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Week 12: Miner Rush's Conference USA Power Rankings

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Lots of movement this week and yes, we do have a new #1, and its a team that many C-USA fans might not agree with. UCF has perhaps the best body of work of any C-USA team, but I couldn't keep the Knights at #1 after they lost a C-USA game at home. Houston and SMU could both still win the league or not make a bowl game. Tulsa's going bowling but can they win the division? UCF's loss gives ECU and USM some hope of stealing the east, but UCF's schedule makes that impossible in my mind.

On to the rankings...

The Bottom Three: Hot Seats, Losses, and Inconsistency (Memphis, UAB, Rice)

Neil Callaway and David Bailiff are now fighting for their coaching lives in Birmingham and Houston. Larry Porter is in his first season at Memphis, so he gets a pass from any hot seat discussion. Paul Myerberg of Pre-Snap Read ranks the top 10 coaches on the Hot Seat every week. Callaway and Bailiff are both in the top five.

12. Memphis Tigers (1-9, 0-6)

Stock Watch: Same

Last Time: Lost 28-13 to Marshall

This One Hurts: Memphis was up 10-0 on Marshall at the half mostly due to a 43 yard TD from Ryan Williams to Jermaine McKenzie. In the second half, Brian Anderson took over and buried the Tigers with 3 touchdown passes. Marshall outscored Memphis 28-3 in the final two quarters. I still think Memphis has found a QB in the 6’5 frosh Williams. When the dust settles on their season, the Tigers will at least know they have a capable signal caller to lead them in 2011.

Next Up: at UAB

11. Rice Owls (1-5, 2-8)

Last Time: Lost to Tulane 54-49

Stock Watch: Same

Grounded: The Owls played well offensively against Tulane but their defense simply couldn’t slow Ryan Griffin (314 yards, 3 TD’s). Nick Fanuzzi was given a golden opportunity to use this season to show that he could be the guy to get Rice back into C-USA West Contention. In a winnable game against the Wave, Fanuzzi tossed three costly interceptions in the close loss and Rice had four turnovers overall.

Next Up: vs. East Carolina

10. UAB Blazers (2-4, 3-7)

Last Time: Lost to East Carolina 54-42

Stock Watch: Down 1

Frustrating: UAB fans must be so incredibly perplexed by the 2010 Blazers. After the UTEP win, UAB played #24 Mississippi State down to the wire and then knocked off Southern Miss in a 50-49 overtime thrillers. UAB was 3-5 but it was legitimate to think they could win four of five and become bowl eligible considering three of those games were against Marshall, Memphis, and Rice. Any bowl hopes were lost when UAB lost their next two against Marshall and East Carolina. Against ECU, the Blazers looked incredible on offense. Against Marshall, they looked horrible. They really are schizophrenic; and as a UTEP Miner fan, I know how frustrating that can be.

Next Up: vs. Memphis

At Least They Are Consistent: The Tulane Green Wave

9. Tulane Green Wave (2-4, 4-6)

Last Time: Beat Rice 54-49

Stock Watch: Up 1

Easy Pattern to See: Tulane’s win/loss ratio has formed a stunning pattern that I think will hold up over the end of the season. Win- Loss- Loss- Win-Loss-Loss-Win-Loss- Loss- Win. That’s Tulane’s season so far. And they have two games to play against UCF and Marshall. I don’t see any reason to fight the inevitable; the Wave are destined to lose those two games.

Next Up: vs. UCF

A True Anomaly in Dallas

SMU's late season struggles have them in a strange spot: leading their division but 8th in the Power rankings. SMU is running out of chances to do something we all thought would be easy for them, become bowl eligible.

8. SMU Mustangs (5-5, 4-2 C-USA)

Last Time: DNP, lost to UTEP 28-14 on November 6

Stock Watch: Down 1

Next Up: vs. Marshall

How is SMU in First? This isn’t a mistake. SMU is in first place in the C-USA West and they are ranked 8th in the Power Rankings. Remember, these rankings are based on who is playing better right now, not who is in first place. That’s what standings are for. SMU has lost three of four including a blowout to Houston and a slug fest in El Paso. Of the four West teams that still have a chance at the title (Houston, SMU, Tulsa, UTEP), the Mustangs are playing the worst football of the bunch right now. SMU needs to win out to secure their division title, but I don’t see that happening. With red hot Marshall and a trip to East Carolina to close the season, SMU will have their hands full just to become bowl eligible.

