In week 9, a couple of Conference USA teams made statements, while others fell short of the mark, taking a step back in their journeys towards bowl eligibility. Tulsa remains the top team in the league, even through their bye week, but UCF certainly inched closer with their win. All that considered, here are the Conference USA Football Power Rankings for Week 10.
12. Southern Miss. Golden Eagles (0-8, 0-4) Last: (L) @ Rice, Up Next: vs. UAB
Is it getting hot in here or what? While its hard to imagine Southern Miss booting head coach Ellis Johnson after his first year, an 0-12 season might at least spark a conversation about it. After all, this is a program that hasn't won less than six games since 1993! Saturday, the Golden Eagles fell at Rice 44-17. Their offense looked in better shape than it had in weeks past, totaling 372 yards, but they were still forced into 5 turnovers. Up next, USM will host UAB, before finishing up the season at SMU, against UTEP, and at Memphis. While there will certainly be opportunities, with the way they've played its hard to predict any of those as wins.
11. Memphis Tigers (1-7, 1-3) Last: (L) @ SMU, Up Next: @ Marshall
The Tigers boosted themselves out of 12th in these rankings weeks ago by knocking off Rice, but the truth is there isn't much separating them and the Golden Eagles. Since that win, they've been outscored 120-37, and have been losing games by an average of 40-12. Saturday, they were dropped at SMU 44-13, and were held to only 202 yards of total offense. The Tigers now look ahead to a trip to Marshall, and it will likely be more of the same for Memphis as the Herd will need to get back on track after the beating the just took. After that game, the Tigers will finish the year with games against Tulane, at UAB, and against Southern Miss. In my opinion, at this point their only chance at a win is the season ender against USM.
10. UAB Blazers (1-7, 0-4) Last: (L) @ Tulane, Up Next: @ Southern Miss.
The Blazers season has gone from bad to worse as they are now 1-7 on the year. Hopes were higher coming in, but even though they played tough early on, they just haven't lived up to those expectations. Saturday, they found out firsthand that Tulane is much more improved than they were without Ryan Griffin as they they lost in a shootout 45-35. Both teams managed better than 615 total yards, but it was the Green Wave who came away with the victory. Up next, the Blazers travel to Hattiesburg to take on the Golden Eagles, before ending with games against Marshall and Memphis, and at UCF. Opportunities for wins are running short at this point so its time to pick up every one they possibly can.
9. Tulane Green Wave (2-6, 2-2) Last: (W) vs. UAB, Up Next: vs. Rice
As previously mentioned, the Green Wave are much improved since quarterback Ryan Griffin and running back Orleans Darkwa have made their return to the lineup. That improvement has culminated into two wins in the last three games. Saturday they dropped UAB 45-35, and managed better than 620 total yards. However, the defense is still struggling, and gave up 615 yards as well. This week they'll take on Rice, who has a great run game, and is very capable of putting up plenty of yards. If their defense can't come up with some stops, they could put their offense in a huge hole. If they can though, we could be looking at another Wave win. After Rice, Tulane closes the season at Memphis, against ECU, and at Houston. Don't look now, but the Wave only have 6 losses, with four fairly winnable games ahead.
8. UTEP Miners (2-7, 1-4) Last: (L) @ Houston, Up Next: BYE
It was a bit ironic, a week after Houston self imploded with 9 turnovers against SMU, the Miners did the same at Houston with 6 giveaways, and lost the game 45-35 despite controlling the time of possession (39:27 to 20:33), total yards (494 to 339), passing yards (301 to 174), rushing yards (193 to 165), and third down conversions (13-20 to 4-12). The biggest news, however, was freshman quarterback Blaire Sullivan taking the reigns of the offense. With the score at 45-7, he came in and generated 4 straight scoring drives to get the score to 45-35 with just over 4 and a half minutes to play. Its unclear what this offense will look like moving forward, but it looks promising with Sullivan under center. This week UTEP will have a bye, and will then finish up the year with games against UCF, at Southern Miss, and against Rice. While a bowl game is out of the question, a respectable finish isn't.
7. Rice Owls (3-6, 1-4) Last: (W) vs. Southern Miss., Up Next: @ Tulane
While the Owls started off the season extremely slow, losing 5 of their first 6, they've kept hopes of a bowl appearance alive after picking up 2 of the last 3. The only loss in that stretch came against league leader Tulsa, in a close one. Saturday they picked up a much needed win against Southern Miss. 44-17, but they'll have to continue on in those winning ways if they are going to make the postseason. The Owls will have a game at Tulane this week before a bye, and will then finish up with games versus SMU and at UTEP. If they want to make a bowl game, at this point, there is absolutely no room for error.
