Conference USA Power Rankings: Bowling Edition 2

The Conference USA race gained some clarity over the weekend, as losses by Marshall, ECU, and UCF put #20 Southern Miss two games ahead of everyone else in the East with only two games to play. UTEP took a step towards bowl eligibility after knocking off ECU, Houston and Tulsa continued their dominance of the West, Rice and SMU both dropped games out of conference, and UAB won the battle for 10th. Let's take a look at how it all affected this week's Conference USA Power Rankings.

BOWL BOUND TEAMS

1. #11 Houston Cougars (10-0, 6-0) Last Week: (W) @ Tulane, This Week: vs. SMU

The Cougars dusted off Tulane last week 73-17 to improve to 10-0 overall and 6-0 in conference. They will now face SMU and Tulsa in the final two games of the regular season, and after a loss by then #5 Boise St., Houston is now in the driver's seat for a BCS bowl appearance. Both Mark Schlabach and Brad Edwards of ESPN are projecting the Cougars to square off against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl in a huge matchup of offense vs. defense. Of course, Houston will still need to win remaining games against SMU and Tulsa, and potentially Southern Miss in the C-USA championship game. SMU is clearly struggling, but Tulsa and Southern Miss are clearly not. This is no easy road.

 

2. #20 Southern Miss Golden Eagles (9-1, 5-1) Last Week: (W) vs. UCF, This Week: @ UAB

The Golden Eagles very narrowly avoided an upset over the weekend, as UCF scored a TD with no time remaining, but elected to go for two to win the game. The Southern Miss defense held, improving them to 9-1 overall, 5-1 in conference. They now look ahead to facing UAB and Memphis in the final two weeks of the regular season. Most can assume those will merely be practice sessions to prepare the Golden Eagles for the conference championship game. Bowl possibilities for Southern Miss seem to be down to two. Either win the conference and play in the Liberty Bowl, or lose and play in the Beef O' Brady's St. Petersburg Bowl. The Golden Eagles can also potentially play in the Liberty Bowl if Houston is selected for a BCS bowl.

3. Tulsa Golden Hurricane (7-3, 6-0) Last Week: (W) vs. Marshall, This Week: @ UTEP

The Golden Hurricane continued their impressive conference run on Saturday, drilling Marshall 59-17. With the win, Tulsa improves to 7-3 overall, but more importantly 6-0 in conference. They will now head to El Paso to take on a hungry UTEP squad, before ending the season at home against Houston. That final game of the season will decide the Conference USA West champion, regardless of what happens in El Paso. No matter what, Tulsa will find themselves bowling this year, the only thing that's in question is where they'll land. If Tulsa knocks off Houston, they will likely play Southern Miss for the right to go to the Liberty Bowl. If they lose to Houston, they will probably find themselves either in the Ticket City Bowl, or the Armed Forces Bowl. ESPN thinks its going to be the latter, but I think Ticket City is a much better fit. It just depends on what happens throughout the rest of the conference.

4. SMU Mustangs (6-4, 4-2) Last Week: (L) vs. Navy, This Week: @ #11 Houston

I'm very reluctant to put SMU here, as the Mustangs are clearly struggling after losing three of the last four. Yes, two were against top quality opponents in Southern Miss and Tulsa, but this last one was against a Navy team that Southern Miss destroyed and ECU topped, on their home field. All that said, there's no one else that deserves to be here more than the Mustangs. However, that might not be true next week. SMU will now take on #11 Houston on the road, before finishing up with Rice at home. They've already secured their bowl eligibility, but the way they've been playing they might not win another game. Bowl possibilities remain open for SMU. They could very well find themselves playing in the Armed Forces Bowl, or the Hawaii Bowl, among others.

FIGHTING FOR THEIR BOWL LIVES

5. UTEP Miners (5-5, 2-4) Last Week: (W) vs. ECU, This Week: vs. Tulsa

UTEP returns to no. 5 in the power rankings after knocking off ECU on Saturday. The Miners put up a great all around performance in the win. They held the the nation's 11th ranked passing team to 133 yards, they rushed for 241 yards, and backup QB Carson Meger played one hell of a game filling in for the injured Nick Lamaison. They now improve to 5-5, and have two opportunities against Tulsa and at UCF to make it to bowl eligibility (God that loss to Rice still hurts).

6. UCF Knights (4-6, 2-4) Last Week: (L) vs. #20 Southern Miss, This Week: @ ECU

The Knights very nearly improved to 5-5, and 3-3 in conference Saturday night. On the final play of the game, QB Blake Bortles connected with J.J. Worton for a 25 yard touchdown that brought the Knights to within 1. They elected to go for two, the USM defense held, and now UCF is one loss away from missing out on a bowl. This week they head to Greenville, NC to take on ECU, before ending the season at home against UTEP. Obviously, every game is an elimination game now.

7. ECU Pirates (4-6, 3-3) Last Week: (L) @ UTEP, This Week: vs. UCF

The Pirates lost to UTEP on Saturday 22-17, falling to 4-6 overall. Their potent offense was held to only 133 yards passing, 254 total yards, and 17 points. They will now take on UCF at home in an elimination game for both, and then end the season at Marshall. The Pirates entered the season with high hopes, and looked very strong early on, but they now find themselves in must win situations for the remainder of the season.

