Things are starting to take shape in Conference USA football, and the one thing that's becoming more and more clear is that this league is weaker than anyone could have predicted. Seven weeks in and only three teams are above .500, while 5 have one win or less. Considering that, here are the Conference USA Football Power Rankings for week 8.
12. Southern Miss Golden Eagles (0-6, 0-2) Last: (L) @ UCF, Up Next: vs. Marshall
The Golden Eagles have done well to stay competitive against solid competition over the last two weeks, but that doesn't change the fact that they are the only team in Conference USA without a single win. Last week they fell 38-31 in overtime at UCF in perhaps their best offensive performance of the season. If it weren't for a couple of turnovers, they may have just been able to pick up the win. Up next they'll take on Marshall at home, before a road game against Rice, and a home contest against UAB. Is Southern Miss the worst team in C-USA? Maybe not, but until they prove otherwise, they'll remain here.
11. Memphis Tigers (1-5, 1-1) Last: (L) @ ECU, Up Next: vs. UCF
The Tigers proved that their win over Rice was nothing but a mere fluke as they went out and got absolutely destroyed at East Carolina. Although they controlled the time of possession by more than a 7 minute advantage, they were only able to put up 281 yards of total offense en route to a 44-7 loss. Memphis now moves on to face UCF at home before hitting the road to take on SMU and Marshall. If they aren't able to find another win, and Southern Miss does, Memphis will likely return back to their usual bottom spot in the Conference USA Power Rankings.
10. UTEP Miners (1-6, 0-3) Last: (L) @ Tulsa, Up Next: vs. Tulane
It pains me to put the Miners this low. They opened the season by playing tough against teams that are playing extremely well right now, yet they've fallen to the lowest of lows. In fact, one could make the argument that they deserve to be 12th on this list, but they'll stay out of that spot, for now. Last week the Miners lost at Tulsa, but showed much more life offensively than they had in weeks past. They put up more than 400 yards of total offense and 376 through the air, but mistakes and turnovers proved costly and they fell 33-11. This week they'll take on Tulane at home, before hitting the road to face a resurgent Houston team. If they can't manage a win over Tulane, who knows how this season will end.
9. SMU Mustangs (2-4, 1-1) Last: (L) @ Tulane, Up Next: vs. Houston
After picking up a huge win in El Paso just a week ago, the Mustangs turned around and fell at Tulane 27-26. What's most surprising is they absolutely dominated the stats. The Mustangs held advantages in first downs (29-13), total yards (471-342), and time of possession (40:17-19:43) yet they still found a way to lose. The win gave Tulane their first victory in more than a year, and put SMU in tough shape as far as bowl hopes go. The Mustangs will try to rebound this week at home against a Houston team that has won three straight. If they aren't able to, they'll have another shot against Memphis the week after. If the wins don't start coming soon though, the Mustangs will miss out on a bowl for the first time since 2008.
8. Tulane Green Wave (1-5, 1-1) Last: (W) vs. SMU, Up Next: @ UTEP
The truth is that this is probably a bit higher than the Green Wave deserve to be in these rankings, but at this moment its hard to make an argument for those in the 9-12 spots to be ranked ahead of them. Tulane picked up their first win since last September on Saturday when they knocked off SMU 27-26. Despite being completely dominated as far as stats go, the Wave somehow found a way to win. They're a much better team now that QB Ryan Griffin and RB Orleans Darkwa are healthy, but we'll see how they look this week as they hit the road to take on UTEP. If they can somehow pick up a win there, they may be able turn this season into a success as UAB, Rice, and Memphis are all still on the schedule.
7. UAB Blazers (1-5, 0-2) Last: (L) @ Houston, Up Next: vs. East Carolina
Much like Tulane, UAB sits in 7th position on this list for the sole reason that no one else deserves to be ahead of them. They've played competitive football this season, and seemed to have things headed in the right direction after their blowout of Southeastern Louisiana, but they were just simply outmatched on Saturday at Houston. This week the Blazers will take on East Carolina, and then they'll hit the road to take on Tulane and Southern Miss. If they can't start pick up any wins during that stretch, its hard to imagine them winning more than 2 or 3 games this season.