Fighting for Their Bowl Lives (UTEP, Marshall, Houston)

7. UTEP Miners (6-5, 3-4 C-USA)

Last Time: Lost 58-21 to #15 Arkansas

Stock Watch: Down 1

What Might Have Been: UTEP is still mathematically alive for the West Title. Had the Miners managed to get that win in Huntington against Marshall (that they quite literally gave away), the Miners might be playing Tulsa for the West title this weekend (they still would still need UH to lose a game to win it). Instead, UTEP is simply hoping that they can snap their 2 year road C-USA losing streak and secure a bowl berth for the first time in 2005. The Miners look to be in a good spot to go bowling somewhere, but 7-5 would ease any doubt.

Next Up: at Tulsa (final game of 2010 regular season) Here is Mike Price's Press Conference from this week.

6. Marshall Thundering Herd (4-6, 3-3)

Last Time: Beat Memphis 28-13

Stock Watch: Up 2

Lots of Marshall Fans This Week: Houston, Tulsa, and UTEP fans will all be cheering for the Herd in Dallas this week. If the surging Marshall team can knock off SMU, it would create systemic chaos in the West standings and open the door for a new division leader. I realize Marshall is 4-6 but the Herd have won three in a row in C-USA play and are more than capable of beating a struggling SMU team this week. Marshall’s three conference losses are to USM, ECU, and UCF who they had to play on consecutive weekends.

Next Up: at SMU

5. Houston Cougars (5-5, 4-3 C-USA)

Last Time: Lost to Tulsa 28-25

Stock watch: Down 3

Couldn’t Close it Out: The Coog’s heartbreaking loss to UCF wasn’t altogether too costly after UTEP knocked off SMU and kept UH in first place in the West standing. But, the Tulsa loss made all that moot. David Piland really struggled against Tulsa’s 120th ranked pass defense and tossed 5 interceptions. Houston did a nice job of bottling up the TU passing game (Kinne had only 154 yards passing) but UH had no answser for Kinne on the ground (31 rushed, 190 yards, TD). Now, the sad reality for Houston is that they need to win one of their final two road games to become bowl eligible. Southern Miss and Texas Tech on senior day are anything but gimme’s. I don't think anybody wants to be Houston this week either, having to play in Hattiesburg in what should be a very emotional stadium.

Next Up: at Southern Miss

The Cream of the Crop

4. Southern Miss. Golden Eagles (7-3, 4-2 C-USA)

Last Time: beat #25 UCF 31-21

Stock: Up 1

A Bad Aftertaste: Few wins have been sweeter in C-USA play this season than USM’s 31-21 stunner against UCF. The Knights were cruising through C-USA play and had earned their first national ranking in school history. Then, USM came to town and Austin Davis scorched UCF’s previously vaunted defense for 4 touchdowns and the Eagles celebrated. Briefly of course, because that Saturday night took a horrible turn after three USM Players were shot at a night club in Hattiesburg. C-USA fans from El Paso to Huntington are hoping USM’s team gets through what has had to have been a very emotionally draining and testing week. Here are some highlights from their big win against UCF.

Next Up: vs. Houston

3. East Carolina Pirates (6-4, 5-1 C-USA)

Last Time: Beat UAB 54-42

Stock Watch: Up 1

MVP? East Carolina snapped their two game losing streak (UCF, Navy) by bouncing back against UAB. QB Dominique Davis now has over 3,000 passing yards and 31 touchdowns against only 11 interceptions. Is he the league MVP? Davis has had little to no help from that awful ECU defense which is now ranked 118th in the nation in scoring defense. Isn’t Ruffin McNeill a defensive guy?

Next Up: at Rice

2. Central Florida Knights (7-3, 5-1 C-USA)

Last Time: Lost 31-21 to USM

Stock: Down 1

I Can’t Do It: I just can’t leave a team at #1 following a division loss at home. Southern Miss had a simple game plan: Make Jeff Godfrey throw to beat us. They held him to 6 net rushing yards and the rest is history. Give credit to coach Larry Fedora. UCF jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. Many teams would have rolled over and died. USM instead rolled off 31 unanswered points to take control of this game. UCF added a garbage time touchdown to make the score look a little better than it was. USM flat out beat up on UCF. UCF is still in control of the East with struggling Memphis and Tulane on the schedule.

Next Up: at Tulane

1. Tulsa Golden Hurricane (7-3, 4-2 C-USA)

Last Time: Beat Houston 28-25

Stock Watch: Up 2

They’re Baaack: Nobody in the C-USA wants to play Tulsa’s offense right now. I mentioned above that Dominique Davis might be the league MVP. His main competition, at this point, is G.J. Kinne. And, if Tulsa can win the West I think Kinne will win it. UCF’s home loss opened the door for the surging Hurricane to claim the top spot. Look at TU’s last month. They are 4-0 and have beat both Notre Dame and Houston on the road. Offensively, their statistics are head and shoulders above the rest of the C-USA and they are third in the nation in turnover margin. I

Next Up: vs. UTEP - Here are TU/Houstin Highlights.