Six conference games this weekend and each has their own implications.
- Can UAB continue their dominating play against Rice and move to 3-0 in conference play for the first time in school history?
- Southern Miss has a chance to throw another wrench into the race for the C-USA West division title but will need to hand UNT their second straight home loss.
- Can Marshall avoid their first 0-2 start to conference play since this iteration of the conference formed? To do so they need to win on the road against Old Dominion who is still good enough on offense to threaten for a bowl bid.
- Can Louisiana Tech bounce-back on the road against a UTSA team that is struggling on offense but is good enough to win thanks to their defense?
- The loser of WKU-Charlotte is pretty much on hot seat watch until the season ends.
See. A lot of storylines. After another week of upsets, I’m going to start switching up how I pick winners during conference play. The biggest theme so far is whoever has had the better play from their QB, they win the game. We’ll see if that theme continues this weekend.
Choosing C-USA Record: 8-5
Game of the Week
Middle Tennessee at FIU (FIU -2, 7:30 PM ET, beIN)
The biggest surprise of C-USA, MTSU has a chance to runaway with the division if they can defeat FIU on the road. Just like against FAU, Middle has historically owned the Panthers as they lead the all-time series 9-4 and have won three straight in the series.
With two weeks to prepare (three weeks really seeing as how FIU played an FCS team before the bye) at home the Panthers should be locked in as a win will move them to first place in the division.
The biggest matchup of the game is pretty obvious for both teams. Can FIU exploit MTSU’s rushing defense? Can MTSU exploit FIU’s passing defense? Whoever gets the better of this matchup will win the game.
According to S&P+ MTSU has the advantage here. FIU’s passing defense is 87th in Sack Rate, 88th in Passing Completion Rate and 82nd in Passing IsoPPP (explosive passing plays). When compared to FIU’s defense Middle owns a decisive advantage in every one of those stats except Sack Rate, as the Blue Raiders are 109th in Sack Rate. FIU has only recorded nine sacks this season so the Blue Raiders might be okay in this department against the Panthers.
On the flip side, FIU averages 185 rushing yards per game which is third-best in the conference. MTSU is one of the worst rushing defenses in C-USA as they are allowing 195.6 yards per game. Last week MTSU allowed Marshall RB Tyler King to rush for a career-best 165 yards. FIU’s three-headed rushing attack Shawndarrius Phillips, Napoleon Maxwell and D’Vonte Price should feast. FIU isn’t exactly efficient when they run the ball as they are 104th in Rushing Marginal Efficiency but when they break one, it goes for a big gain as they are 34th in Rushing IsoPPP.
As long as FIU can play keep-away they have a chance to win this one. James Morgan has provided enough stability where the Panthers could rely on him if need be, as he’s passed for 1,004 yards with 12 touchdowns and four interceptions. Former QB Maurice Alexander has thrived as a WR with a team-high 24.8 yards per catch.
Last year FIU had two weeks to prepare for their road game against Marshall and beat Marshall 41-30. I trust Butch Davis will have a game-plan ready to exploit MTSU’s weaknesses. Middle Tennessee has the best QB but I think FIU is the better team. The Blue Raiders have benefited from a comeback against FAU and some injury luck against Marshall. I think their luck will run out in South Florida.
FIU 38 Middle Tennessee 28
Rest of C-USA...
UAB at Rice (UAB -16.5, 1:00 PM ET, ESPN+)
In conference play Rice is dead last in scoring offense, averaging 12.5 points per game. In conference play UAB is first in scoring defense, allowing seven points per game. Advantage Blazers. It’ll be UAB’s second straight road game and with a big showdown on deck against North Texas next week, I can see UAB starting this one slow but ultimately they get the win.
UAB 23 Rice 6
Southern Miss at North Texas (North Texas -9, 2:00 PM ET, ESPN3)
With two weeks to prepare, I expect Southern Miss to throw the kitchen sink at UNT. UNT’s biggest weakness is their offensive line and the Golden Eagles have a defense good enough to exploit that.
Unfortunately for Southern Miss their offense is extremely suspect. USM is averaging 106.3 rushing yards per game. Jack Abraham is averaging 319 passing yards per game in the conference, which is second best in C-USA. The biggest theme of conference play has been whoever gets the best QB play will win the game. North Texas still has Mason Fine so I’m going with the Mean Green in a close one.
North Texas 27 Southern Miss 21
WKU at Charlotte (WKU -7.5, 3:30 PM ET, ESPN+)
Both teams have had two weeks to prepare for this one. WKU’s only win of the season came on the road against Ball State so there won’t be any road jitters for them here. WKU has the best unit in the game as their defense should keep Charlotte under 20 points. I trust the Tops here more than Charlotte so I’m going with them.
WKU 24 Charlotte 14
Marshall at Old Dominion (Marshall -3.5, 3:30 PM ET, Stadium)
After seeing Alex Thomson perform against Middle Tennessee, I doubt Marshall fans want to see him start on the road against Old Dominion but that could possibly happen as Isaiah Green’s availability is unknown entering this game.
The Monarchs will have their first home game since pulling off the upset against Virginia Tech. ODU is averaging 39 points per game since Blake LaRussa took over as the QB against Va Tech. No matter who Marshall starts at QB, the offense needs to generate scoring drives and I’m not talking about field goals. Marshall has the best unit of the two teams as their defense is still really good, but I’m picking the team with the best QB.
Old Dominion 31 Marshall 24
Louisiana Tech at UTSA (La Tech -13, 7:00 PM ET, ESPN+)
I don’t understand how Vegas lists Tech as a two touchdown favorite on the road after seeing them score only seven points at home but that’s what we have here. UTSA’s d-line is just as good as UAB’s as the Roadrunners have recorded 17 sacks this year, two behind UAB’s conference-best 19 sacks. Tech allowed five sacks to UAB last weekend.
Although UTSA’s offense isn’t very good, they are averaging 25 points per game at home this season, a touchdown more than their 19.8 points per game average. Those 25 points would definitely be enough to win this one seeing as how J’Mar Smith could struggle. UTSA’s offensive line is not good though and Jaylon Ferguson could have a monster game. Just like the previous games I’ve picked, I’m going with the team who has the best QB and seeing as how UTSA is still struggling with Cordale Grundy and DJ Gillins, I’m going with the Bulldogs but I’m not that confident.
Louisiana Tech 20 UTSA 10