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 is living up to its reputation of being a conference driven with parity. Last week’s games featured the preseason favorites going down in their conference opener with tight games everywhere. As a result, a new team has emerged at the top of the rankings.
1. Louisiana Tech (3-1, 1-0, Last Week: #4)
Tech pulled off one of the biggest upsets last week with a win on the road in front of a sellout crowd at North Texas. Their studs showed up in a big way. Jaylon Ferguson dominated UNT’s line to the the tune of four sacks, J’Mar Smith stayed away from turnovers as he threw two touchdowns, and Amik Robertson made the game-winning play as he blocked UNT’s potential game-winning field goal. It was a hell of a win for the Bulldogs but there’s no time to relax. Another big game awaits as UAB visits Ruston this weekend. Last season the Blazers beat Tech for the first time in school history thanks to their own game-winning blocked field goal.
2. North Texas (4-1, 0-1, LW: #1)
We hinted at the defense masking some issues on offense and that turned out to be the case against La Tech. The defense played well enough to win the game, forcing Tech to try five field goals in or near the red zone. After the first quarter, the offense looked well on their way to housing the Bulldogs as UNT led 21-6 after the opening quarter. Then the wheels came off. UNT was outscored 20-0 in the second quarter as their offensive line struggled to protect Mason Fine. The offense gained 21 yards in the defining quarter. Mason Fine was hobbling towards the end of the game and his health is critical to UNT’s success. With UTEP up next, it wouldn’t surprise me if Seth Littrell decided to keep Mason Fine out and have him healthy for a stingy Southern Miss defense in two weeks.
3. Marshall (3-1, 1-0, LW: #3)
Marshall barely survived a trip to Bowling Green, as Isaiah Green connected with Tyre Brady for the game-winning 32-yard touchdown in a low scoring game. Green was shaky throughout the game as he finished 18-of-39 for 288 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions. He delivered in the clutch though, and ultimately that’s what matters most here. The defense shutdown WKU for the most part, as two of WKU’s scoring drives were the result of a short field. On Green’s game-winning score, he left the field hobbling with a lower-leg injury and his status is unknown entering this week’s home game against Middle Tennessee.
4. FIU (3-2, 1-0, LW: #5)
The Panthers torched Arkansas Pine Bluff 55-9 to close non-conference play. Butch Davis and co. will have two weeks to prepare for a home game against Middle Tennessee.
5. UAB (3-1, 1-0, LW: #6)
The Blazers have now won a school-best nine straight games at the Grand Old Lady as they had a ho-hum 28-7 victory over Charlotte. After jumping out to an early 14-0 lead, UAB went in cruise control and didn’t look too impressive from that point on. It’s tough to get a read on the Blazers as they have played down to their competition at times this season. They will need to play their best against La Tech.
6. Middle Tennessee (2-2, 1-0, LW: #9)
Trailing 14-0 at the end of the first quarter, it looked like MTSU was done. Down 21-3 in the second quarter the Blue Raiders looked even more finished. But FAU failed to put them away. Little-by-little, MTSU chipped away at the lead before landing the knockout blow. Rick Stockstill showed a ton of faith in his offense to seal the deal in regulation and was rewarded when Brent Stockstill found Gatlin Casey for the game-winning two-point conversion. MTSU was outplayed by FAU, but all that matters is that they found a way to win. A pivotal road trip to Marshall awaits.
7. Southern Miss (2-2, 1-0, LW: #7)
A 24-13 loss to Auburn revealed how much upside Southern Miss has. Their defense is among the best in C-USA, as they held Auburn to 96 rushing yards and forced them to go 5-of-16 on third downs. Offense is still a huge questions mark though, as they couldn’t get out of their way to pull off the upset. Two weeks to prepare for a suspect North Texas offensive line should make Jay Hopson and Tim Billings very happy.
8. FAU (2-3, 0-1, LW: #2)
The switch appeared to be flipped in the first quarter as FAU looked well on their way to an easy win over MTSU. The switch then short-circuited. The offense became stagnant as Devin Singletary was unable to bail the offense out down the stretch of the game. For as bad the offense looked, the defense had their best performance of the season. There’s a lot of question marks on this year’s team as QB, special teams and the secondary remain sketchy. Hopes of a division title rests with a must-win at home against a dangerous Old Dominion team.
9. UTSA (2-3, 1-0 LW: #10)
A win is a win, but 30 points against this UTEP team is pretty worrisome. I expected a much better performance from the offense. UTEP trailed 27-21 with the ball in the fourth quarter but was unable to generate the go-ahead touchdown drive. Whether that’s a tell that UTSA isn’t very good or that UTEP is improving remains to be seen.
10. Old Dominion (1-4, 0-2, LW: #8)
The Monarchs were robbed of a road win against East Carolina as C-USA has admitted that their referees wrongly ruled that Justice Davila’s game-sealing interception was incomplete. A few plays later ECU made the game-winning field goal. ODU didn’t earn the win, but showcased that their offense will be tough to stop during conference play as Jonathan Duhart finished with over 100 receiving yards for the fourth straight game.
11. WKU (1-4, 0-1, LW: #11)
The Tops are improving as they nearly won the Moonshine Throwdown but ultimately their youth on offense and in the coaching staff was too much to overcome. Similar to ODU, expecting a bowl game may be a reach but I think it’s fair to believe WKU will be a tough out as conference play heats up.
12. Charlotte (2-3, 1-1, LW: #12)
The offense hasn’t exactly quite hit their stride, as the 49ers gained 271 yards on offense against UAB. The 49ers will have two weeks to prepare for WKU.
13. Rice (1-4, 0-1, LW: #11)
Rice allowed Wake Forest WR Greg Dortch to have 11 catches for 163 yards and four touchdowns. Dortch’s 163 receiving yards was more than Shawn Stankavage’s 103 passing yards for the entire game.
14. UTEP (0-5, 0-1, LW: #14)
The Miners played tough as Kai Locksley passed for 117 yards with one touchdown and rushed for 106 yards with one touchdown. He’s practically UTEP’s offense. Locksley left the game late with an injury and might not be able to go this weekend against North Texas. That doesn’t bode well for UTEP’s offense.