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, UTSA and Middle Tennessee are the favorites to meet up for the title game after notching much needed wins against Power 5 teams for Conference USA.
1. UTSA (1-0, Last Week: #4)
The 17-10 road win over Baylor gave UTSA their first ever win over the P5. The Roadrunners dominated Baylor in every facet of the game except special teams. The defense was amazing as the Bears only scored 10 points thanks to a short field for both scoring drives. Dalton Sturm played perhaps the best game of his career as his athleticism kept Baylor’s defense off balance as he made great throws on the run and burned Baylor several times with his legs. Perhaps more importantly, he finished the game with zero turnovers. It’s only one game, but the Roadrunners look legit.
2. Middle Tennessee (1-1, LW: #6)
A week after laying an egg at home against Vanderbilt, Middle Tennessee looked more like the explosive team we expected to see this fall in their 30-23 victory over Syracuse. The defense appears to have really turned the corner with Scott Schafer taking over as MTSU has now gone back-to-back weeks without allowing their opponent to score over 30 points for the first time since 2015.
3. Old Dominion (2-0, LW: #3)
The Monarchs’ soft schedule comes to an end without any answers at quarterback and more injuries to deal with as wide receiver Jonathan Duhart is done for the season. Against UMass Blake LaRussa went 10-of-22 for 129 yards and one touchdown while Jordan Hoy was 3-of-7 for 40 yards while adding 43 rushing yards and a score. Hoy is the better runner and without Duhart it might be best to start Hoy as Bobby Wilder could feature an even more run-heavy offense going forward. Although the offense hasn’t looked the best, the defense has been terrific as they registered eight sacks against UMass. ODU has a chance for a monumental win with North Carolina visiting Norfolk this week. The defense will probably have to turn in a similar performance if the Monarchs are to beat UNC.
4. Louisiana Tech (1-1, LW: #2)
After leading Mississippi State 9-0 in the middle of the first quarter, La Tech was outscored 57-12 the rest of the way. The defense allowed 327 rushing yards to MSU. 327! J’Mar Smith was erratic all game as the moment seemed too big for him. A trip to Bowling Green to take on WKU this week will set the tone the rest of the way as the Bulldogs don’t have the swagger and senior leadership of last year’s team.
5. WKU (1-1, LW: #1)
I was weary of the Tops being able to repeat the success of the Brohm era in Mike Sanford’s first season and Saturday night’s loss to one of the worst teams in the P5 confirmed that we will not see the same WKU of years past. WKU rushed for a paltry six yards in their 20-7 loss to Illinois. WKU’s mental toughness will be put to the test when La Tech visits this Saturday. A game that normally has a championship on the line will instead have seasons on the line. A loss for either team could result in a season without meeting expectations.
6. Southern Miss (1-1, LW: #5)
Southern Miss crushed Southern 45-0. Not much to takeaway from this game other than the fact that Kwadra Griggs should have been the starter against Kentucky. A trip to Monroe, Louisiana, to take on ULM will tell us a lot more about whether USM should be seen as a viable challenger to UTSA.
7. Marshall (1-1, LW: #7)
Marshall hung tough against North Carolina State but CJ Reavis’ absence in the first half was ultimately too much to overcome as the Herd lost 37-20. NC State quarterback Ryan Finley passed for 341 yards and three touchdowns (all TDs in the first half). If Reavis plays the whole game perhaps Marshall makes the score closer. A silver lining for the Herd is Tyre Brady should dominate C-USA secondaries as he was phenomenal Saturday night, finishing with 11 receptions for 248 yards and one touchdown.
8. North Texas (1-1, LW: #8)
SMU torched North Texas’ secondary as the Mean Green couldn’t stop the Ben Hicks-Courtland Sutton connection in the 54-32 loss. Jeffrey Wilson didn’t get as many touches largely because SMU kept scoring and moved UNT away from the running game. The recipe for defeating UNT this season will be to force Mason Fine to beat them as he still seems to be the weak link in Seth Littrell’s system.
9. FAU (0-2, LW: #9)
The Owls looked much better offensively against Wisconsin as Devin Singletary had a more prominent role in the offense. The Badgers were only up 24-14 at the half but was able to bully FAU on the line of scrimmage in the second half for a pedestrian 31-14 win. There was a lot to like from FAU in this one as steps in the right direction were definitely made.
10. UAB (1-1, LW: #10)
UAB committed far too many mistakes in their 31-51 loss to Ball State as the Blazers committed nine penalties for 81 yards and fumbled the ball four times (though they only lost two of them). UAB out-gained Ball State 504-377. As long as UAB has good health and clean up their mistakes they will be a tough out during conference play. Over these last two weeks it’s clear Bill Clark is working with far more talent than UTEP and Rice.
11. FIU (1-1, LW: #11)
The Panthers had their home game against Alcorn State moved to Birmingham due to Hurricane Irma and played like a team that had far too much on their mind. A listless 17-10 win would normally raise some flags but considering the circumstances I don’t think there’s much to takeaway from the performance.
12. Rice (1-1, 1-0, LW: #13)
In the first C-USA game of the season Rice dominated UTEP for a 31-14 win. The Owls’ rushing attack lead the way and put Sam Glaesmann in far better situations than what he experienced against Stanford. 49 Runs to 18 passes is a bit extreme, but I’m sure David Bailiff doesn’t care too much about the lack of balance in a win that salvaged the season.
13. Charlotte (0-2, LW: #12)
Hassan Klugh had more rushing yards (38) than passing yards (33) in Charlotte’s 55-7 loss to Kansas State. The 49ers just don’t appear to have any other playmakers on offense than Klugh.
14. UTEP (0-2, LW: #14)
A 17-point home loss to Rice in which the offense struggled to move the ball confirms UTEP is not only the worst team in Conference USA, but one of the worst teams in the nation. A winless season is on the table.