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Three things we learned from Conference USA in Week 8

Raise your hand if this is what you thought C-USA would look like.

NCAA Football: Alabama-Birmingham at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

UAB has (unofficially) won the West

Down 21-10 at halftime, the Blazers were on the verge of seeing their winning streak end and having C-USA West truly be up for grabs with four teams in the hunt. The odds of winning a shootout against North Texas was slim.

Halfway through the third quarter, the UAB defense made the biggest play of the game as Garrett Marino forced Mason Fine into a safety. Trailing 21-12 with new life, UAB capitalized on the momentum and scored the game’s final 19 points to win 29-21.

UAB is now 6-1 for the first time in school history. They are on a five-game winning streak which is also a UAB record. Perhaps more importantly though, UAB is now 4-0 in conference play and remains the only undefeated team in C-USA West. With a two-game lead over Louisiana Tech and a three-game lead over UNT thanks to owning a tie-breaker due to defeating both teams, UAB essentially clinched the C-USA West division title last night (Southern Miss is 2-1 and has yet to play UAB so they technically are still in it but if you’ve watched them play this season, you know it’s a long shot).

UAB’s remaining conference games are at UTEP, home against UTSA and Southern Miss, with their season finale taking place on the road against Middle Tennessee. The combined record of UAB’s remaining conference opponents is 10-18. Barring a collapse, UAB will play in the Conference USA Championship Game.

UTEP is trending in the right direction

UTEP v Tennessee
The record might not show, but Dana Dimel has UTEP trending up.
Photo by Donald Page/Getty Images

UTEP lost to Louisiana Tech, extending their losing streak to 19 games. While the loss certainly hurts, the Miners had no business keeping it close as they had to rely on their second-string and third-string QB to stay in the game. To Dana Dimel’s credit, the Miners did more than stay in the game as they were at one point eight yards away from potentially sending the game to overtime.

During conference play UTEP has lost by nine points to UTSA, three points to North Texas and seven points to La Tech. S&P+ still considers UTEP one of the worst teams in the country but that doesn’t mean steps haven’t been made in the right direction this season. While the talent level is still not there, this isn’t a team that’s going to lay down and let their opponents walk all over them like last season. Considering how unique UTEP’s home-field advantage is, if the Miners don’t end their losing streak against Rice in Houston, I’m calling for the Miners to end their losing streak with a home win against either UAB, Southern Miss or Middle Tennessee.

FAU won’t meet expectations this season

Bethune Cookman v Florida Atlantic
FAU has failed to meet expectations this season, with the offense being a huge reason why.
Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Billed as the best team in C-USA with even a few people picking them to go to the New Year’s Six in the offseason, FAU has failed to meet expectations. The Owls lost 31-7 against Marshall, all but ending any chance for a conference title. FAU had five turnovers in the game and were simply poorly coached on offense. With two weeks to prepare, Lane Kiffin failed to develop a game-plan capable of overcoming Marshall’s stingy defense.

Not only are the Owls now a long-shot to repeat as C-USA champs, with a 3-4 record, they might not even go to a bowl game as they will need to pull off an upset down the stretch in order to reach six wins.

Despite having one of the best players in C-USA history with Devin Singletary in the backfield, FAU’s offense has been mediocre at best and abysmal at its worst. The biggest problem has been performing on the road as the Owls are 0-4, losing by an average of 23.5 points. FAU is averaging 20 points per game on the road this season. Fortunately for FAU, the Owls have just two road games remaining but they will be against two of the better teams in C-USA (FIU & North Texas). Even if FAU somehow reaches a bowl game, FAU will go down as a massive underachiever when the 2018 season ends.