Conference USA Might Not Fill All of Its Bowl Opportunities
Conference USA has six potential bowl spots available in 2016: the Boca Raton Bowl vs. the AAC, the Gildan New Mexico Bowl vs. the MWC, the Hawaii Bowl vs. the MWC, the R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl vs the Sun Belt, the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl vs. the Big Ten, and the Camping World Independence Bowl if the ACC or SEC cannot fill their spots. Western Kentucky, Middle Tennessee, and Louisiana Tech are all currently bowl eligible while Old Dominion and Southern Miss are virtual locks to join them. FAU and Rice are already disqualified from bowl eligibility while Marshall, Charlotte, FIU, and UTEP face nearly insurmountable odds to reach six wins.
That leaves North Texas and UTSA on the cusp. Both teams face tough roads to gaining two more wins. UNT will host Louisiana Tech and Southern Miss while traveling to Western Kentucky and UTEP. UTSA faces a treacherous three game road trip over the next three weeks as they travel to Middle Tennessee, Louisiana Tech, and Texas A&M before hosting Charlotte. If the conference is to fill all of their bowl slots then either UTSA or UNT will need to win a game in which they will be considerable underdogs.
UTSA vs. UNT is the Texas Rivalry the Conference Needs
Strange but true— UTSA vs. UNT is the most heated active college football rivalry in the state of Texas. The Roadrunners turned in an impressive defensive effort to gain a 3-1 series lead over UNT in what has turned into a really fun rivalry. While the Halloween weekend attendance was underwhelming (19,553), the atmosphere in the Alamodome was boisterous as Roadrunner and Mean Green fans jawed with one another as UTSA built their lead.
Former UNT offensive lineman Mason Y’Barro infamously described UTSA as “soft and unphysical” after their loss to the Roadrunners in 2013 and UTSA sophomore running back Jalen Rhodes sniped back after last night’s win on the post-game radio show, claiming that “we were told they weren’t a physical team and that turned out to be right”. Additionally, varying accusations of Mean Green players urinating on the Alamodome turf have been floating around messages boards and social media this morning. Whether true or not, this rivalry is clearly ratcheting up in intensity with each passing year. Conference USA would be wise to work with the individual schools to brand and promote the rivalry as well as ensuring that it will be broadcast on national television or ESPN3 in coming seasons.
David Bailiff and Charlie Partridge Gotta Go
Rice and FAU (both 1-7) have both been pathetic this season but the programs hit new lows with their week eight performances. Playing at home in front of an announced homecoming crowd of just 9,338, FAU was obliterated by Western Kentucky 52-3. Out-gained 661-202, the Owls failed to convert on third down until their final possession of the game. As one would expect, it was the worst home loss in school history for FAU. Through three seasons at FAU Charlie Partridge’s record stands at 7-25 and he continues to have his team unprepared to compete against opponents of equal or lesser talent. It’s hard to imagine Partridge turning the program around in his fourth season as he’s failed to develop a quarterback capable of delivering wins. Firing Partridge won’t be cheap but with FIU on the open market for a new head coach FAU should bite the bullet before forfeiting momentum to the Panthers.
Life wasn’t much better for the Rice variation of the Owls in Ruston last night. The Bulldogs raced out to a 54-2 lead over Rice before Louisiana Tech called off the dogs, leading to a 61-16 final score. Rice gave up a staggering 735 yards as Rice fans’ season-long message board thread on Bailiff’s potential termination reached 51 pages of frustrated posts. It’s clear that it’s time for Bailiff’s term at Rice to conclude yet Rice continues to let Bailiff lead the team out to embarrassing performances each week. If the Rice administration is serious about winning football games then Bailiff must be forced out immediately.