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Three things we learned from Conference USA in Week 4

We’re almost done with non-conference play and there’s still a lot to learn about many of the teams in C-USA

Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

We’re now four weeks into the season with conference play right around the corner and the most prevalent storyline is that there aren’t any runaway favorites in either of C-USA’s divisions.

Let’s take a look back at the week that was in Conference USA and the three things we learned from the weekend’s contests.

Don’t forget about Bill Clark and the Blazers

At C-USA’s media days in July, Bill Clark’s UAB Blazer team were somewhat of an afterthought.

After being one of college football’s greatest underdog stories, UAB graduated multiple players on both sides of the ball.

As a result, the media picked UAB to finish fourth in the West division this season.

While there’s still a lot of football to be played, don’t be surprised if the Blazers are in the mix at the end of the season.

Tyler Johnston III’s emergence as a passer gives UAB an added dimension that they’ve lacked for the past two years and will alleviate some of the pressure from star running back Spencer Brown.

Tyler Johnston III is off to a hot start for UAB.
Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Johnston III went 22-for-27 with 313 yards and three TD passes in UAB’s 35-3 victory over South Alabama on Saturday. Through three games, Johnston III is completing almost 65% of his passes with eight touchdowns and only two interceptions.

On the defensive side of the ball, lineman Garrett Marino has been one of the conference’s most unheralded players since his arrival in 2017.

He’s a consistent presence in the opposing team’s backfield and Saturday was no different, with the senior having a two-sack performance.

His presence has been much-needed with the loss of cornerback Brontae Harris, who’s one of the top defensive backs in C-USA.

When looking at their upcoming schedule, none of the next seven teams they face made a bowl game last season. There’s a very real chance that heading into late November, Clark’s team could be undefeated.

For better or worse, this could be Frank Wilson’s last hurrah at UTSA

I’m not a fan of speculating on the status of coaches' jobs.

As someone who spends time around coaches at FIU, you get to see them as people with families and understand the stress that comes with having your future played out in public.

Frank Wilson currently holds a 16-24 record at UTSA.
Photo by Bobby McDuffie/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

However, there’s no way around looking at the situation at UTSA and realizing that head coach Frank Wilson’s tenure with the Roadrunners may be coming to an end sooner than later.

UTSA suffered a lopsided 45-3 loss at North Texas on Saturday and their most promising glimmer of hope may be lost for an extended period of time.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Frank Harris was injured on the Roadrunners’ second play from scrimmage, leaving the game with an undisclosed injury to the same arm that caused him to miss time last week.

Coming off of a 2018 season that saw a woefully inept offensive output from UTSA - especially at the quarterback position, Harris’ emergence as a playmaker in the early part of 2019 gave Roadrunner fans hope for the future.

Now, staring down the possibility of Harris being out for an extended period of time, there’s a distinct possibility that UTSA may not exceed last year’s win total (3) and could replicate 2018's struggles on offense.

That brings us back to Wilson, who, was given a vote of confidence by athletic director Lisa Campos two days after their 2018 season-ending loss to North Texas.

Lisa Campos has made it clear that she has a large-scale vision for UTSA Athletics.

“As we prepare for next season, I will be working closely with head coach Frank Wilson to ensure we are making the necessary improvements,” said Campos in the statement.

Wilson is widely regarded as one of the top recruiters in C-USA. He's brought in talents such as Harris, along with promising running backs Sincere McCormick and Brenden Brady.

However, the 42-year-old Campos could look to hire a coach of her own, instead of keeping Wilson, who she inherited from a prior administration when she took the AD job in November of 2017.

Conference USA's Attendance is on the Upswing

Attendance is an issue throughout college football across all levels.

One of the things that makes Conference USA unique, is that because of various changes due to realignment, C-USA has teams’ whose stadium capacity range from 72,000 (UAB) to the FBS minimum of 15,000 (Charlotte).

Seven C-USA teams have had a paid attendance mark of over 25,000 people through four weeks of play, with the latest being the 27,932 attendance at Legion Field for Saturday’s game.

It’s worth noting that four teams (Charlotte, FIU, ODU, and WKU) do not have stadiums that seat over 25,000.

Miami Beach Bowl: Central Michigan vs. Tulsa
Miami’s Marlins Park will play host to FIU as they take on Miami in November. In excess of 35,000 fans are expected to be in attendance.
Carl Juste/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

However, when looking at the schedule for the rest of the season, there’s reason to believe every team in Conference USA will have a sellout on their schedule and FIU should draw north of 35,000 for the second consecutive year with their November contest against crosstown rival Miami at Marlins Park.