6. Rice Owls (2-5, 0-3) Last: (W) vs. UTSA, Up Next: @ Tulsa
The Owls did well to rebound from their loss at Memphis by knocking off a confident UTSA squad 34-14. Granted, UTSA had played a cupcake schedule, but at 5-0, you have to think they were confident they could beat Rice heading into the contest. The Owls put up 483 yards of total offense in that game, including 301 on the ground. If they can continue to play that way this season may turn out to be a success. This week they'll be at Tulsa, but they'll finish the season with games against Southern Miss, SMU, Tulane, and UTEP. Considering how poor those four have played, reaching a bowl may still be a possibility.
5. Marshall Thundering Herd (2-4, 1-1) Last: BYE, Up Next: @ Southern Miss
The Herd fall to 5 during their bye week, after getting jumped by ECU. Marshall has had their opportunities, but just hasn't been able to come up with the plays necessary to pick up some wins. Coming out of the bye week they'll hit the road to take on Southern Miss, and then they'll have UCF and Memphis at home. Southern Miss may be able to give these guys a game, and at this point, Marshall can ill afford to lose any games they "should win".
4. East Carolina Pirates (4-3, 3-1) Last: (W) vs. Memphis, Up Next: @ UAB
The Pirates got back on the winning track Saturday by downing Memphis 41-7. And, while they definitely look like one of the top teams in conference, how good they really are is still up for debate. Let's not forget this was just Memphis, and only last week they got handled by UCF 40-20. Still, if they can find a way to stay consistent, they may have a shot at contending for C-USA East. They'll have to come up with some big wins to do so though as Houston and Marshall are still on the schedule. Up next, the Pirates will hit the road to take on UAB, before returning home to wrap up their non-conference slate against Navy. Both are winnable, and if they pick them up, they'll be bowl eligible with three to play.
3. Houston Cougars (3-3, 2-0) Last: (W) vs. UAB, Up Next: @ SMU
The Cougars are playing extremely well right now, and just might be the second best team in Conference USA at this point. But, considering their 3 straight wins have come against teams that are a combined 5-14, it hasn't quite been proven. Houston's latest victim was UAB who fell 39-17, and gave up 566 yards of total offense. That unit for the Cougars is absolutely rolling, and it'll be interesting to see if anyone can contain them. The bottom line is, they got hot at the right time, and with games coming at SMU and against UTEP, the Cougars might be 5-3 with four to play. Who knows, maybe that November 10th game against Tulsa will determine who wins C-USA West.
2. Central Florida Knights (4-2, 2-0) Last: (W) vs. Southern Miss, Up Next: @ Memphis
The Knights needed overtime to take out a winless Southern Miss team at home. And, while the Golden Eagles have played a couple good teams close lately, that's still a game that you'd expect a team of UCF's "caliber" to win fairly easily. Still, a win is a win, and this team is now 2-0 in conference with a game at Memphis coming up next. They'll be challenged the week after that with a road trip to Marshall, but if they can win those two they should have C-USA East all but wrapped up. In any case, this team should be bowl eligible in the next couple weeks. However, its still yet be to be determined whether or not they'll actually be allowed to play in a bowl game.
1. Tulsa Golden Hurricane (6-1, 4-0) Last: (W) vs. UTEP, Up Next: vs. Rice
The Hurricane were tested by the Miners for about a half, but that changed in the second 30 minutes as they ran away with a 33-11 win. At this point, there's absolutely no question who the best team in Conference USA is. Seven weeks in, and they're already bowl eligible. Considering only two other teams are above .500 overall, I'd say that's pretty good. Tulsa will now take on Rice at home before heading out of conference to take on Arkansas in Fayettville. That will certainly be a test, as will be games against Houston and UCF as they head down the stretch. We'll see how they fare.