The race for the Conference USA crown is heating up. With the outcomes of last Saturday's contests, both UCF and Tulsa sit at 7-2 and 5-2 in conference, but who deserves to be number in the C-USA power rankings?
12. Southern Miss. Golden Eagles (0-9, 0-5) Last: (L) vs. UAB, Up Next: @ SMU
The Golden Eagles just can't buy a win. Saturday they let a perfectly good opportunity slip through their hands as they were up on UAB 16-0 after the first quarter, before being outscored 27-3 the rest of the game. The biggest problem with Southern Miss is that without a passing game, they're left trying to beat teams on the ground. And, they aren't exactly a dominant run team either. Saturday they only managed 112 yards through the air, and 183 on the ground for a total of 295 yards. Nine times out of ten, that just won't get it done. The Golden Eagles will now travel to SMU this week, before finishing up the year with games against UTEP and at Memphis. There are still opportunities to pick up wins, but at this point, I'm not sure they'll get one.
11. Memphis Tigers (1-8, 1-4) Last: (L) @ Marshall, Up Next: vs. Tulane
The Tigers' struggles continued this weekend as they fell at Marshall 38-28. While the score looks respectable, this game wasn't really that close until late in the game. The Herd were up 31-7 late in the 3rd before the Tigers made a run to get the game to 31-28 with under 10 minutes to play. Marshall put up one more touchdown on their next drive, and that's how the game ended. The Tigers did well to stay competitive, but at some point that has to translate into wins. This week Tulane comes to town, and the while the Wave's record doesn't show it, they're playing pretty damn good right now. After that, the Tigers will head to UAB, and will then finish up the season against Southern Miss. Much like the Golden Eagles, they're running out of opportunities for wins.
10. UAB Blazers (2-7, 1-4) Last: (W) @ Southern Miss, Up Next: vs. Marshall
The Blazers came up with a much needed win Saturday at Southern Miss, but they don't improve in the rankings, simply because it was Southern Miss. And, while they came back to win the game fairly easily, they were actually down 16-0 at the half, and 19-7 late in the third, before finally getting things going. The win was definitely a good one for the team, but it'll take a bit more than a win over the worst team in the conference to bring them out of the bottom three. This week they'll take on Marshall at home, and they will then end the season with games against Memphis, and at UCF. At this point, a 3-9 overall record seems in line.
9. Tulane Green Wave (2-7, 2-3) Last: (L) vs. Rice, Up Next: @ Memphis
The Wave put themselves in a deep hole in the first half of Saturday's game against Rice, giving away four turnovers in the first 15 minutes of the game. The Owls were up 28-7 and 35-17, but Tulane showed just how much they've improved, making a game of it, and narrowly losing 49-47 after a failed two point conversion with under a minute to play. In the end though, a loss is a loss, and the inconsistent play doesn't warrant an upgrade in these rankings. Tulane will now travel to Memphis, before ending the season with games against East Carolina and at Houston. If they can cut down on the mistakes, this team could potentially win the last three games on their schedule.
8. UTEP Miners (2-7, 1-4) Last: BYE, Up Next: vs. UCF
The Miners stay put in this week's rankings, but it wasn't an easy decision. Tons of questions loom with this team, and the biggest of which is who will be the starting signal caller. Freshman Blaire Sullivan looked solid in his time against Houston, but its still yet to be seen whether he'll take over for the rest of the year. This week, UCF comes to town, and the Miners will then finish up with games at Southern Miss and against Rice. They've got a chance to pick up a couple wins down the stretch, but no game will be easy.
7. Houston Cougars (4-5, 3-2) Last: (L) @ ECU, Up Next: vs.Tulsa
The Cougars missed out on a prime opportunity to take a step forward in the Conference USA West race as they lost to ECU 48-28. More than just the loss though, they were held to only 369 total yards while giving up 550, they were down 28-0 very late in the 2nd quarter, and they were only able to manage 15 minutes of possession. Whatever momentum this team had after their three straight wins seems to be completely gone at this point. This week they'll take on Tulsa, before ending the season with games at Marshall and against Tulane. A few weeks ago, this team seemed like they in great position for a bowl berth, now they've got a tough road to get there.
