If anyone still had questions as to who the best teams in conference were, they were definitely answered this weekend. Houston, who is now 7-0, demolished Marshall 63-28, and Southern Miss turned in a great all around performance, dropping a hot SMU team 27-3. Also, UCF continues to slide, handing UAB its first win of the season, East Carolina salvaged their season with a dramatic win at Navy, Memphis dropped Tulane, Tulsa topped Rice, and UTEP continued to impress dropping Colorado St. 31-17. Let's see how it all shook up the Rush's Conference USA Power Rankings.
1. #17 (BCS) Houston Cougars (7-0, 3-0) Last Week: (W) vs. Marshall, This Week: vs. Rice
The Cougar train is gaining momentum, and I'm not sure anyone can stop it. Houston blew by Marshall on Saturday by a score of 63-28, and they now look ahead to Rice. It really seems like the Cougars are getting better and better every week, and that's kinda scary. Their remaining schedule has home games against Rice and SMU, and road games against UAB, Tulane, and Tulsa. Houston shouldn't have any trouble getting by Rice, UAB, and Tulane, but last two against SMU and Tulsa may bring some tests.
2. #25 (Coa.) Southern Miss Golden Eagles (6-1, 2-1) Last Week: (W) vs. SMU, This Week: @ UTEP
The Golden Eagles turned in their best all around performance on Saturday, dropping SMU 27-3. They held the Mustangs to 14 first downs,173 passing yards, 153 on the ground, and forced 2 interceptions. Up next for the Golden Eagles is UTEP, who may not be on the same level, but is certainly capable, confident, and very dangerous. If they get by the Miners, ECU, UCF, UAB, and Memphis await. This week and next week could decide whether or not USM will win the East. But, like I said last week, if they just continue to take care of business, they've got C-USA East in their back pocket.
3. SMU Mustangs (5-2, 3-1) Last Week: (L) @ Southern Miss, This Week: @ Tulsa
The Mustangs entered Saturday's contest with Southern Miss riding a 5 game win streak, including an upset of cross town rival TCU. They exited Saturday's contest with a second loss on their record, after their worst offensive performance of the season. Much of that has to be credited to the Golden Eagle defense, but no question SMU has to play better if they still want to have a shot at winning the conference. Up next is a road test against a mysterious Tulsa team. They are undefeated in conference, but their wins are over Tulane, UAB, and Rice. Not sure what to make of that. After Tulsa, SMU has Tulane and Navy at home, Houston on the road, and then finish up at home against Rice. They've still got a shot at the conference, and a potential rematch with the Golden Eagles, but they have to win out.
4. Tulsa Golden Hurricane (4-3, 3-0) Last Week: (W) @ Rice, This Week: vs. SMU
Ok, I finally feel comfortable putting Tulsa this high in the rankings. Not because they beat anyone, but because there is absolutely no one else to put here. The Golden Hurricane took care of Rice on Saturday, and finally play a game this week against someone we can gauge them against. Both teams are still alive for the conference title, and Saturday is pretty much a must win for both. After SMU, Tulsa is at UCF, at home against Marshall, at UTEP, and then back home to take on Houston. The Golden Hurricane are still alive to win the West, even if they lose to SMU, but a loss might show us that the Hurricane were more the beneficiaries of a favorable schedule setup, rather than true contenders.
5. UTEP Miners (4-3, 1-2) Last Week: (W) vs. Colorado St., This Week: vs. Southern Miss
The Miners continue to impress. On Saturday they beat Colorado St. 31-17, while rushing for 340 yards. The rushing attack, led by seniors Banyard, Frazier, and Myers, has racked up nearly 900 yards on the ground in the last three contests, and that includes a game against #17 Houston. This week brings some stiff competition into the Sun Bowl as the Miners square off against #25 Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles, like the Miners, are playing their best ball of the season, and it will be interesting to see how the Miners stack up against them. After USM, they Miners head to take on Rice, then are back home for games against ECU and Tulsa, before hitting the road to end the season at UCF. The Miners are in good shape for a bowl bid, but their schedule isn't getting any easier.
