We have five conference games on this week’s schedule as we have a showdown in each division. In the East, Middle Tennessee and Marshall will play for an inside track on taking home the division. Due to MTSU taking down FAU last weekend, a win over Marshall will make them huge favorites to win the East going forward.
In the West, UAB and Louisiana Tech will get together with the same stakes on the line, as the Bulldogs can really cement their place at the top of the division with back-to-back wins over North Texas and UAB.
A few notes: Over the past few years I have kept track of my overall predictions for Choosing C-USA but this year I’m only keeping track of my conference predictions. I find it more fun to follow my picks in conference play given how competitive the conference is. A few of you have noticed that I don’t include FAU games in this section. Because I cover the Owls for Underdog Dynasty, I do a separate preview for their games and you can find those previews on the site on Fridays. Since I offer a prediction in those FAU game previews as well, those predictions will be reflected in the Choosing C-USA record too.
Choosing C-USA Record: 5-3
Game of the Week
UAB at Louisiana Tech (La Tech -9.5, 7:00 PM ET, Stadium)
Louisiana Tech and UAB gave us a classic last season, as the Blazers pulled off one of the biggest upsets in conference play. UAB blocked Tech’s field goal attempt on the final play of the game to earn their first ever win over La Tech.
This season both teams enter with a 3-1 record overall and 1-0 in conference play. The records may be the same, but both teams have taken different paths to get there.
UAB is 66th in S&P+ and has played a pretty easy schedule. With wins over Savannah State, Tulane and Charlotte, the Blazers have only played to their potential against Tulane (not counting a route over an FCS team). Against one of the worst teams in the country, UAB looked pretty lethargic in the conference opener against Charlotte. This could be attributed to UAB’s style of play, as the Blazers are a run-first team that doesn’t play with much pace.
The Bulldogs have played a much more difficult schedule up to this point, but Bill Connelly’s numbers don’t love the Bulldogs as they are 80th in S&P+ despite giving LSU a good game and beating C-USA West favorite North Texas, both on the road.
I think you can see where I’m going with this. According to S&P+, UAB is considered a one-point favorite over Tech. Vegas has Tech as a 9.5 point favorite and judging by the eye-test I agree. The two best players in the game reside on Tech’s sideline in Jaylon Ferguson and Amik Robertson.
How UAB attacks Tech’s defense is the biggest matchup of the game. Under new offensive coordinator Bryant Vincent, UAB’s offense is essentially the same as last year with a much higher dependency on the run (9th in Standard Downs Run Rate). They play at a much slower pace, and fail to generate explosive plays as they are 97th in IsoPPP.
Did I mention the Blazers have played a really easy schedule up to this point? Tech will be the most talented defense they have played all season. While Tech certainly has the talent advantage, UAB’s biggest strength is their rushing attack and Tech did allow over 100 yards to Loren Easly last week. UNT didn’t stick to the run despite being successful. Don’t expect Bill Clark to bail the Bulldogs out this weekend if Spencer Brown gets going.
UAB’s defense has been pretty solid against mediocre competition, as they are 56th in S&P+. After getting gouged by Coastal Carolina on the ground, the Blazers did a great job limiting Tulane’s option offense. They’ve shown to be really good against the pass as they are the best team in the country in Sack Rate and Passing Completion Rate. They haven’t played great passing offenses though.
Rhashid Bonnette, Adrian Hardy and Teddy Veal will be the best receiving corps the Blazers have seen by a wide margin. Hardy has made great strides this season as he’s tied for fifth nationally with an average of 110.0 receiving yards per game.
All signs point towards Tech winning this game but I hate this spot for them. They are coming off of two straight emotionally charged games on the road. Meanwhile UAB enters this one looking to make a statement and in the one game they needed to have, they responded with their best performance of the season against Tulane. This has all the makings of a letdown spot for Tech.
After last week’s crazy results, my heart is telling me to pick UAB. Once Tech looks like they’ve turned the corner they follow it up with a confusing loss. I trust Bill Clark much more than Skip Holtz too. But I’ll go with the team that has played the best football up to this point though.
Louisiana Tech 31 UAB 28
The Rest of C-USA...
Middle Tennessee at Marshall (Marshall -6, Friday 7:30 PM ET, CBSSN)
After a comeback win over FAU, MTSU has a great opportunity to grab control of the division here. The best QB in the game belongs to MTSU and that could very well be the difference after watching Isaiah Green almost give away a tremendous performance from the Herd’s defense last week versus WKU.
Despite returning Tyler King and Keion Davis, Marshall is one of the worst teams in the conference at running the ball. First-year coordinator Tim Cramsey has yet to see his offense take with this personnel as Marshall is 104th on offense in S&P+. This has the makings of a low-scoring game that’ll be won with defense. Intangibles aside, I wasn’t really impressed by MTSU last week who will see a much better defense on Friday.
Marshall 24 Middle Tennessee 16
UTSA at Rice (Rice -1.5, 7:00 PM ET, ESPN3)
Rice being a favorite here is a shocker. UTSA has the talent advantage. Of course, that didn’t mean too much for the Roadrunners against UTEP. I still don’t trust Rice’s offense but UTSA hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire with their offense either. The Roadrunners would be well-off to test Rice’s poor secondary here.
UTSA 21 Rice 14
North Texas at UTEP (North Texas -27.5, 7:30 PM ET, beIN)
Nothing like a bounce-back against UTEP. UNT wins big.
North Texas 48 UTEP 21