Well, week 10 is upon us and only UCF has become bowl eligible at 6-2. Two C-USA teams control their own destiny in the conference title race, Houston and UCF. Yes, the same two teams that clash on Friday night on ESPN in Houston. A UCF win and the Knights have essentially clinched the East and SMU will be back in control of the West race. Six C-USA teams are sitting at 5 wins so it looks likely that the C-USA can fulfill its six bowl tie-ins. UTEP or SMU will become bowl eligible this week, as the two face off in El Paso This week, Southern Miss drops way down as UAB, Houston, and Tulsa make moves.
12. The Memphis Tigers (1-7, 0-5 C-USA)
Last Time: Lost to Houston 56-17
Will Barton Scares Me: New Memphis guard Will Barton was ranked the 2nd best shooting guard by Rivalsint he 2010 class and the 11th best overall prospect. I just killed 20 minutes watching his highlights on YouTube. This kids going to be really good in the C-USA. What? It's football season? Not in Memphis.
Next Up: vs. Rice
11. The Rice Owls (2-6, 1-3 C-USA)
Last Time: Bye
Stock: Down 1
Up and Down: Fresh off their huge win against Houston, the Owls were blown out by UCF. Rice still has Tulsa, Tulane, ECU, and UAB on the schedule. Their game next week against Tulane is probably their last shot at getting win #3. I don't think David Bailiff is on the hot seat, yet, but the Owls can't afford to go 2-10. The good will from the Houston game helps, but if Bailiff loses out his job speculation will consume the team through spring.
Next Up: at Tulsa
10. The UTEP Miners (5-4, 2-4)
Last Time: Lost to Marshall 16-12
Stock: Down 1
Same Ole' UTEP?: The Miners simply looked atrocious last week against Marshall. Mike Price made some ridiculous errors, Trevor Vittatoe is a shell of the confidence QB who was perhaps the best player in the league through 6 games, and the once powerful UTEP offense is in a slump perhaps unlike anything UTEP has seen in the Mike Price era. The good news is that UTEP gets to come home this weekend. The bad news is that SMU is coming to El Paso. The Mustangs gave up a ton of yards to Tulane on the ground. If Donald Buckram is going to have one memorable game this season, this might be his last chance.
Next Up: vs. SMU
9. The Marshall Thundering Herd (2-6, 1-3 C-USA)
Last Time: Lost 37-10 at East Carolina
Don't Celebrate Too Long: Local media is giving Marshall good grades and accolades for beating UTEP and holding UTEP's "high powered" offense to such a poor effort. Clearly, they didn't see the Miners in the Tulane or UAB games. If Marshall plays the way they did last week against UAB, the Blazers will roll. Miner fans do have to give credit to Tron Martinez who was the latest unknown to have a big rushing day against UTEP.
Next Up: at UAB
8. The Tulane Green Wave (3-5, 1-3 C-USA)
Last Time: Lost to SMU 31-17
Stock: Up 2
Best of the Worst: Tulane gets the title of being the best of the worst C-USA teams this week. The Wave beat UTEP on the road and then played SMU tough. Bob Toledo is getting the Wave to finish the season fighting. Orleans Darkwa showed that his breakout game against UTEP wasn't a fluke. He gashed SMU's offense for 193 yards on 29 carries.
Next Up: vs. Southern Methodist
7. The Southern Miss. Golden Eagles (5-3, 2-2 C-USA)
Last time: Lost to UAB 50-49, Triple OT
Stock: Down 4
Fools Gold: Looking at USM, I couldn't help but notice that their only quality win is against a horrible, 2-6 Kansas team. USM lost to ECU and UAB by a point a piece. They win those two games and they're 7-1 with only a loss to South Carolina. They'd probably be a Top 25 team. Instead they're #7 in the C-USA Power Rankings. USM is proof that football is a game of inches. The inches that you need are everywhere!
Next Up; at Tulane
6. The UAB Blazers (3-5, 2-2)
Last Time: Beat Southern Miss 50-49 (3 OT)
Stock: Up 1
Too Little, too Late?: As a Miner fan, I have to admit its hard to watch a team get better as the season goes on because of UTEP's late season struggles over the last five years. Neil Callaway was on the hot seat, the fans had given up on him, yet he found a way to get the Blazers to keep on fighting and now the wins are coming. After their win against UTEP, UAB nearly knocked off a ranked SEC team (Mississippi State) on the road, and then outlasted Southern Miss in Hattiesburg in triple OT. Again, the injury to David Isabelle has allowed UAB to finally utilize their running backs who never got carries when Isabelle was healthy. Pat Shed torched USM for 176 yards on 29 carries. UAB has four games left (Marshall, ECU, Memphis, Rice) and should be favored in all but the ECU game. Who knows, maybe UAB can go from 1-4 to 6-6?