8. Marshall Thundering Herd (4-6, 3-3) Last Week: (L) @ Tulsa, This Week: @ Memphis

I guess you just never know what to expect from the Thundering Herd. I mean I didn't expect them to win at Tulsa, but 59-17? Then again, that's just the kind of season it's been in Huntington. They've beaten Southern Miss and Louisville, but they've also been stomped by Ohio, Houston, and Tulsa. The Herd now face Memphis on the road this week, and then wrap up the season against ECU. That final game may determine bowl eligibility for both.

DEAD TO A BOWL

9. Rice Owls (3-7, 2-4) Last Week: (L) @ Northwestern, This Week: vs. Tulane

After looking like a top 25 team last week against UTEP, the Owls crashed back down to reality against Northwestern. The Wildcats held Rice to 254 total yards, and handed them a 28-6 loss. The Owls now take on Tulane this week, and then end the season at SMU. The Owls may have a shot to win both.

10. UAB Blazers (2-8, 2-5) Last Week: (W) @ Memphis, This Week: vs. #20 Southern Miss

After being down 35-17 to start the 4th quarter, UAB reeled off 24 unanswered in the come from behind win over Memphis. The Blazers have now locked down that no. 10 spot, and with some help from Rice may even make their way to no. 9. Ok maybe not, they play #20 Southern Miss this week, and then finish up @ Florida Atlantic.

11. Memphis Tigers (2-8, 1-5) Last Week: (L) vs. UAB, This Week: vs. Marshall

The Tigers seemed poised to get their third win of the season on Saturday, but a furious comeback by UAB dropped Memphis to 2-8 with two tough games left on the schedule. This week the Tigers will take on Marshall at home, before ending the season against #20 Southern Miss.

12. Tulane Green Wave (2-9, 1-6) Last Week: (L) vs. Houston, This Week: @ Rice

#11 Houston put the Green Wave's losing streak to 8 on Thursday, dropping them 73-17. The Wave now head to Houston to take on Rice, and then end the season with a road trip to Hawaii. Look at the bright side. At least they get to take a trip to Hawaii.

C-USA's bowl picture hasn't cleared up any since last week. In fact, Boise St.'s loss to TCU actually muddied Conference USA's waters a bit. With Houston seemingly in control of their own BCS destiny, we may see a shakeup with the rest of the C-USA bowl eligible teams. Here's a look at some hypothetical situations. 

Houston makes BCS Bowl:

Bowl Game Date/Location Matchup
All State Sugar Bowl January 3rd - New Orleans, LA Alabama vs. Houston
Autozone Liberty Bowl December 31st- Memphis, TN Southern Miss vs. SEC
Ticket City Bowl January 2nd - Dallas, TX  
Beef O' Brady's St. Petersburg Bowl December 20th - St. Petersburg, FL Marshall vs. Big East
Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl December 30th - Dallas, TX Tulsa vs. BYU
Sheraton Hawaii Bowl December 24th - Honolulu, HI SMU vs. Hawaii
R+L Carrier's New Orleans Bowl December 17th - New Orleans, LA UTEP vs. Sun Belt

Houston doesn't make BCS Bowl, wins conference:

Bowl Game Date/Location Matchup
Autozone Liberty Bowl December 31st- Memphis, TN Houston vs. SEC
Ticket City Bowl January 2nd - Dallas, TX Tulsa vs. Big Ten
Beef O' Brady's St. Petersburg Bowl December 20th - St. Petersburg, FL Southern Miss vs. Big East
Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl December 30th - Dallas, TX SMU vs. BYU
Sheraton Hawaii Bowl December 24th - Honolulu, HI UTEP vs. Hawaii
R+L Carrier's New Orleans Bowl December 17th - New Orleans, LA Marshall vs. Sun Belt

 

Houston doesn't make BCS Bowl, Southern Miss wins conference:

Bowl Game Date/Location Matchup
Autozone Liberty Bowl December 31st- Memphis, TN Southern Miss vs. SEC
Ticket City Bowl January 2nd - Dallas, TX Houston vs. Big Ten
Beef O' Brady's St. Petersburg Bowl December 20th - St. Petersburg, FL Marshall vs. Big East
Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl December 30th - Dallas, TX Tulsa vs. BYU
Sheraton Hawaii Bowl December 24th - Honolulu, HI SMU vs. Hawaii
R+L Carrier's New Orleans Bowl December 17th - New Orleans, LA UTEP vs. Sun Belt

 

Houston doesn't make BCS Bowl, Tulsa wins conference

Bowl Game Date/Location Matchup
Autozone Liberty Bowl December 31st- Memphis, TN Tulsa vs. SEC
Ticket City Bowl January 2nd - Dallas, TX Houston vs. Big Ten
Beef O' Brady's St. Petersburg Bowl December 20th - St. Petersburg, FL Southern Miss vs. Big East
Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl December 30th - Dallas, TX SMU VS. BYU
Sheraton Hawaii Bowl December 24th - Honolulu, HI UTEP vs. Hawaii
R+L Carrier's New Orleans Bowl December 17th - New Orleans, LA Marshall vs. Sun Belt
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