Week three was nearly disastrous for Conference USA, as Central Florida went down to Florida International, and Houston needed every minute of regulation to come from behind to overtake Louisiana Tech. Houston may not have deserved to be no. 1 in conference last week, but after UCF's loss, they surely deserve it now. Here are the C-USA power rankings for week four.
1. Houston Cougars (3-0) Last Week: (W) @ La Tech, This Week: vs Georgia St.
The Cougars were extremely lucky to escape Ruston, LA with a win on Saturday. Not only did they trail the entire game, but they were down 34-14 heading into the final 15. The Cougars scored 21 unanswered in that 4th quarter, and maintained their spotless record with a 35-34 win. Like I've been saying, Houston needs to sure up that run defense or they're not going to be so lucky later in the season. La Tech nearly rushed for 250 yards against them. Up next is a game against Georgia St, then its on to El Paso for a showdown with the Miners, and then a must watch game against high powered East Carolina.2. UCF Knights (2-1) Last Week: (L) @ Florida International, This Week: @ BYU
This isn't the worst loss for the Knights as the Golden Panthers are certainly a tough team, and were coming off a win at Louisville. However, this is still a game that UCF should've won, and it may be time to reconsider how tough we thought they were after last week's win. Consider this, Boston College lost at home on Saturday to Duke. How bad is BC? This week brings another tough road test at BYU. If the Knights fall there, they'll have more questions to be answered. If they get blown out, this team is probably not as good as we thought.
3. SMU Mustangs (2-1) Last Week: (W) vs Northwestern St, This Week: @ Memphis
I've been saying it for weeks, and I'll say it again. I'm still not sold on the Mustangs. Sure they rolled NWST, but who wouldn't? This week will be another easy win, as it would be for about 110 other D-1A teams, and probably a handful of D-1AA teams as well. After the Tigers, SMU then faces TCU, UCF, USM, and Tulsa. That will really give us a clue as to how good these Mustangs are. For now, they'll keep their no. 3 position.
4. ECU Pirates (0-2) Last Week: BYE, This Week: vs. UAB
I'm not budging on the Pirates. They're good. Their defense has improved, their offense is explosive, and they've given two top 15 teams all they can handle. I see them winning at least 3 of the next four, if not all 4. Until then, they'll probably just stay right here at no. 4.
5. Southern Miss Golden Eagles (2-1) Last Week: (W) vs. SE Louisiana, This Week: @ Virginia
The Golden Eagles are a much better team than they've showed in the opening weeks of the season. I'm not sure what's in the water in Hattiesburg, but I think they'll take care of that, and get back to the level that they should be at over the next few weeks. Saturday they took care of business against SE Louisiana, and this week they'll travel to Virginia. A win at Virginia will help build some confidence, and the following game against Rice should really put them back on track in time for that Navy game. That will be the true test in determining how good the Golden Eagles are.
6. Tulsa Golden Hurricane (1-2) Last Week: (L) vs. no. 8 Oklahoma St., This Week: @ Boise St.
Is there really any way to judge the Hurricane at this point? The've played the no. 1 team in the nation, the no. 8 team in the nation, and one of the worst teams in C-USA. Who knows where this team is really at. Oh, and for those of you that think 59-33 isn't that bad of an outcome vs the no. 8 team in the nation, think about this: Oklahoma St. was up 45-6 before the dogs were called off. This one wasn't even close. Up next is a road game at no. 4 Boise St, then its back home to take on the North Texas Mean Green, and the UAB Blazers. I guess we'll have to wait another month before we know anything about Tulsa.
7. UTEP Miners (2-1) Last Week: (W) @ New Mexico St, This Week: @ no. 18 South Florida
Ok, I'm absolutely being a homer by putting UTEP 7th. But, that doesn't necessarily mean they don't deserve it. They lost starting QB Nick Lamaison early in the 2nd half against SMU, and still almost pulled out the win. Then, they knocked off rival NMSU on the road with a freshman QB that in all honesty doesn't look ready for D-1 college football. The defense is only giving up 16 points a game. That has to say something. Don't expect the Miners to hang with the Bulls this week, especially without their QB, but that doesn't change where they stand in C-USA.
8. Rice Owls (1-1) Last Week: BYE, This Week: at no. 19 Baylor
I'll be blunt, it hurts to put the Owls in this spot. The only reason they'll even have a win in the first four weeks of the season is because of a miracle ending last week against Purdue. That's not to say they haven't improved, but improvement doesn't necessarily translate to success. This week Baylor, and next week Southern Miss. I'd be extremely surprised if the Owls aren't 1-3 in a couple weeks.
9. Tulane (2-1) Last Week: (W) @ UAB, This Week: @ Duke
I just don't get it. Last week you get smashed at home by Tulsa, then this week you absolutely dominate at UAB? What is going on? I'm still not quite sure, but I do think that this week's road game at Duke is a good measuring stick. That should be a win by most good teams in conference, so a loss there will show us where the Wave is at. More on this see-saw team to come.
10. Marshall Thundering Herd (1-2) Last Week: (L) @ Ohio, This Week: vs. no. 13 Va Tech
Really, a 44-7 loss at Ohio? I mean, I know that Ohio is a decent team, but 44-7? This game should've been a lot closer than that, and only shows the youth and inexperience of this Marshall squad. This week's game against no. 13 Virginia Tech could get pretty ugly, but still don't underestimate the Herd in conference. They could easily knock off anyone in the league that wants to overlook them.
11. UAB Blazers (0-2) Last Week (L) @ Tulane, This Week: @ ECU
Three points in two weeks? If it wasn't for Memphis' lost last week to Arkansas St., the Blazers would easily be the no. 12 team in conference. This has got to be absolutely heartbreaking for a ton of people in Birmingham. There were high hopes coming into the season, but after an 0-2 start, and with ECU, Troy, Miss St, Tulsa, and UCF lined up, the Blazers may not have more than 1 win through the first half of the season. At this rate, they'll be overtaken by Memphis in a week or two.
12. Memphis Tigers (1-2) Last Week: (W) vs. Austin Peay, This Week: vs. SMUI
It's a little surprising, but the Tigers have a couple other teams that are making a strong case to be considered the worst team in C-USA. The win vs. Austin Peay was much needed, but the excitement likely wont last long as Memphis now faces SMU this week. But, a win against the Mustangs will almost certainly take the Tigers out of the bottom spot in conference for the first time in a long time. Good luck to Memphis.