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, we have two teams that are bowl eligible: Louisiana Tech and UAB. WKU is one win away from joining the ranks, with a boatload of teams hovering just above/below .500. Out of FAU, FIU, Marshall, Southern Miss, and North Texas, I’m going to go out on a limb and say all of these teams will reach bowl eligibility. Whether all of them actually receive an invite remains to be seen.
1. Louisiana Tech (6-1, 3-0, Last Week: #1)
When Southern Miss took the opening kickoff for a touchdown I could not have been the only one who was thinking “Here we go again. Another big game in which La Tech falls short.” The fact Southern Miss has had Tech’s number over the past few years didn’t help. That was one of only a few bright spots for USM as the Bulldogs outscored the Golden Eagles 21-3 in the fourth quarter behind the play of their terrific pass defense to secure the win.
Ezekiel Barnett and Amik Robertson combined for 4 interceptions, with Robertson nabbing 3 of them. With the win Tech is bowl eligible for the sixth straight season. Holtz’s first conference title could be on the horizon as the Bulldogs are in pole position to win C-USA West.
2. WKU (5-2, 4-0, LW: #3)
I did not think WKU is going to be any good this season. Their loss to an FCS team at the beginning of the season confirmed my suspicion. Then the Tops started winning. Still, a believer I was not. The offense is short on playmakers and with backup QB Ty Storey starting I figured the losses would soon come. But they haven’t. The Tops continue to, dare I say, stay on Top. A 30-14 win over Charlotte was one of the more complete games WKU has played all season as the defense continued to dominate. Storey had the best game of the season as he passed for 283 yards and two touchdowns, showcasing that WKU can actually move the ball. The Moonshine Throwdown gives WKU another opportunity to increase their lead in C-USA East.
3. Southern Miss (4-3, 2-1, LW: #2)
The outcome is disappointing for sure, but USM is still one of the best teams in C-USA. They just happened to commit far more turnovers than their explosive offense could overcome. At two different points in the game the Golden Eagles held a two-possession lead but each time they failed to put the game away. Going to Rice should provide a nice bounce back game for Jack Abraham and co.
4. UAB (6-1, 3-1, LW: #6)
The Blazers are quietly bowl eligible, as they continued their dominating performances at home with a 24-point win over Old Dominion. ODU isn’t very good, so there’s not much take away here other than the fact that UAB being bowl eligible is beginning to feel quite normal. Try telling yourself that at the start of the decade.
5. Marshall (4-3, 2-1, LW: #9)
I don’t know what to do with Marshall as they are by far the most Jekyll and Hyde team in C-USA this year. One week the offense will struggle to get more than 10 first downs. The next week the offense scores in the high 30s. The latter happened last week against FAU in which Brenden Knox rushed for a career high 220 yards in the win. A home game against WKU is a must-win if the Herd are to reach the conference title game this year.
6. FAU (4-3, 2-1, LW: #4)
Much has been made about Lane Kiffin’s tweet about the officials as Conference USA fined Kiffin for his tweet. While it is funny, my thoughts boil down to winners win, losers talk about recruiting and officiating. Guess which category Kiffin and FAU falls into this week? The defense got exposed as a unit that is fast in the back end but thin and short on depth in the front seven. A few more solid rushing attacks remain on the schedule so if the defense doesn’t get better, the Owls might have to win a couple shootouts down the stretch.
7. FIU (4-3, 2-2, LW: #8)
The Panthers will stay here for another week after win over UTEP. A month ago FIU looked dead in the water. But with UMass, Charlotte and UTEP all visiting The Cage the Panthers took care of business and are now on a three-game winning streak. With WKU continuing to win however, their margin for error to win C-USA East remains thin. Next up is a trip to Middle.
8. North Texas (3-4, 2-1, LW: #6)
UNT moves down due to being under .500 despite a much-needed win over Middle Tennessee. I don’t think MTSU is all that good so a game-winning field over the Blue Raiders isn’t a good sign for their prospects of winning the conference. Next up is their first ever meeting against Charlotte.
9. Middle Tennessee (2-5, 1-2, LW: #7)
The Blue Raiders switched quarterbacks with Chase Cunningham getting the nod and he almost pulled off the upset. The offense played with a ton of energy and looked the closest to what a Tony Franklin offense normally looks like. Unfortunately, they still lost. The defense allowed UNT 33 points mostly due to their inability to stop the run. There’s a couple wins to be had on the schedule but it looks like MTSU will be missing a bowl this season.
10. Charlotte (2-5, 0-3, LW: #8)
Do the 49ers deserve to be ranked over UTSA despite remaining winless in conference play? I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt as they play in a much tougher decision while UTSA has the benefit of playing UTEP and Rice every week. A good showing is a must to stay completely out of the cellar this week though.
11. UTSA (3-4, 2-2, LW: #11)
My first reaction UTSA’s win over Rice is to feel like a corner might be turning but I can’t help but think that UTSA only has two wins in conference play because they simply have better athletes than Rice and UTEP and at least for me, that talent doesn’t mask how mediocre at best the coaching is. A bowl is still within reach technically but just looking at the remaining game (at Texas A&M, at ODU, vs Southern Miss, vs FAU, at La Tech) I don’t think even the most optimistic UTSA fan can see a path to a bowl game.
12. Old Dominion (1-6, 0-3, LW: #12)
Bobby Wilder must win out to avoid a third straight losing season. Feels like it’s about to be an end of an era in Norfolk.
13. Rice (0-7, 0-3, LW: #13)
The Owls could have beaten Louisiana Tech and UTSA this season but their defense just wilted down the stretch. Another losing season for the Owls isn’t a surprise, and they haven’t looked terrible, but this is still a football program learning how to win. As a result, they are still one of the worst teams in college football
14. UTEP (1-5, 0-3, LW: #14)
Two weeks to prepare for FIU lead to a lead at the end of the first quarter. Once the Panthers made their adjustments, the Miners were toast. A five game losing streak looks to get longer as La Tech comes to El Paso this week.