Conference USA as a whole continues to get stronger as now both Houston (13) and Southern Miss (25) find themselves in the top 25 of the BCS rankings. Tulsa is also climbing in the polls, apparently checking in at 32. Saturday's games had Houston and Southern Miss easily getting by Rice and UTEP, Marshall rolling UAB, ECU dropping Tulane, Tulsa smashing SMU, and UCF blanking Memphis. Let's see how it all affected C-USA Power Rankings.
1. #13 (BCS) Houston Cougars (8-0, 4-0) Last Week: (W) vs. Rice, This Week: @ UAB
The Cougars look unstoppable at this point. They are averaging 64 points a game over the last three, while giving up an average of 21. This week its on to face UAB. The Blazers just lost 59-14 to Marshall, so we can probably expect an outcome much like the last three for the Cougars. After UAB they head to Tulane, then finish up with SMU at home, and Tulsa on the road. With the way things are shaping up, that game against Tulsa could be for Conference USA West.
2. #25 (BCS) Southern Miss Golden Eagles (7-1, 3-1) Last Week: (W) @ UTEP, This Week: @ ECU
The Golden Eagles continued their impressive run on Saturday, extending their win streak to 6. It was a good game for 30 minutes (10-10 at half), but the Eagles just turned it on in the second half, and the Miners could never find their rhythm. Southern Miss now heads to take on a suddenly resurgent ECU squad that has reeled off three straight. After that, USM has UCF at home, UAB on the road, and Memphis at home to wrap up the regular season. Its very possible, and maybe even probable that the Golden Eagles win out.
3. Tulsa Golden Hurricane (5-3, 4-0) Last Week: (W) vs. SMU, This Week: @ UCF
The Golden Hurricane proved their worth on Saturday, dropping SMU 38-7. I don't think anyone outside of Tulsa saw that one coming, but they won't be surprising anyone else the rest of the way. Tulsa is now 4-0 in conference, and still very much alive in the title race. Up next is a road at an extremely erratic UCF team, then they finish up the season with a home game against Marshall, a road game at UTEP, and a home game against Houston. Tulsa is definitely sitting pretty right now, but of the true conference contenders they've got the toughest remaining schedule.
4. SMU Mustangs (5-3, 3-2) Last Week: (L) @ Tulsa, This Week: vs. Tulane
The Mustangs stay this high in the power rankings only because I don't feel that Marshall smashing UAB or ECU's three game win streak validate putting them this high. That being said, the Mustangs haven't even been in games against the no. 2 and 3 teams in the league the last two weeks so I'm not really sure what to expect. They can pretty much kiss any hope of a C-USA title good bye after Saturday's loss, but there is still plenty to play for. SMU should be able to bounce back this week against Tulane, and then they face Navy at home, Houston on the road, and Rice at home to end the season. They should be looking at 8 wins.
5. ECU Pirates (4-4, 3-1) Last Week: (W) vs. Tulane, This Week: vs. #25 Southern Miss
The Pirates are still working on salvaging their season after a very poor start. This team has the talent to win every game left on their schedule, but they've also shown they've got the ability to lose them all as well. Up next is a game against nationally ranked Southern Miss at home. I really don't expect the Pirates to win that one, but they'll have chances against UTEP (road), UCF (home), and Marshall (road) to get to bowl eligibility. But, if they do want to win two out of the final four, they'll have to play better than they did the last three weeks (even if they were wins).
6. Marshall Thudering Herd (4-5, 3-2) Last Week: (W) vs. UAB, This Week: BYE
Ok, so I was wrong. It wasn't the first time, and it won't be the last. I chose UAB to pull the "upset" of Marshall, and that obviously didn't happen. But, are we really ready to get all hot and heavy about the Herd? In the last four weeks they lost to UCF 16-6, needed a last second score to beat Rice at home 24-20, got smashed by Houtson 63-28, and now dropkicked UAB 59-14. What does that truly say? In my opinion it says you never know which team is going to show up. Marshall has a tough road game at Tulsa this week, then finishes @ Memphis and at home against East Carolina. That season ender could determine bowl eligibility for both of those squads.
7. UCF Knights (4-4, 2-2) Last Week: (W) vs. Memphis, This Week: vs. Tulsa (Thursday)
The Knights bounced back from their loss to UAB with a 41-0 blanking of Memphis. They now face Tulsa at home this week, and will need to play even better than last week if they want to hang in this one. The Knights then hit the road to take on Southern Miss and East Carolina, before ending the season at home against UTEP. With 4 losses, and games against Tulsa, Southern Miss, and ECU still in the next three, the Knights will have to play really well for the remainder of the season if they'd like to make a bowl.
8. UTEP Miners (4-4, 1-3) Last Week: (L) vs. #25 Southern Miss, This Week: @ Rice
The Miners lost to Southern Miss on Saturday, and it was a little discomforting to see them unable to do anything in that second half. Sure it was 17-13 in the 4th quarter, but we just never seemed to be threatening. Its now on to Houston for a matchup with Rice. I think the Miners are absolutely the better team, but no one is just going to give you a win, especially on their home field. It we want to make it to a bowl, we've GOT to have that game. After that the Miners return home to take on ECU and Tulsa, before finishing up on the road at UCF. This team still has the potential to win 7 games, but its going to take more balance offensively if we even want to make it to 6.
9. Rice Owls (2-6, 1-4) Last Week: (L) @ #13 Houston, This Week: vs. UTEP
The Owls got trounced by the Cougars last week 73-35. Those types of outcomes are starting to become more and more routine for the Cougars so I wouldn't make TOO much of it. Either way, they Owls are now 2-6 and heading down an extremely familiar road. They take on UTEP at home this week, and then head to Northwestern to take on the Wildcats in what should be an extremely tough out of conference road contest. The Owls then return home to take on Tulane, before ending the season at SMU. If I had to bet, I'd say it'll be a 3 win season for Rice.
10. UAB Blazers (1-7, 1-4) Last Week: (L) @ Marshall, This Week: vs. #13 Houston
How does a team lose 59-14 to a 4-4 Marshall team and not drop in the power rankings?? They have Memphis and Tulane behind them. The Blazers loss on Saturday proved their win over UCF was a fluke more than anything, and that they still haven't figured things out in Birmingham. The Blazers now take on an unstoppable force this Saturday, before heading to Memphis next week to decide who is worse. UAB will head to Southern Miss after that, and then end the season with Florida Atlantic at home. I'll let you all decide, over/under/push - 2 wins on the season??
11. Memphis Tigers (2-7, 1-4) Last Week: (L) @ UCF, This Week: BYE
The Tigers followed up their first Conference USA win with a 41-0 loss to UCF. They have the week off before taking on UAB in a matchup for number 10, and then ending the season with games at home against Marshall, and at Southern Miss. That UAB game is really their last chance at a win in the 2011 season.
12. Tulane Green Wave (2-7, 1-4) Last Week: (L) @ ECU, This Week: @ SMU
The Wave has now lost 6 in a row, and things aren't about to get any easier. They take on SMU in Dallas, then Houston at home, Rice on the road, and Hawaii on the island. The way things are looking right now, the two wins they had on September 17th, will be the same two wins they've got on November 27th.