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Week 7: Miner Rush's Conference USA Power Rankings

We are now six weeks in to the 2010 football season and there still aren't clear cut favorites to win either division or the C-USA Championship. We have seen enough to start creating tiers though. The first tier is comprised of the "Bottom 5" (UAB, Memphis, Marshall, Rice, Tulane). These are schools that have no chance of winning their division and who might not win another game that isn't scheduled against another in the category.

After that, we have the "A Year Away" group that right now is only occupied by Tulsa. Tulsa, with 2 C-USA losses, has an uphill battle in getting back to the C-USA title race. It's not impossible, but close losses to ECU and SMU relegate the Hurricane to the second tier at least until SMU gets knocked off by someone else. As more teams lose, the middle category will expand and be renamed.

Lastly, there are the Top 6. Each school in that group still has a legitimate chance to compete for a division and league title. Southern Miss and UTEP both have league losses, but the equal levels of talent among the contenders make it unlikely that any team will run the table this season in league play.

The Bottom Five: The Order Doesn't Matter

#12: The Memphis Tigers (1-5, 0-3 C-USA)

Stock Watch: Same

Last Time: Lost to Louisville 56-0

Sound the Alarm: Memphis played UTEP tough, but so far this season that's all they've been able to do. Louisville is an average at best squad and the Cardinals ripped Memphis to shreds. This team is regressing. Don't take it from me. Read this Dan Wolken column to see just how bad things are right now.

Next Up: Saturday, at the Southern Miss

#11: The Rice Owls (1-5, 0-2)

Stock Watch: Down 1

Last Time: Lost to UTEP 44-24

David Bailiff in Trouble?: The Owls have now won just three games in their last 18 under David Bailiff and the memory of that Texas Bowl game is fading fast. With Houston, UCF, and Tulsa on the horizon, it looks like 1-8 is all but guaranteed for Nick Fanuzzi & Co.

Next Up: Saturday, vs. Houston

#10: The UAB Blazers (1-4, 0-2)

Stock Watch: Up 2

Last Time: Bye

Speaking of the Hot Seat: No coach is under more heat this week than Neil Callaway. In his fourth season at UAB, he has a 12-27 record overall. is up and running. He's now ranked #4 in the "Fire My Coach" rankings at Pre-Snap Read.

Next Up: Saturday, vs. UTEP

#9: The The Marshall Thundering Herd (1-4, 0-1)

Stock Watch: Down 1

Last Time: Bye

Bye Week Benefactor: Marshall didn't play last week and were lucky enough to move up 2 spots after UAB and Rice got blown out. I recommend Miner fans watch this game. Vinny Curry and Mario Harvey are two great players on a struggling team. Curry leads the nation in sacks and Harvey leads the nation in tackles. Can't wait to see if Curry can get to Jeff Godfrey.

Next Up: Tonight vs. UCF (ESPN, 6:00 pm MST)

#8: The Tulane Green Wave (2-3, 0-1 C-USA)

Stock Watch: Same

Last Time: Lost 41-23 to Army

Best of the Worst: The Bottom Four of this league is really, really bad. Right now, even after a blowout loss, Tulane gets the designation as the best of the worst because their win at Rutgers trumps anything the others have done. The Green Wave proved that they couldn't handle any success and were outclassed by the Cadets.

Next Up: Saturday, at Tulsa

Better Than Above, but Not Quite Ready for Primetime

#7: The Tulsa Golden Hurricane (3-3, 1-2 C-USA)

Stock Watch: Same

Last Time: Lost 21-18 to SMU

O, So Close: Tulsa is 4 points away from being 3-0 in the C-USA. They lost a heartbreaker to ECU and another to SMU last week. All summer, I kept saying that the C-USA West Contenders (UTEP, Houston, SMU, Tulsa) all had equal talent. Tulsa's play against SMU and ECU is reflective of that. Lucky for UTEP, we get SMU at the Sun Bowl. As for Tulsa, their 2 C-USA losses will be tough to recover from but not impossible. They need UTEP to beat SMU and for the Mustangs to lose at least two more C-USA games. With East Carolina and Houston still on the schedule for SMU, anythings possible but right now Tulsa is narrowly on the outside looking in.

