Conference USA Football Power Rankings: Week 4

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

A quarter of the season is gone, and frankly, what we thought we knew last week about the top teams in the league, we're not exactly sure about this week. Regardless, here's how C-USA stacks up for Week 4.

14. [6pts] Florida International Golden Panthers (0-3) - Last: (L) vs. Bethune-Cookman 34-13, Up Next: @ #7 Louisville

The Panthers suffered an extremely disappointing loss on Saturday, falling at home to FCS opponent Bethune-Cookman. Perhaps, the most disappointing thing wasn't the loss itself, but the fact that they lost by 21 at home. Cookman held FIU to just nine first downs, and only 229 yards of total offense. Needless to say, things aren't exactly going the way first year man Ron Turner had expected. Up next, the Panthers are at #7 Louisville. Enough said.

GoHerd says: "Does an explanation need to go here? Beat by Bethune-Cookman. End of story."

13. [14 pts] Southern Miss. Golden Eagles (0-3) - Last: (L) @ Arkansas 24-3, Up Next: @ Boise State

The Golden Eagles actually played fairly well for most of Saturday's contest in Fayetteville, but the Razorbacks were just too much, and eventually pulled away for a three touchdown win. Now despite being 3-0, Arkansas isn't exactly expected to contend for the SEC West this year, and only beat Samford by 10 a week ago. Still though, the fact that Southern Miss competed like they did is, at least, a little promising. We'll see how they fare this week at Boise State.

M_tx says: "There's not much to say about the Golden Eagles. This weekend their losing streak went to 15, which includes last year's losing season of '12-0'."

12. [22 pts] Florida Atlantic Owls (1-2, 0-1) - Last: (W) @ South Florida 28-10, Up Next: vs. Middle Tennessee

The Owls took a step forward in the rankings this week, albeit a small one, after knocking off South Florida on the road in impressive fashion. Normally, a win like that would mean much more, but considering where the USF program is at, its not much to write home about. Still though, its a good win for a team looking for something to build on, and if the defense can continue to perform the way they did against the Bulls, they'll be able to compete with a lot of teams moving forward. The Owls will now have a chance to prove their win was a true sign of improvement, as they'll take on MTSU at home.

MinerLeagueAROD says: "Impressive win against USF. Yes, USF is bad, but they have athletes and the Owls really run the ball well. They'll keep improving but still have along way to go."

11. [23 pts] UAB Blazers (0-2) - Last: BYE, Up Next: vs. Northwestern State

The Blazers enjoyed a bye last week, and somehow managed to stay out of the bottom three in the league. But, with Northwestern State coming to town, there won't be any more free passes if they are unable to pick up the win. The Blazers have started with a couple of tough games, but they've got to start winning some if they're going to have any shot at making a bowl. After NWST, they're at Vanderbilt.

GoHerd says: "No game this week and it's not really fair to have them improve1 spot, but I think LaTech played that poorly."

10. [30 pts] Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (1-2, 0-1) - Last: (L) vs. Tulane 24-15, Up Next: @ Kansas

The Bulldogs have really struggled here in the early going, and while Tulane is improved this year, Saturday was an example of just how far this team has fallen from just a year ago. La Tech managed only 14 first downs and 289 yards of total offense, was unable to capitalize on four Green Wave turnovers, and was only able to convert three field goals through the first 54 minutes of the ball game (also missed two FGs). This team has a long way to go. Up next, they're at Kansas.

MinerLeagueAROD says: "Losing to Tulane at home is not gonna sit well with Terry Bradshaw and co. When you force 4 turnovers at home you're supposed to win, but the Bulldogs didn't and haven't impressed at all thus far."

9. [41pts] UTEP Miners (1-1) - Last: (W) @ New Mexico State 42-21, Up Next: vs. UTSA

The Miners picked up a much needed win Saturday, running away from New Mexico State, in Las Cruces, 42-21. The big improvement for UTEP came from the defense, as after allowing 14 points in the first five minutes, they buckled down and only gave up seven the rest of the way. The offense is clearly not a question for this team, as they racked up 29 first downs and 546 yards of total offense on a very balanced performance that included 253 yards through the air, and 293 on the ground. They now rank 12th nationally in rushing offense, 35th in scoring offense, and 41st in total offense. If this defense can continue to improve, this team could step forward in a west division searching for a true leader. This week they'll have a chance to keep the momentum going as they take on UTSA at home.

