quality of running backs in this league that says a lot. Singletary leads C-USA in yards per game (131.6), yards per carry (6.6), rushing yards (1,053), and touchdowns (18). Motor took over the game against WKU just when it seemed like the Owls might be toast offensively. In the fourth quarter Singletary rushed for 129 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries. He finished the game with 244 yards and four touchdowns on a career high 36 carries.

Singletary emerged last year as one of the best backs in the conference mid-way through his freshman season and has taken his game to the next level this season. Here’s this gem of a stat courtesy of Palm Beach Post contributor Jake Elman.

28 Touchdowns over the last 12 games! That’s ridiculous. While Singletary winning the Heisman is a pipe dream, winning the Doak Walker Award could be feasible. In what’s been a great season for running backs across the board it’ll be a challenge though. The last Group of Five running back to win the Doak Walker Award was LaDainian Tomlinson from TCU.