Next Up: Saturday, vs. Tulane

The Big 6: Any of These 6 Teams Can Win the C-USA Title

#6: The Houston Cougars (2-1, 3-2 C-USA)

Stock Watch: Down 2

Last Time: Lost to Mississippi State 44-27

Who's The QB? It looks like the David Piland era has started in Houston. Piland will start against Rice. He's one of those Southlake Carroll kids (Chase Daniel, Greg McElroy, Kyle Padron) and he went 30/57 in his first game with 2 TD's and 2 INT's. Against C-USA defenses. Bryce Beall should regain his form after the worst game of his season. Houston's offense should work some kinks out this week against crosstown rival Rice (For more on the QB race there, check out this excellent article by Steve Campbell at the Chron).

For the first time, I have ranked UTEP ahead of Houston. I realize Houston beat UTEP. But, I don't think anybody can argue that this is the same Houston team that crushed UTEP in Week 2 (the same could be said for UTEP). Right now, it looks like these two teams might be heading in opposite directions. If the Piland led Cougars hosted UTEP this week, I think the Miners would win the game.

Next Up: Saturday, at Rice

#5: The UTEP Miners (5-1, 2-1)

Stock Watch: Same

Last Time: Beat Rice 44-24

The First to Six? Bowl appearances have been rare in El Paso so Miner fans will hope that the Miners can get their 2010 ticket punched this week against a struggling UAB squad. UTEP, at 5-1, has the best record of any C-USA team. Last season, UTEP had the 110th ranked total defense. Midway through 2010, the Miners are ranked 51st. I don't care who you're playing, the defense is flourishing under the lead of Andre Patterson.

#4: The Southern Miss. Golden Eagles (4-1,1-1)

Stock Watch: Down 3

Last Time: Lost to East Carolina 44-43

Choke City, USA? All signs pointed towards USM rolling through October leading up to their November matchup with UCF. Not anymore. The Eagles lost a heartbreaker to Ruffin McNeill's boys at home. Southern Miss blew a 20 point lead and couldn't beat ECU even though the Pirates had four turnovers. Southern Miss had to kick 5 field goals. Right now, there is no discernible difference in the C-USA between teams 1-6. There is no clear front-runner as evidenced by USM's home loss to ECU.

Next Up: at Memphis

#3: The East Carolina Pirates (3-2, 3-0)

Stock Watch: Up 3

Last Time: Beat USM 44-43

Most Impressive: Dominique Davis & Co. have two impressive C-USA wins already (Tulsa, USM on the road). Davis, Kyle Padron, and Trevor VIttatoe are starting to separate themselves in the C-USA MVP race. The campaign for Davis would be bolstered if the Pirates could get a win this week against a strong N.C. State team that beat UCF. Check out this kick return TD with a crazy block on a USM player.

Next Up: vs. N.C. State Wolfpack

#2: The SMU Mustangs (4-2, 3-0)

Stock Watch: Up 1

Last Time: Beat USM 44-43

Close Call: SMU was able to edge Tulsa to get some separation in the C-USA West. Their defense has been impressive as TU obviously has an explosive offense. Linebacker Ja'Gared Davis has become the only guy in C-USA that can challenge Bruce Miller for C-USA Defensive Player of the Year (apologies to Curry/Harvey at Marshall but you've lost too many games). If SMU gets past Navy, they'll have a chance to become the true West Division favorite if they can beat Houston on October 23.

Next Up: at Navy

#1: The Central Florida Knights (3-2, 1-0)

Stock Watch: Up 1

Last Time: Beat UAB 42-7

Wednesday Night Warriors: Miner fans, I urge you to watch UCF take on Marshall tonight on ESPN to get a look at the best defense in the C-USA (and one of the best in the nation). The Knights are still up and down on offense with their two QB system shuffling of Rob Calabrese and the superior Jeff Godfrey. UCF has won their last six C-USA games and the Knights lead the league in passing defense, scoring defense, pass efficiency defense, and total defense.

Here are Jeff Godfrey's highlights against N.C. State.

Next Up: Tonight at Marshall (6:00 pm, ESPN,