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Three things we learned from Conference USA in Week 1

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North Texas gives C-USA a win over the AAC and easily looked like the most complete team in the conference to start the season.

NCAA Football: North Texas at Southern Mississippi Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

North Texas is still explosive on offense and might have a stingy defense too

Entering Saturday’s rivalry game against SMU, all of the pressure was on North Texas to snap the Mustangs’ three-game losing streak.

With stars Mason Fine and Jalen Guyton back in the green and white, Seth Littrell back roaming the sidelines, and a sold out crowd, this was the perfect opportunity for UNT to show they have staying power not just in Texas, but to prove they should be taken seriously as one of the better Group of Five programs in the country. A loss to SMU under first-year head coach Sonny Dykes would have been blow to the momentum being built in Denton.

The Mean Green delivered in a big way as they dominated SMU in each phase of the game en-route to a 46-23 win. Perhaps the biggest development from the game was UNT’s defense, as the Mean Green shutdown Sonny Dykes’ air raid offense and pitched a shutout entering the third quarter.

The Mean Green allowed four rushing yards and 256 total yards of offense on the night. Considering the passing offense looked just as potent as last year, UNT easily looked like the best team in C-USA to start the season.

FAU isn’t ready for the big stage to start the season

NCAA Football: Florida Atlantic at Oklahoma
For the second straight season under Lane Kiffin, the Owls put on an abysmal performance in the season opener.
Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

As a heavy favorite to repeat as C-USA champs with a ton of starters back from last year’s team, it was easy for those to fall for the hype and believe the Lane Train could upset the Oklahoma Sooners.

However, just like last season, in front of a national audience, the Owls flopped yet again in their season opener under Lane Kiffin. To be clear, a loss to Oklahoma is nothing to be ashamed of but to lose in such embarrassing fashion under the bright lights is a massive disappointment for the fan base and the conference.

Fair or unfair, the perception of C-USA could have changed dramatically had FAU (combined with North Texas’ win over an AAC team) put up a fight. The loss provides yet another example of how far away C-USA is from competing with the best teams in the country. I still expect FAU to turn things around by the time conference play starts but they have zero margin for error for the New Year’s Six bid.

The bottom of the conference is taking shape

Houston v Rice
Mike Bloomgren has certainly made strides, but it’s still going to take Rice some time before they climb up the conference.
Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

UTEP lost to Northern Arizona 30-10 at the Sun Bowl. Old Dominion got rattled by a raucous Liberty crowd and was physically manhandled in a 52-10 loss to a team making their FBS debut. Rice barely beat one of the worst FCS teams in the country in Week 0 (the Owls did look much better against Houston). And then we have Charlotte, who beat Fordham 34-10.

It’s only Week 1, the perfect time for overreaction, but something tells me that these four teams are going to finish near the bottom of the conference. If I gave you 6.5 combined wins from Week 2 to end of the season from Charlotte, UTEP, Rice and Old Dominion would you take the over?