Conference USA Football Power Rankings: Week 8

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

In the first fully scheduled C-USA Saturday slate, we saw last week's number one team East Carolina go down in an overtime thriller by a surprisingly good Tulane. Is that enough to de-throne the ECU Pirates? And who are the real contenders going forward? Here goes our week 8 rankings, as nine teams including your UTEP Miners have this week off.

14. Southern Miss. Golden Eagles (0-5, 0-1) Last: Bye, Up Next: @ East Carolina, Last Week Rank: #14

The Golden Eagles enjoyed a week off last week. In their last outing, a 24-23 loss to FIU, senior Allan Bridgford threw for 243 yards and three touchdowns. Two of Bridgford's scoring passes went to junior Markese Triplett, who caught seven passes for 96 yards and the first multiple touchdown game of his career. The best chance to drop their 17 game losing streak was against FIU. With their next three games coming up against teams at the top of the C-USA Power Rankings, that should easily stretch to 20. The talk in Hattiesburg should not be about next year but what needs to take place off the field in the next few years.

13. UTEP Miners (1-5, 0-3) Last: (L) 34-20 Vs. Tulsa, Up Next: Bye, Last Week Rank: #12

While the defense was little bit more bearable to a point last week in the 2nd half against Tulsa, the Miners are going to find it hard to pull a W the rest of the way. The Miners first six opponents have a combined record of 10-28 respectively thus far, four of the last six teams left on deck are more than likely going bowling this season (A&M, Rice, Tulane, North Texas). As much as I feel for the seniors and hate to say it but honestly this season is pretty much over in terms of bowl and conference contention. The Miners have had lots of key pieces for the future out there playing since the start of the season, so that will benefit with getting those guys experience and more practice time. The keys for this week is recruiting and rest. We will keep you up to date on any recruiting news that may come out this weeks bye.

12. FIU Golden Panthers (1-5, 1-1) Last: (L) 27-24 Vs. UAB, Up Next: Bye, Last Week Rank: #13

The Panthers fell in the final 10 seconds to UAB last Saturday. Senior Jake Medlock had 302 yards passing, Senior Rockey Vann had a career-best 88 receiving yards. Austin Brown drove UAB 70 yards and set up a 28 yard field goal that halted dreams of a 2-0 conference start after a horrible start to the season. After scoring only 23 points in the first four games, they have put up 23 and 24 in back-to-back weeks, be it against two bad defenses but it is something to build on. The schedule will not ease up, though a winnable game looms on Oct. 26 versus an improving LA Tech, we will see if Medlock's confidence grows.

11. UAB Blazers (2-4, 1-1) Last: (W) 27-24 @ FIU, Up Next: Bye, Last Week Rank: #11

Though they battled out a nice win last week against FIU, defensively the issues continue and will only get worse when they face a good offense in UTSA next weekend. They still are in contention, and have a far outside chance at post season glory. Though they cannot continue on giving up 290 yards passing a game against the passing attacks coming up on the latter part of the Blazer schedule. It will be tough going, huge match up with the Roadrunners will dictate the direction they go towards the end of the year.

10. Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (2-4, 1-1) Last: Bye, Up Next: Vs. North Texas, Last Week Rank: #10

Sophomore Kenneth Dixon recorded his second career 200-yard rushing game and his ninth career 100-yard rushing game in the Sun Bowl in week 6. He is now tied for 12th in the nation among active career 100-yard rushing leaders with nine games over the century mark in his 18-game career. Dixon will be the key going forward, along with the health of Tevin King as the Techsters have the 53rd ranked rushing attack in the FBS. Another key is stopping the run going forward, if Skip Holtz can turn this around it will be a fine coaching job and great turnaround. I say that because there are some games they can win left, though it will not be easy.

9. UTSA Roadrunners (2-5, 1-2) Last: (L) 27-21 Vs. Rice, Up Next: Bye, Last Week Rank: #8

UTSA rushed for a season-high 264 yards, which was the most allowed by Rice this season, as they were down 24-7 heading into 4th quarter. They were able get back in the game in the second half by forcing three, three and outs after Rice scored on their opening possession of the half. The rushing mark also ranks as the third-highest total in school history, Senior Eric Soza led the way with 17 carries for 85 yards and two scores. He also completed 17 passes to 12 different receivers and has also hit at 11 different receivers in all seven games. Though giving up the big pass play on defense continues to be the big issue on a decently sound defensive unit. After they beat UAB next week, they take a tour of the wide open C-USA west, and the only way the Runners have a shot at contending for the west is going into that stretch 2-2 in conference play.

8. Florida Atlantic Owls (2-5, 1-4) Last: (L) 24-23 Vs. Marshall, Up Next: Bye, Last Week Rank: #9

FAU had it's best defensive performance of the season and set the tone early by picking off Rakeem Cato on the first drive. Though the Marshall speed and talent would prevail in the final six minutes of the ballgame. What a statement game of sort it was for the Owls, holding a high powered Marshall offense to only 355 total yards and only losing by a last second field goal at home. Maybe Cato and the Florida laden Herd were soaking in their homecoming at little too much, though FAU pushed Marshall around for most of the game. This is as high the Owls will get in the rankings this season, lot of positive to build on for the future no matter how this year ends up.

7. Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (3-4, 1-2) Last: (L) 34-7 @ North Texas, Up Next: Bye, Last Week Rank: #5

The Blue Raiders lost in Denton, 34-7 to a solid North Texas defensive effort. Freshman Austin Grammer played the majority of the game, running for a career best 106 yards and one touchdown. Senior Logan Kilgore completed 8-of-8 passes for 30 yards when he was in the game. Kilgore was benched in the 2nd half, he is part of the three game slide that has really shook a team that started of really strong and had aspirations of a conference title. Big game against Marshall on a Thursday night match up on Oct 29th. After that tilt, the Blue Raiders will have gone through the toughest stretch in their schedule and could possibly win out to finish with seven wins. Defensively they have been soft, though they held ECU to only 24 points two weeks ago. The jury is still out on MTSU, but they are not in a terrible spot going forward.

6. Tulsa Golden Hurricane (2-4, 1-1) Last: (W) 34-20 @ UTEP, Up Next: Bye, Last Week Rank: #7

A week after rushing for a career-best 165 yards, senior Trey Watts ran 27 times for 142 yards against UTEP. Though it was Cody Green that finally got the offense going against the bottom of the barrel UTEP defense. They still have issues on defense. The Golden Hurricane played like the 6th best team in the conference last week and looked as if they could make a late run. Though if the inconsistencies that have haunted them thus far continue, they will remain in the middle of the pack. Every game Tulsa plays the rest of the season should be close and exciting. Its going be interesting to watch how Bill Blankenship and our pre-season number one finish out.

5. North Texas Mean Green (3-3, 1-1) Last: (W) 34-7 Vs. MTSU, Up Next: @ LA Tech, Last Week Rank: #6

The Mean Green pounded out MTSU for 303 yards on the ground, and held the Blue Raiders to only 66 passing yards and 205 total yards. North Texas may have found themselves a two headed monster at tail back to go along with a defense that has bent but not totally broken. A win against LA Tech will allow them to control their own destiny in the west race. LA Tech will come out running and I expect this one to be close early but North Texas should be able to wear down the suspect Bulldog run defense.

AROD's Sharp Pick: North Texas 37 LA Tech 21

4. East Carolina Pirates (4-2, 2-1) Last: (L) 36-33 @ Tulane, Up Next: Vs. So Miss, Last Week Rank: #1

The Pirates drop to 4th this week, not only because of the overtime loss to the Green Wave, but that is now two games in a row ECU should have won easily and they have struggled. The did double up Tulane in terms of total yards, but still are struggling with the turnover margin. The next two weeks the Pirates will get back on track and need to find some type of run game. Defensively they have improved in conference play and will improve statistically over the next two weeks as well. They are still a top team in the C-USA, I expect them to continue to contend in the east though another loss will make it tough if Marshall wins out.

AROD's Sharp Pick: ECU 55 So. Miss 10

3. Tulane Green Wave (5-2, 3-0) Last: (W) 36-33 OT Vs. ECU, Up Next: Bye, Last Week Rank: #4

Very huge win at home against the former number one ECU. I'm still not sold on the Green Wave, though their record is impressive thus far, and their defense has been solid, and been able win them some games. They still rank 99th in the FBS both in passing and rushing. Nick Montana who was not missed at all last week should return against Tulsa on Oct 26th. That game will really measure them up going forward, as they too control their own destiny to contend for a conference title. They were out gained by ECU, though the experience of all their returning players they have is showing as they are hungry for respect as they leave C-USA for an AQ conference.

2. Rice Owls (4-2, 3-0) Last: (W) 27-21 @ UTSA, Up Next: @ New Mexico State, Last Week Rank: #3

For the second straight week the Owls shut down in the second half and gave up a two touchdown lead but still managed to win. They have a gimme game down the road in Las Cruces, and I expect that plus a game against UTEP to really get the offense going. Defensively they also seem to lapse in the second half and have been exposed by the run courtsey of Tulsa and UTSA. The west is Rice's to lose, and a favorable schedule may help them to sit up top the west if they are able keep this little streak going.

AROD's Sharp Pick: Rice 55 NMSU SUCKS.

1. Marshall Thundering Herd (4-2, 2-0) Last: (W) 24-23 @ FAU, Up Next: Bye, Last Week Rank: #2

Marshall in all actuality, minus a triple overtime dropped pass in the rain against a now ranked team should be 5-1. Rakeem Cato showed his MVP toughness leading his team back against a much more physical FAU. Marshall's lone losses have come on the road, and they struggled on the road last week. They hit the road again this time Murfreesboro, TN and Middle Tennessee State. After that road test, the schedule sets up nice for them control their way to the top of the non-competitive so far east division.

MINER RUSH's C-USA FOOTBALL PLAYERS OF THE WEEK:

OFFENSE: Tulane's Devin Powell

DEFENSE: Tulsa's Shawn Jackson

SPECIAL TEAMS: Tulane's Cario Santos

.C-USA TOTAL OFFENSE TEAM STATS LEADERS

TEAM TOTAL YARDS RUSHING PASSING PPG YPG
Marshall 2702 1041 2702 36.2 450.3
East Carolina 2654 626 2654 34.2 442.3
UTEP 2488 1229 2488 31.2 414.7
UTSA 2843 1064 2843 22.9 406.1
North Texas 2416 1550 2416 28.5 402.7

TOTAL DEFENSIVE TEAM STATS

TEAM TOTAL YARDS RUSHING PASSING PPG YPG
Marshall 1789 707 1082 18.3 298.2
Florida Atlantic 2513 1285 1228 26.0 359
East Carolina 2162 488 1674 25.0 360.3
Southern Miss 1899 1005 894 37.2 379.8
Tulane 2711 732 1978 26.1 387.3
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