UTEP915 says: "UTEP's defense showed some improvement against NMSU and Showers continued to look sharp. The real test comes this week against UTSA to see how much they have improved."

8. [42 pts] UTSA Roadrunners (1-2) - Last: (L) @ Arizona 38-13, Up Next: @ UTEP

The Roadrunners suffered another blowout loss to a solid Power "5" school, falling at Arizona 38-13. UTSA's offense was able to put up some numbers comparable to that of the Wildcats', but they were just simply unable to find the endzone soon enough, as they managed only three field goals through the first three quarters of Saturday's game. Many people are still high on the Runners, mostly because of their season opening win against UNM. But, the truth is contests against UTEP, Houston, Marshall, and Rice are looming. If they are unable to pick up a couple of wins in that stretch, they could be in a hole too deep to come out of.

PaydirtRenzo says: "I put the Roadrunners ahead of the Miners this week only because they did better against a common opponent in UNM. I'm excited about them visiting El Paso for the first time. Perhaps this could be the start of a rivalry."

7. [46 pts] Tulane Green Wave (2-1) - Last: (W) @ La Tech 24-15, Up Next: @ Syracuse

The Green Wave picked a big win for the program, knocking off La Tech on the road over the weekend. The offense played relatively well, putting up 364 yards of total offense, but they did give the football away four times. Their defense played well enough to overcome those turnovers, allowing the Bulldogs just 15 points, but that likely won't be the case against stiffer competition. Tulane has been a bit of a surprise thus far this season, but frankly the easiest part of the schedule is behind them. With a couple of tough road games coming up, we'll get to find out a little more about them. This week they're at Syracuse.

MinerLeagueAROD says: "Nick Montana played well vs LaTech and looks to be the starter going forward, but not sold on the Green Wave. They haven't played anybody yet, but that will change vs Syracuse."

6. [51 pts] Tulsa Golden Hurricane (1-2) - Last: (L) @ #12 Oklahoma, Up Next: vs. Iowa State

The Golden Hurricane, somehow, manage to stay in the top half of the league after their loss to nationally ranked Oklahoma, but they won't be there much longer if they aren't able to come up with some wins. Tulsa was able to keep the score respectable Saturday for much of the first half, but quickly fell behind 34-7 early in the third and eventually fell by 31. The offense put up 321 yards of total offense, but failed to reach the 100 yard mark rushing for the second time this year, and ranks 97th nationally in that category. This is a team that heavily relied on the rush in years past, and was expected to do the same this year. If they can't get that going, it could turn out to be a long season for Tulsa fans. This week, they take on Iowa State at home.

PaydirtRenzo says: "I'm still giving the Hurricane the benefit of the doubt. I don't believe anyone expected them to compete with Oklahoma in this particular year."

5. [57 pts] Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders (2-1) - Last: (W) vs. Memphis 17-15, Up Next: @ Florida Atlantic

The Blue Raiders rebounded nicely from their loss against North Carolina with a 17-15 win over former C-USA member Memphis. Considering the recent history of Memphis football though, a two point win isn't exactly convincing. But, it is a win, and outside of the top five in this league, those have been pretty hard to come by. MTSU's offense was outgained by Memphis, and the Tigers also controlled the time of possession, but the Raiders came up with a key drive late in the fourth and kicked the go ahead field goal. Despite the 2-1 start, this team has still got a long way to go if they want to compete for the west. This week, they'll be at a confident FAU.

MinerLeagueAROD says: "Maybe Memphis is better than I thought, but I really expected the Raiders would roll. Logan Kilgore has led them to 2-1, but they start conference with an interesting matchup vs FAU."

4. [61 pts] North Texas Mean Green (2-1) - Last: (W) vs. Ball State 34-27, Up Next: @ #9 Georgia

The Mean Green came up with perhaps the most impressive win of the weekend. Not because of who they beat, Ball State, but because they came out extremely flat before coming back for the win. UNT actually fell behind 27-9 late in the second, before rallying to score 25 unanswered. Overall, the Mean Green offense tallied 505 of total offense and 31 first downs, while also controlling the time of possession by nearly 2-1. The defense, however, gave up 496 total yards, but buckled down in the second half, giving up just 127. North Texas is off to an impressive start, but will have to play even better than they have to keep things going. This week they take on nationally ranked Georgia.

