I’m going to be completely transparent with you and state for the record unless your name is Bill Clark, Rick Stockstill, or Tyson Helton, this was a rough weekend for C-USA.
When I took on the task of writing this weekly column, I made a promise not to be overly repetitive in spotlighting teams. As a result, it made finding three positive takeaways for this article rather difficult.
With that on the record, let’s take a look at what we learned from week two in Conference USA.
Isaiah Green is arguably the most important player in the East
Coming off Marshall’s trouncing of lowly VMI, I was looking forward to how they would fare on the road against Group of Five heavyweight Boise State.
Quite frankly, the Herd held their own with Bryan Harsin’s Broncos in front of a national television audience Friday night.
True freshman sensation Hank Bachmeier had another outstanding performance for No. 22 ranked Boise State and that made the difference in Marshall not being able to pull off the upset.
Which leads me to the Thundering Herd’s redshirt sophomore signal-caller in Isaiah Green.
After a titillating four-touchdown pass performance in week one, Green had a pedestrian game, going 10-17 passing for 56 yards and one touchdown pass in the 14-7 loss in Boise.
That seesaw type play encapsulates his first year as the Herd’s starting quarterback last season.
At times, Green looked like he was on the cusp of superstardom, while at other times, it looked like there might be room for a quarterback competition.
This by no means is a call for Green to not be the guy in Huntington. I’ve been a fan of Green’s play since last season; however, it is acknowledging the fact that Marshall seemingly has the pieces to make a run at a conference title.
While the argument can be made that if the Herd had continued to feed Brenden Knox in the second half, they might have pulled out the W, if Green can take the next step as a passer, the C-USA title might run through Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
Will the real North Texas please stand up
While Seth Littrell’s ballclub might not be as mercurial as the rapper who gave me the title for this section, North Texas’ 49-27 loss to SMU leaves us (or at least me) with some confusion as to what this team is.
What seems to be a given with the Mean Green is at least 24 points. In their last 17 contests, UNT has scored at least in 16, with the lone exception being last year’s New Mexico Bowl loss to Utah State.
On the other hand, what appears to be rather murky is this team’s ability to play defense, despite having talented players on that side of the ball.
After giving up 31 points to Abilene Christian in week one, the Mean Green allowed seven touchdowns to a surprising SMU team that’s off to a 2-0 start.
The road doesn’t get any easier for them as they head to Berkeley to take on a Cal team that upset No. 23 Washington on Saturday.
While the loss to SMU and a potential loss to Cal doesn’t sink their C-USA hopes, it could expose some flaws that conference foes might look to take advantage of.
Especially with this being the year that Littrell & company are supposed to put all of the pieces together and make that conference title run, making sure the defense is in tow should be priority number one.
There are still more unknowns than known commodities
To borrow a line from the urban philosopher Jay-Z, “If skills sold truth be told I’d probably be lyrically Talib Kweli.”
I don’t expect everyone reading this to be the Jay-Z sycophant that I am, so I’ll put the quote in layman’s terms.
Talent can only get you so far, but at the end of the day, you have to provide results on the field. FAU, FIU, UNT, Southern Miss, and Marshall all suffered losses this weekend.
While the Herd and Golden Eagles could be given a pass because they played “superior competition,” I still think they’re worth spotlighting because they are supposed to be part of C-USA’s elite.
The Sunshine State’s contributions to the conference are a combined 0-4 after both teams suffered losses on Saturday. FAU was trounced by UCF, while FIU was upset at home by a Western Kentucky team that lost to FCS Central Arkansas the week prior.
What’s most puzzling about those losses, in addition to the UNT loss profiled in the earlier section is that there’s no questioning the amount of talent these programs have - on paper.
Up and down the roster they’re littered with 3 and 4-star recruits who are expected to make an impact at this level. The positive is that it’s still early, so there’s plenty of time to get the kinks worked out.
But as the saying goes, hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.