Next Up: vs. Marshall
5. The Tulsa Golden Hurricane (5-3, 3-2 C-USA)
Last Time: Beat Notre Dame 28-27
Stock: Up 1
Luck of the Irish: I realize Notre Dame probably won't go to a bowl game this season but I think fans from every other C-USA school would kill for a win in South Bend. What a win for the league, the Hurricane, and for Todd Graham, who now has a signature win. G.J. Kinne passed for 196 yards and rushed for 78 more to lead TU to the win. Damaris Johnson was the best athlete on the field and his 59 yard punt return TD gave TU just enough offense to get the landmark win. Tulsa's band even managed to get into a little trouble when they played their fight song during Notre Dame's alma mater (video below). Apparently Notre Dame fans were so mad that Tulsa's band played their fight song they sent angry emails to Tulsa's AD who issued an apology.
Next Up: vs. Rice
4. The SMU Mustangs (5-4, 4-1 C-USA)
Last Time: Beat Tulane 31-17
Stock: Up 1
Consistency is Key: The Mustangs struggled with Tulane on the road but the veteran squad buckled down and got it done when the chips were down. Kyle Padron hit Aldrick Robinson on an 82 yard bomb to give SMU the edge in a tied up fourth. Some may see SMU's 5-4 record and think they are merely playing for a bowl spot. Not the case, if SMU beats UTEP and Houston loses to UCF, SMU will be back in control in the west. Zach Line has been perhaps the biggest surprise of the C-USA season. The sophomore RB killed it against Tulane as he ran for 177 yards on 23 carries. With UTEP's rush defense on tap, it's safe to say that Line will cross the 1,000 yard mark this weekend (he's 82 yards away).
Next Up: at UTEP
3. The East Carolina Pirates (4-1, 5-3)
Last Time: Lost to UCF 49-35
Stock: Down 1
Not Quite: East Carolina's 111th ranked scoring defense finally put their offense in a hole they couldn't get them out of. Of course, UCF's defense had something to do with that too. It looks like the 2 time defending champs have finally relinquished the crown to a UCF team that's been on their heels for some time now. ECU's Lincoln Riley and Ruffin McNeill will be rooting hard for Houston to knock off the Knights this Friday and open the East back up. A UCF win seals the deal for the Knights. This week, East Carolina will have their hands full with Navy's potent rushing attack, the Midshipmen have to be feeling pretty good after watching Ronnie Weaver's highlights against ECU.
Next Up: vs. Navy
2. The Houston Cougars (5-3, 4-1 C-USA)
Last Time: Blasted Memphis 56-17
Stock: Up 2
Don't Doubt the Coogs: Is Kevin Sumlin the C-USA Coach of the Year? He might come in second to George O'Leary (Ruffin McNeill will be in it too), but I can't credit Sumlin enough for making some shrewd moves to give his team the best possible chance to win. Sumlin had the instinct to go with David Piland over the highly touted Terrance Broadway at QB because Piland fit the system better. Boy, has that decision paid off. Piland was a scorching 20/23 for 293 yards and 5 touchdowns against Memphis. After the Rice loss, I thought Houston was dead to rights, credit Sumlin for rallying the troops. Houston, of course, controls their destiny in the West but will fall behind SMU if they lose to UCF and if SMU beats UTEP in El Paso.
Next Up: At Memphis
1. The Central Florida Knights (4-0, 6-2)
Last Time: Beat ECU 49-35
Stock: Same, but alone
The Cream Rises to the Top: So, defense does win championships, right? Credit here has to also go to a UCF offense that I have questioned in the past. I didn't think UCF would be able to keep up with ECU because of their limited passing game. Boy, I was wrong. Ronnie Weaver, Latavius Murray, and QB Jeffrey Godfrey killed ECU on the ground. Weaver had 30 carries for 180 yards. UCF now has the inside track on the East title, but their schedule isn't getting any easier. The Knights are at Houston then get USM at home before two gimme's against Tulane and Memphis. If UCF can get one of the next two, they'll have the division sewn up. That looks like a sure bet for now, but I think the Knights new goal is probably to crack the Top 25 (The Knights picked up 5 votes in the AP Poll this week).
Next Up: At Houston (Friday, ESPN)