PaydirtRenzo says: "The final score may not show it, but UNT made an impressive rally against Ball State. They were down by 17 after 1 quarter and by 11 at the half. Then they turned up the defense, not allowing any points in the second half to steal a win at home."

3. [71 pts - 1 FPV] Rice Owls (1-1) - Last: (W) vs. Kansas 23-14, Up Next: vs. Houston*

The Owls picked up their first win of the year Saturday, dropping Kansas in Houston 23-14. The Rice offense wasn't too impressive, but did manage to put up 370 yards of total offense. The defense however, played a solid game, allowing the Jayhawks just 11 first downs and 270 total yards. Its hard to say just how good this Rice team really is, but if their defense is playing this well, and their offense is in form, they've got a great chance to win the west. They've got a tough one coming up this weekend against rival Houston, and also will have 4 of 5 on the road in October.

PaydirtRenzo says: "I feel strange putting ECU or Marshall in 1st after a loss. Rice has only 2 games under their belt against big conference schools (although KU is not exactly a power). A 1-1 record after that is respectable and good enough to put them in 1st for now."

2. [76 pts] Marshall Thundering Herd (2-1) Last: (L) @ Ohio 34-31, Up Next: @ Virginia Tech

The Thundering Herd had a disappointing setback this past week at Ohio, falling 34-31. Now, Ohio is a pretty good team, but that was certainly a game that most expected the Herd to come up with. Marshall did outgain the Bobcats by nearly 150 yards, and also had 28 first downs to Ohio's 19, but also gave away four turnovers. Marshall opened the game with back to back fumbles on their opening two drives, and found themselves playing catch up the rest of the way. This is still one of the best teams in this conference, but they just can't afford to give away games like this if they really want to compete for a title. They'll now hit the road to take on Virginia Tech, before returning home to open up C-USA play against UTSA.

GoHerd says: "The first Classic Marshall Collapse (tm) of the season. 4 turnovers: 2 of which were on our first 2 possessions and 1 which was an INT on a potentially game-tying drive with 7 minutes left in the game. The bottom line is the final score was 34-31 and with 4 turnovers by Marshall, this game was ours to lose and we took that responsibility in stride."

1. [83 pts - 5 FPV] East Carolina Pirates (2-1, 1-0) Last: (L) vs. Virginia Tech, Up Next: BYE

The Pirates hold on to the top spot in C-USA, despite losing on their home field. Granted, Virginia Tech is no pushover, but that should be a win more often than not for this conference's top team. The ECU offense was held in check, putting up just 210 yards of total offense, and while their defense did well to keep them in the game, in the end it just wasn't enough. Consider this, after opening the game with a 75 yard touchdown drive, the Pirates offense managed just one field goal, had six punts, three interceptions, and a safety on their next 11 possessions. ECU will now get to regroup with a week off, but a three game road swing awaits them that starts off with a trip to take on a tough North Carolina squad.

MinerLeagueAROD says: "Heartbreaking loss to VTECH at home. Shane Carden started out fast, but wouldn't see the end zone again after the opening drive. ECU and Marshall are my 1a and 1b right now."

Just for kicks, we'll end the Conference USA Football Power Rankings with a look at some of the best and worst statistical teams in the league:

*ALL RANKS ARE NATIONAL RANKS

Top Scoring Offense: Marshall - 12th - 46 PPG

Worst Scoring Offense: Florida International - 123rd - 7.7 PPG (USM - 122nd)

Top Rushing Offense: UTEP - 12th - 286.5 YPG

Worst Rushing Offense: East Carolina - 122nd - 63.33 YPG (FIU - 121st, USM - 120th)

Top Passing Offense: Marshall - 21st - 312.7 YPG

Worst Passing Offense: Florida International - 119th - 126 YPG (FAU - 118th)

Top Total Offense: Marshall - 20th - 527.3 YPG

Worst Total Offense: Florida International - 124th - 191 YPG

Top Scoring Defense: Marshall - 23rd - 16 PPG

Worst Scoring Defense: UAB - 123rd - 45 PPG

Top Rushing Defense: Marshall - 6th - 67 YPG (ECU - 9th)

Worst Rushing Defense: UTEP - 115th - 247 YPG

Top Passing Defense: Southern Miss - 6th - 132.3 YPG

Worst Passing Defense: UAB - 117th - 306 YPG

Top Total Defense: Marshall - 5th - 252.7 YPG

Worst Total Defense: UAB - 112th - 471 YPG

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