Through 8 weeks of the college football season, Tulsa and UCF still remain atop Conference USA with no league losses. But, multiple teams stand behind them with only one conference loss, waiting for their opportunity to claim the top spot in their respective division. Here are the Conference USA Football Power Rankings for week 9.
12. Southern Miss. Golden Eagles (0-7, 0-3) Last: (L) vs. Marshall, Up Next: @ Rice
After playing tough against nationally ranked Louisville and UCF, it seemed as though the Golden Eagles were poised to pick up their first win of the season. It wasn't meant to be at home against Marshall though, as the Herd rolled 59-24. Southern Miss was nearly doubled in total offense (629 to 331) and was forced into 3 turnovers. After passing for only 115 yards, the Golden Eagles now rank 119th in the FBS at 136.7 yards per game. They also rank in the bottom 15 in both points for (19.6) and points against (39). They now have a road game at Rice, before returning home to take on UAB. If they can't pick up a win in either of those, they may not get one all season.
11. Memphis Tigers (1-6, 1-2) Last: (L) vs. UCF, Up Next: @ SMU
The Tigers' breakthrough win over Rice only two weeks ago now seems like its been a year. They've now fallen by an average of 26 points a game over the last two weeks. This time, it was at home against UCF. The Tigers actually outgained the Knights, had more first downs, and held an advantage in time of possession, but their 3 turnovers proved costly in the 35-17 loss. Memphis now turns around for back to back road games at SMU and Marshall. The way those two teams are playing, you may as well chalk those up as losses. After that, Tulane comes to town, but even the Green Wave seem much improved over the last few weeks.
10. UAB Blazers (1-6, 0-3) Last: (L) vs. ECU, Up Next: @ Tulane
The Blazers are a team that have been competitive for the majority of the season, but have just been unable to come up with wins in those close games. Saturday, they fell at home against ECU 42-35, in a game in which they held the lead with under 10 minutes to play. The Blazers did however allow the Pirates to put up 600 yards of total offense, and that's something you just can't do. UAB now has a pair of road games at Tulane and at Southern Miss. If they want to get things headed in the right direction, both of those games are must wins.
9. Tulane Green Wave (1-6, 1-2) Last: (L) @ UTEP, Up Next: vs. UAB
There's no question that the Wave are a much better team now that quarterback Ryan Griffin is back in the lineup, and running back Orleans Darkwa is working his way back to full health. Saturday they lost a close one at UTEP, but both Griffin and Darkwa put up their best performances of the season. The Miner defense was just too strong in the closing minutes, and Tulane was unable to come up with the needed points on their final two drives. They'll now return home to take on UAB and Rice, and while the Green Wave likely won't be bowling this year, if they can win those two, they may be able to turn this season into a relative success.
8. UTEP Miners (2-6, 1-3) Last: (W) vs. Tulane, Up Next: @ Houston
The Miners were finally able to pick up a win after going over a month without one. An improved Tulane team played them tough, and it didn't help that both starting quarterback Nick Lamaison and starting running back Nathan Jeffery went out in the first half, but the defense stood tall and the Miners found a way to win 24-20. UTEP will now have a couple of tough games back to back as they will be at Houston this week, and then will have a bye before returning home to play UCF. Houston's high powered offense will be looking to get back on track after last week's performance, and UCF is easily one of the top teams in the league. But, if the Miners somehow find a way to pick up a couple wins, they'll be 4-6 with only Southern Miss and Rice left on the schedule.
7. Rice Owls (2-6, 0-4) Last: (L) @ Tulsa, Up Next: vs. Southern Miss.
The Owls are a tough team to judge. They've played well against teams like Marshall and Tulsa, but also lose at Memphis? Saturday they lost against Tulsa, despite holding the Hurricane to only 16 first downs. Granted, Tulsa quarterback Cody Green was out of service, but as a power run team that shouldn't be the biggest loss. The Owls had leads of 7-0, 14-7, 21-14, and 24-21 before finally surrendering the lead in the final 1:30 of the game. Rice will host Southern Miss before hitting the road to take on Tulane. Of the six teams with 6 losses, the Owls have the most favorable remaining schedule for a run at a bowl appearance. Still though, it won't be an easy task.