6. SMU Mustangs (4-5, 3-2) Last: (L) @ UCF, Up Next: vs. Southern Miss
The Mustangs are a tough team to read. They seemed like the hottest team in conference after blowout wins against Houston and Memphis, but they followed those up with a blowout loss Saturday at UCF. Granted, UCF is a good football team, but what does that say about SMU when they only managed 259 yards of total offense, and were down 42-10 before putting up one final score with under a minute to play? The Mustangs will likely come up with another win this week against Southern Miss, but with a trip to Rice, and a game against Tulsa still on the slate, its hard to see them making a bowl game.
5. Rice Owls (4-6, 2-4) Last: (W) @ Tulane, Up Next: BYE
The Owls seem to have things headed in the right direction, winning three of their last four, with the lone loss coming against Tulsa 28-24. Saturday they picked up a big win at Tulane, putting up 482 yards of total offense with a great balance of run and pass. Yes, Tulane helped their cause by giving away a few unforced turnovers, but still this team is one that is playing extremely well at this point. If the defense can figure out a way to pick up some stops in key situations, the Owls just might find themselves bowling. This week they have a bye, which couldn't come as a better time as they'll be given the opportunity to heal up and prepare for a couple big games to finish the season. After the bye, the Owls will play SMU at home, and UTEP on the road. Both are winnable, but they'll need to continue to play well to pick them both up.
4. Marshall Thundering Herd (4-5, 3-2) Last: (W) vs. Memphis, Up Next: @ UAB
Saturday the Herd prevailed in what was a must win situation. After jumping out on the Tigers 31-7, Marshall let them back in the game at 31-28 before finally putting up a late score to put the game away. This team has a ton of talent, and an explosive offense, but they've just been unable to find the consistency needed for a truly successful season. In fact, they haven't won consecutive games this year. But, if they want to make a bowl game that will have to change down the stretch. This week the Herd will travel to Birmingham to take on UAB, and will then end the season with games against Houston and at ECU. Much like last year, their bowl eligibility may come down to that finale against the Pirates.
3. East Carolina Pirates (6-4, 5-1) Last: (W) vs. Houston, Up Next: BYE
After getting blown out by Navy a week ago, the Pirates responded well by downing Houston 48-28. In the game they managed 550 yards of total offense, while holding the Cougars to only 369. They've solidly established themselves as the number three team in this conference, and still have an outside shot at winning C-USA East. The Pirates will now enjoy their bye week, before finishing up with games at Tulane and against Marshall. As mentioned, they still have an outside shot at winning C-USA East, but they would need to win two tough games, and get quite a bit of help from UCF. Still though, it remains a possibility.
2. Tulsa Golden Hurricane (7-2, 5-0) Last: (L) @ Arkansas, Up Next: @ Houston
In my opinion, the Golden Hurricane are still the best team in Conference USA. But with the loss at Arkansas, and UCF rolling, it just wouldn't be justified to keep them at number 1 in these rankings. The Hurricane went into SEC country, and probably should've come away with the win. Kicking blunders, and a drive inside the 5 for no points eventually doomed them, but they played well against an SEC West team that has won three of its last four. Tulsa will now head to Houston to take on the Cougars, before ending the season with games against UCF and at SMU. That November 17th contest will decide who is first in these rankings, but no matter what happens, the two are very likely to meet again for the C-USA championship.
1. Central Florida Knights (7-2, 5-0) Last: (W) vs. SMU, Up Next: @ UTEP
I know many people have been waiting for the Knights to reclaim the top spot in Conference USA. And, after Tulsa's loss, they're back on top. Saturday UCF knocked off a peaking SMU team 42-17, holding the Mustangs to only 259 total yards. With the exception of the Southern Miss game, the Knights have been absolutely rolling since their week four loss to Missouri. This week they'll be at UTEP, and then they'll head to Tulsa for the showdown between the top two teams in the league. After the Tulsa game, they'll finish up with a game against UAB. Again, although not completely set, the Knights are in great shape to win C-USA East, and likely play the Hurricane once more for the Conference USA crown.