6. Marshall Thundering Herd (3-5, 2-2) Last: (L) vs. UCF, Up Next: vs. Memphis
The Thundering Herd have been so inconsistent this year, and its hard to tell what team you'll get on any given week. After demolishing Southern Miss. 59-24 just a week ago, Saturday seemed like the day Marshall would finally step forward as the top dog in C-USA East. That didn't happen, as UCF handed it the Herd 54-17 in Huntington. Marshall entered with one of the better offenses in the nation, but somehow only managed 364 total yards while giving up 568. At this point, any hope of winning the conference are virtually out of the picture, and Marshall just has to focus on making a bowl game. This week they'll take on Memphis at home, before finishing up the year with games at UAB, versus Houston, and at East Carolina. Simple math says they need three of four, and it won't be easy.
5. East Carolina Pirates (5-4, 4-1) Last: (L) vs. Navy, Up Next: vs. Houston
It's hard to get on the side of the Pirates. Just when they seem like they've got things going, they get absolutely dominated by Navy 56-28, giving up 512 yards....rushing! Overall, ECU is still in great shape as they've got 5 wins with three games to play. A bowl berth seems like a lock, but when thinking about where they fall in these rankings, we must consider this; Of their five wins, 1 has come against an FCS opponent, and their four conference wins have come against UTEP, UAB, Memphis, and Southern Miss. who are a combined 4-29. That's not to say ECU isn't good, but at this point it seems like they're a beneficiary of a favorable schedule more than anything. Regardless, this week ECU will take on Houston, before finishing up the season at Tulane, and versus Marshall. All will be tough challenges, but with two of those at home, and only 1 win needed to reach the postseason, they should find themselves there.
4. Houston Cougars (4-4, 3-1) Last: (W) vs. UTEP, Up Next: @ ECU
After playing their worst game of the year against SMU last Thursday, Houston got back on track by jumping out on a struggling UTEP team early, and walking away with a 45-35 win. Despite being dominated in almost all statistical categories, the Cougars dominated the game, and made their way back into the talks for the conference title. But, the schedule now toughens, as Houston will be at ECU this week, and will finish up with games against Tulsa, at Marshall, and then against Tulane. None of those games will be easy, but if the Cougars have hopes of a last C-USA crown, they'll have to win them all. In any case, they are in very good shape for another bowl berth.
3. SMU Mustangs (4-4, 3-1) Last: (W) vs. Memphis, Up Next: @ UCF
Over the last two weeks, the Mustangs have climbed 9 spots in these rankings. While I wasn't sold on them mid-season, the win against Houston has given them great confidence, and they may just be able to carry it through the final weeks of the season. Saturday, they blew out Memphis 44-13, racking up nearly 500 yards of total offense, while holding the Tigers to only 200. This week we'll see just how much they've improved as they'll head to Orlando to take on UCF. After that, they'll finish up the season with games against Southern Miss., at Rice, and against Tulsa. They only need to pick up two of those to make a bowl, but if they figure out a way to get by UCF, they would control their own destiny in the race for C-USA West.
2. Central Florida Knights (6-2, 4-0) Last: (W) @ Marshall, Up Next: vs. SMU
The Knights are definitely still the number two team in Conference USA, and will likely remain there until we see what happens in their game at Tulsa on November 17th. However, they took a step forward Saturday, and closed the gap a bit in the top 2 after demolishing Marshall 54-17. The biggest thing to take away from that game is that they proved their defense was the real deal, holding one of the nation's most explosive offense well under their season average. This week they'll take on SMU, who is riding high after a couple straight wins, and likely won't be an easy out. After that, they'll finish the season with games at UTEP, at Tulsa, and against UAB. UCF isn't locked into the title game just yet, but with a virtual two game lead on the second place team in C-USA East, they're almost there.
1. Tulsa Golden Hurricane (7-1, 5-0) Last: BYE, Up Next: @ Arkansas
The Golden Hurricane maintain their top spot through the bye week, but UCF made a statement with their win over Marshall. Tulsa now has a huge challenge against an Arkansas team who is struggling, but is certainly no pushover. To make matters worse, the game is in Fayetville. Let's not forget that Tulsa underperformed in their last game against a power conference school on the road in the season opener at Iowa State. And, while they've certainly improved, its still no easy task to go into SEC country and come out with a win. After Arkansas, the slate doesn't get any easier. Tulsa will finish up with games at Houston, against UCF, and at SMU. They're in good position to make the conference title game, but they'll have to continue to play well if they want to stay there.