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, C-USA is driven with parity. From week-to-week, teams that look capable of winning the conference, end up losing to teams we quit on just a week prior. It’s madness! This Conference USA Power Ranking was the hardest to complete to date as I measured resumes as well as last week’s performance to determine who should be placed where.
1. North Texas (3-2, 2-0, Last Week: #4)
What a perfect time for a bye week eh? North Texas got to watch the rest of the league cannibalize itself and moved into first place in C-USA West as a result. UNT earned my nod for first place due to wins over two teams who had the best wins in C-USA last week. In their only contest against a P5 team, they led Iowa at the half. UNT is a pretty good team, and I’d be disappointed if they didn’t finish this season with a winning record. With wins over Southern Miss and UAB already, North Texas could really put themselves in prime position to win C-USA West with a win over rival UTSA this Saturday. Biggest game in Apogee Stadium history?
2. Marshall (4-1, 1-0, LW: #3)
I wanted to put Marshall first but the Herd only beat Charlotte 14-3 (granted, weather wasn’t exactly ideal). Earlier this year Marshall beat Kent State 21-0. Kent State, 1-5. Charlotte, 0-6. Against some of the worst teams in the country Marshall managed to score just 35 points. This Marshall squad plays down to their competition and given the parity in C-USA they’re playing with fire. The offense remains inconsistent, but the defense is legit. Marshall’s the only team in C-USA to have four wins right now and will be at home game against a desperate Old Dominion team this Saturday.
3. Southern Miss (3-2, 1-1, LW: #6)
Way to pick yourselves off the mat Southern Miss. After getting gouged by North Texas on the ground, USM held the Roadrunners to 102 rushing yards. The offense had their best game of the year as Keon Howard stepped up for the injured Kwadra Griggs and played lights out, going 15-of-20 for 212 yards and three touchdowns. Ito Smith rushed for 178 yards against UTSA’s vaunted rushing defense. The offense was balanced and kept UTSA off guard in the second half. It was a great performance against all odds and to do it on the road makes it all the more impressive.
4. UTSA (3-1, 0-1, LW: #1)
After being the toast of the conference after non-conference play, the Roadrunners opened conference play at home with a shocking home loss. Injuries are starting to become a factor as the offensive line lost some pivotal guys against Southern Miss. But this loss is on the defense as guys were out of position throughout the second half. UTSA started to deal with expectations during the bye week and they did not handle it well. The folks in the Conference USA offices has to be hurting over this loss as an undefeated UTSA taking on a surging North Texas would have been epic this Saturday. Looks like we’ll just have to settle for UTSA’s division title hopes being on the line instead.
5. UAB (3-2, 1-1, LW: #11)
The Blazers did it. It took a few blocked field goals, La Tech missing some key players (and having their own special teams issues) but damnit UAB did it. I’m sure this win is extra special for the UAB faithful who witnessed Tech fans chant “We have football” during last year’s basketball game. Bill Clark out-coached Skip Holtz for UAB’s first ever win over La Tech and has the Blazers in a good position to make a run at the division title. Rice, UTEP, and Charlotte are still on UAB’s schedule. The Blazers have displayed a lot more talent than I thought they would have this year and they have to be taken seriously down the stretch. AJ Erdely has been huge this season and will take on his former team, Middle Tennessee this week. A win over what looks to be a Middle Tennessee team still dealing with injuries would solidify that the victory over Tech was no fluke.
6. Louisiana Tech (3-3, 1-1, LW: #2)
The Bulldogs have played in three games this season that were decided by one point. All of these games have been on the road. The combined record of these three opponents are 10-6. La Tech’s record is 1-2 in these three games. Tech is only a few plays away from being 5-1 against some solid teams. Tech’s bye week comes at a perfect time as the Bulldogs need to get healthy and regroup. UTSA, North Texas, and Southern Miss are still on the schedule so while the loss to UAB stings, everything is still on the table for the Bulldogs to accomplish their goals this season.
7. FAU (3-3, 2-0, LW: #9)
The Owls have played two C-USA teams that were dealing with injuries at the time of their game and dominated them both. That’s what a good team is supposed to do and I’m confident that FAU is a good team. In the offseason I suspected Lane Kiffin would have FAU hitting their stride during conference play and that looks to be the case. S&P+ has the Owls as a favorite in every game down the stretch. Lane Kiffin and co. will have two weeks to prepare for a home game against North Texas.
8. Middle Tennessee (3-3, 1-1, LW: #10)
Teams 8-10 are a toss up to me as they look like teams struggling to deal with injuries and consistency. I gave MTSU the 8th spot after a resilient win over FIU as Brent Stockstill and Richie James were out again. Similar to La Tech, everything is still on the table for the Blue Raiders. A tricky road game against UAB is on deck.
9. WKU (3-2, 1-1, LW: #7)
How does a team win, but move down? How about almost lose to one of the worst teams in the country that named their interim head coach in the middle of the week. A home game against Charlotte this Saturday will take place right before the Tops play three of their next four on the road.
10. Old Dominion (2-3, 0-1, LW: #5)
I probably had ODU too high over the last few weeks. The team I picked to win C-USA East isn’t the same group of guys we’ve been seeing on Saturday as the Monarchs have dealt with a ton of injuries this season. Unlike MTSU who have really been without their two main guys, ODU has lost a ton of players who were expected to be key contributors. On top of that, their starting a true freshman at quarterback. Steven Williams will be a good player in time, but it’s too much to expect for Williams to win games for ODU right now.
11. FIU (3-2, 2-1, LW: #8)
FIU started conference play against Rice and Charlotte and barely won both contests. They got a break in not having to play Middle without Stockstill and James and of course the Panthers got blown out. The layup victories for FIU are now over as the Panthers will host a rapidly improving Tulane team.
12. Rice (1-5, 1-1, LW: #12)
Oh my god. You should have retired last year, David Bailiff. https://t.co/KllEft77T9— Bill Connelly (@SBN_BillC) October 7, 2017
Rice committed four turnovers in six plays. They lost to Army 49-12.
13. Charlotte (0-6, 0-2, LW: #13)
After making so much progress on offense against FIU, the 49ers were shutdown by the Herd. Charlotte isn’t the first school to be outnumbered by Marshall fans in their own stadium and they won’t be the last, but it’s concerning nonetheless that Charlotte fans have appeared to checkout halfway through the season.
14. UTEP (0-6, 0-2, LW: #14)
The Miners put up a fight against WKU and almost got the win. Maybe Mike Price is the answer. Expect to see some inspired football from UTEP down the stretch.