6. East Carolina Pirates (3-4, 2-1) Last Week: (W) @ Navy, This Week: vs. Tulane
The Pirates knocked off the Midshipmen, but needed a wild and crazy finish to do so. They have made their way back to relevance in Conference USA, but at this point there is very little room for error. The Pirates take on polar opposites Tulane and Southern Miss at home the next two weeks, then get UTEP on the road, UCF at home, and Marshall on the road to end the season. The Pirates are still alive to win the East, but if they want to they likely have to win out. All things considered, that may be a tall order, but there's no question the Pirates have the talent to do so.
7. UCF Knights (3-4, 1-2) Last Week: (L) @ UAB, This Week: vs. Memphis
Well. I, and probably most everybody else, thought UCF would get back on track over the next two weeks. Scratch those plans, the slide continues. The Knights handed UAB their first win of the season on Thursday night, giving up 500 total yards. So much for that top rated defense. This week the Knights take on Memphis. It should be a bounce back game, but the way things are going, it might not be. They have now dropped 4 out of 5, and still have some tough opponents left on the slate, so they can go ahead and kiss their chances of repeating as champs goodbye. Even if they get by Memphis, they still have Tulsa at home, Southern Miss and ECU on the road, and UTEP at home to end the season. The way things are looking, there's at least 1 or 2 more losses mixed in there.
8. Marshall Thundering Herd (3-5, 2-2) Last Week: (L) @ Houston, This Week: vs. UAB
There's not much to say about Saturday's game. The Herd took on one of the most potent offenses in college football, and it showed. They could probably use a week to compose themselves, but they now take on UAB who has to be flying high after picking up their first win. Marshall will get their much needed break after the UAB game, but they'll head to Tulsa for a tough one right after that. The Herd then end their season with a road trip to Memphis, and a home game against ECU. I'll state the obvious: gotta have three of four if you want to go bowling, and with all four of their remaining opponents picking up wins this weekend, that's starting to seem a little more unlikely than it did last week.
9. Rice Owls (2-5, 1-3) Last Week: (L) vs. Tulsa, This Week: @ #17 Houston (Thursday)
I really considered giving UAB the nod for the 9th spot, but I won't get ahead of myself. Rice lost to Tulsa on Saturday, 38-20, and now will take on nationally ranked Houston on Thursday. After that, the Owls take on UTEP at home, Northwestern on the road, Tulane at home, and SMU on the road to finish the season. At this point, I'd be surprised to see the Owls win more than one more game. That being said, I think everybody in Houston can just stop thinking about any possibility of reaching a bowl game this season. At least, for this Houston team.
10. UAB Blazers (1-6, 1-3) Last Week: (W) vs. UCF, This Week: @ Marshall
The Blazers finally picked up a win, and it was one that was quite unexpected. They took out UCF, a team that was claimed to have one of the top defenses in the nation. UAB totaled just over 500 yards of offense, while holding the Knights to 330. The Blazers now take on Marshall on the road, before returning home to take on Houston. After that, they're at Memphis, at home against Southern Miss, and then they finish up at Florida Atlantic. Last week there was hope for 2-3 wins, but now that number could be raised to 4.
11. Memphis Tigers (2-6, 1-3) Last Week: (W) @ Tulane, This Week: @ UCF
The Tigers are officially not the worst team in the conference, as they went into New Orleans and knocked off a slumping Tulane team. The Tigers now head to Orlando to take on UCF, and even though they might not have a very good shot to take out UCF, they certainly have a shot. After UCF, Memphis has UAB and Marshall at home, and then end the season at Southern Miss.
12. Tulane Green Wave (2-6, 1-3) Last Week (L) vs. Memphis, This Week: @ ECU
Wow, how the Tides have changed. I mean, we never thought the Wave were real good, but they were a couple seconds away from knocking off Syracuse 3 weeks ago. Now I'm not sure if things could get any lower. First they lost their coach, and then they lost to lowly Memphis. The Wave now face ECU and SMU on the road in the next two weeks, return home to take on Houston, and then finish up with road games against Rice and Hawaii. These guys might not win another game.