6. SMU Mustangs (3-4, 2-1) Last: (W) vs. Houston, Up Next: vs. Memphis
The Mustangs came up with a much needed win last Thursday as they knocked off Houston 72-42. However, I'm still not sure SMU deserves all the credit as Houston gave up 9 turnovers. With that many gifts, it's be hard to lose. The win helped the Mustangs' chances of making a bowl as they'll need to win 3 of their final 5 games at opposed to 4 of 5. This week they'll be at home against Memphis before hitting the road to take on UCF. The Mustangs will also play Southern Miss, Rice, and Tulsa to end the year so there is little room for error. Needless to say, this week's game is a must win.
5. Houston Cougars (3-4, 2-1) Last: (L) @ SMU, Up Next: vs. UTEP
The Cougars stay ahead of SMU in the rankings, despite falling to them by 30 last Thursday. Some may wonder why, but here are the reasons. Despite losing their starting quarterback in the first half, Houston still outgained the Mustangs by nearly 200 yards. They had 30 first downs while holding SMU to only 20, and they were able to convert on 12 of 21 first downs. This wasn't so much a case of SMU beating Houston. With 9 turnovers on everything from muffed punts to fumbles on kickoffs, and careless interceptions, this was a case of Houston beating Houston. Their offense is still one of the most explosive offenses in the league, and if they get Piland back from injury, they'll bounce back just fine. This week the Cougars host UTEP, before taking on East Carolina in Greenville.
4. Marshall Thundering Herd (3-4, 2-1) Last: (W) @ Southern Miss, This Week vs. UCF
The Herd finally came out and put up a complete performance, and it showed on the scoreboard as they knocked off Southern Miss in Hattiesburg, 59-24. Marshall put up 629 yards of total offense compare to USM's 331, and also forced the Golden Eagles into three turnovers. This week the Herd have a tough matchup at home against UCF, before finishing up the season with games against Memphis, UAB, Houston, and ECU. They're on the right track, but if they're going to make it to a bowl game, they'll need to continue to pick up wins by playing exactly like they did this weekend.
3. East Carolina Pirates (5-3, 4-1) Last: (W) @ UAB, Up Next: vs. Navy
After starting out the season 2-2, the Pirates have now won 3 of the last 4, including Saturday's win at UAB. ECU put up 600 yards of total offense, including 386 through the air, en route to the 42-35 victory. At this point, it seems like the Pirates are firing on all cylinders, but we'll find out more about them this week as they wrap up their non-conference schedule at home against Navy. We know that their offense is clicking, but we'll see how they fare against a top 50 defense who also happens to be one of the best rushing teams in the land. After Navy, the Pirates Houston, Tulane, and Marshall to end the season. No matter how Saturday's contest goes, they're still in great shape to make a bowl.
2. UCF Knights (5-2, 3-0) Last: (W) @ Memphis, Up Next: @ Marshall
At 3-0 in conference play, the Knights continue to take care of business by knocking off their C-USA opponents. Saturday they dropped Memphis on the road 35-17, despite losing that statistical battle. This week they'll have their hands full though as they take on Marshall in Huntington. The Thundering Herd rank 4th in the nation in total offense, easily the best the Knights have seen so far this year. After Marshall, UCF will take on SMU at home, UTEP and Tulsa on the road, and will finish up at home against UAB. Even if they can't knock off Marshall, they'll have plenty of opportunities down the stretch to secure a bowl bid.
1. Tulsa Golden Hurricane (7-1, 5-0) Last: (W) vs. Rice, Up Next: BYE
Despite being without starting quarterback Cody Green, and trailing for almost the entire game, Tulsa found a way to win at home against Rice, scoring the go ahead touchdown in the final minute and a half. The win gives the Hurricane 7 in a row since dropping the season opener at Iowa State. This week they'll have a bye, before wrapping up their non-conference slate with a trip to Arkansas. Even though the Razorbacks are in a down year, that will still be a big test. After Arkansas, Tulsa will wrap up the regular season with games against Houston, UCF, and SMU.