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, the middle of C-USA is a mess. After UTSA, Louisiana Tech, and Middle Tennessee, you could make a case for multiple teams to be considered the fourth best team in C-USA. Meanwhile, the bottom of the league is still very bad.
1. UTSA (2-0, Last Week: #1)
There was no hangover from the Baylor game as the Roadrunners came out and handled business in their home opener against Southern. Dalton Sturm passed for 292 yards and four touchdowns in one half of play and is playing like the best quarterback in Conference USA right now. Next week UTSA will make the drive up I-35 to play a Texas State squad that hasn’t been playing like the pushover many projected them to be. UTSA is the favorite but weird things happen in rivalry games.
2. Louisiana Tech (2-1, 1-0, LW: #4)
La Tech didn’t play their best game on the road against WKU, but made the plays when it mattered most to pull off the comeback win against the Tops. These are the type of wins that are won due to the foundation of a program. The passing attack was explosive thanks to speedster Rhashid Bonnette having a huge game, and steady with the emergence of Teddy Veal. The offense will get the headlines but the Bulldog defense deserves some accolades for keeping them in this game as they sacked Mike White six times and kept the Hilltoppers off the board in the fourth quarter.
3. Middle Tennessee (1-2, LW: #2)
We’ll never know if MTSU would have upset Minnesota - just like the basketball team did in the NCAA Tournament - if Brent Stockstill and Richie James were healthy. Stockstill didn’t play and James left the game due to an injury. In three straight games against Power Five teams the Blue Raiders looked lost on offense against Vanderbilt, played very good on the road against Syracuse, and were shorthanded against Minnesota. A winless Bowling Green team comes to Murfreesboro this week. I know Rick Stockstill would rather get healthy for conference play but given how inept the offense looked with John Urzua he might consider starting Brent this Saturday even if he isn’t 100 percent.
4. Southern Miss (2-1, LW: #6)
Teams 4-7 are interchangeable to me. Southern Miss no longer has the quarterback issues that the Monarchs are currently dealing with and they played much better against their P5 opponent than ODU did so I’m putting the Golden Eagles here. Kawdra Griggs had a really good game through the air as he passed for 230 yards and three touchdowns. Ito Smith rushed for 219 yards and a touchdown against ULM. As long as the Golden Eagles remain a run-first team they’ll be just fine during conference play.
5. Old Dominion (2-1, LW: #3)
ODU’s offense was shutdown for the majority of the game in their loss to North Carolina but the silver lining is that Bobby Wilder may have found his quarterback. Wilder decided he had enough of Blake LaRussa and Jordan Hoy at quarterback, and burned Steven Williams’ redshirt in the second quarter. Williams looked capable as he passed for 139 yards and two touchdowns. A trip to Virginia Tech awaits the Monarchs this Saturday. Who should Wilder start at quarterback?
6. Marshall (2-1, LW: #7)
The Herd moved to 2-0 against the MAC this year as they shutout Kent State over the weekend for a 21-0 win. The offense didn’t look great but a new running back emerged as freshman Tyler King rushed for 101 yards and one touchdown on 14 carries. Marshall has certainly looked better this year but they still remain an unknown quantity.
7. WKU (1-2, 0-1, LW: #5)
Western Kentucky’s 13 straight home wins during conference play is no more. In gut wrenching fashion WKU outplayed La Tech for the majority of the game but couldn’t seal the deal as they allowed an inconsistent Tech offense march down the field to setup a game-winning Jonathan Barnes field goal. The rushing attack looked better but it is still not where it needs to be. With a new coaching staff I wonder where the leadership is coming from. Seniors Mike White, Nacarious Fant, and Derik Overstreet must step up to keep this season from spiraling out of control. A pesky Ball State team is up next for WKU. If the the Tops lose that one we’ll have to start wondering whether WKU will make a bowl game.
8. UAB (2-1, LW: #10)
The Blazers enter conference play looking like a full-on Bill Clark team after their win over Coastal. Their identity is entrenched in running the ball and playing sound defense. We’ll know if UAB is capable of being more than a great story in their conference opener against North Texas this week.
9. FAU (1-2, LW: #9)
Lane Kiffin earned his first win as FAU’s head coach in dominating fashion over Bethune-Cookman. The Owls ran the ball and produced a school best 439 rushing yards. FAU will close non-conference play with a road trip to Buffalo.
10. North Texas (1-2, LW: #8)
UNT played Iowa tough but ran out of gas at the end. No shame in the way they performed. The conference opener against UAB is huge if UNT is to reach a bowl game this season.
11. FIU (1-1, LW: #11)
The Panthers cancelled their game with Indiana due to Hurricane Irma. FIU will begin conference play with a trip to Houston to take on Rice.
12. Rice (1-2, 1-0, LW: #12)
The Owls were blown out by Houston and were fortunate to preserve their streak of not being shutout in a contest as they were able to get a field goal late in the fourth quarter.
13. Charlotte (0-3, LW: #13)
The bottom of C-USA is bad. Charlotte lost to North Carolina A&T and at one point trailed 28-10 in the third quarter. But not even that performance warrants a last place nod.
14. UTEP (0-3, 0-1, LW: #14)
UTEP was blown out by Arizona on Friday night. The Miners fired offensive coordinator Brent Pease yesterday after just two years. Sean Kugler has said he doesn’t blame fans for giving up on the Miners this season. Things are not looking good in El Paso and it could get worse as they opened as a 16.5 point underdog to rival New Mexico State.