Through 11 weeks of the college football season, one thing has become clear in Conference USA; Tulsa and UCF are the class of the league. Opinions are split as to which team is better, but this week we'll actually get to find out as the two square off in Tulsa, OK. Here are the Conference USA Football Power Rankings for Week 12.
12. Southern Miss. Golden Eagles (0-10, 0-6) Last: (L) @ SMU, Up Next: vs. UTEP
The Golden Eagles winless season continued Saturday as they fell at SMU 34-6, bringing their record to 0-10. The Mustangs held USM to only 178 total yards, and only 51 on the ground. For the season, the Golden Eagles have given up an average of 39 points a game, while averaging only 18 points themselves. Clearly, that just won't get it done. Up next they'll get a shot at UTEP on their home field in what is likely their best opportunity for a win in their remaining schedule. After that, they'll hit the road to finish the season at Memphis. If they go 0-12, someone's seat might start getting pretty damn hot.
11. Tulane Green Wave (2-8, 2-4) Last: (L) @ Memphis, Up Next: vs. ECU
Two week ago it seemed as if the Green Wave might still be alive for a run at a bowl game. That couldn't be further from the truth. They followed up their turnover fest against Rice, with more of the same in a 14 point road loss at Memphis. Over the last two weeks they given away 10 turnovers. Again, that just won't get it done. This week the Wave will be at home against ECU, before finishing up the season at Houston. While these games looked winnable a couple weeks ago, it's tough to still feel the same. A two win season is likely in line.
10. Memphis Tigers (2-8, 2-4) Last: (W) vs. Tulane, Up Next: @ UAB
The Tigers got their second win of the season on Saturday, knocking off Tulane 37-23. They outgained the Wave 386 to 291, and perhaps more importantly forced them into five turnovers. While the win might make some fans feel like a turnaround is coming, let's not forget the Tigers followed up their last win with a 41-7 loss at ECU. This time around around they'll have to head to UAB, who is coming off a big win over Marshall. It'd be hard to expect a win for the Tigers in that one. After that they'll finish up their season against Southern Miss so 3 wins is still possible.
9. UTEP Miners (2-8, 1-5) Last: (L) vs. UCF, Up Next: @ Southern Miss.
The Miners played extremely well on Saturday, but eventually fell to UCF 31-24. All things considered, that's not a terrible result. The defense played good enough to win, but offensive play calling was conservative, at best. In the end, a loss is a loss, and the Miners find themselves at 2-8 in a season that started with so much promise. This week they'll be at Southern Miss, before returning home to take on Rice in the season finale. They can win both, but the road hasn't been kind to the Miners, and Rice is a team they've beat once in their last six tries. Who knows what to expect?
8. UAB Blazers (3-7, 2-4) Last: (W) vs. Marshall, Up Next: vs. Memphis
The Blazers have now won two in a row after their 38-31 win over Marshall. Perhaps they deserve to be higher on this list, but we have to take into account their wins have come against Division 1-AA Southeastern Louisiana, a winless Southern Miss team, and an inconsistent Marshall team. Blazer fans should still be happy their team is winning, as victories have been hard to come by for most C-USA teams, but for these rankings we should keep things in perspective. This week the Blazers will host Memphis, before finishing the season at UCF. Four wins is certainly a possibility.
7. Houston Cougars (4-6, 3-3) Last: (L) vs. Tulsa, Up Next: @ Marshall
One more loss and the Cougars' self destruction will be complete. After their win over UAB on October 13th, a bowl appearance seemed like a near certainty. Now, after losing three of the last four, they'll need to win their last two to make the postseason. Saturday they fell against Tulsa 41-7, as they were held to 262 yards of total offense, and were blanked until late in the 4th quarter. This week the Cougars will be at Marshall, and then they'll finish the season at Tulane. This week's game will be an elimination game. Who wants it more?
6. Marshall Thundering Herd (4-6, 3-3) Last: (L) @ UAB, Up Next: vs. Houston
Honestly, there's not much that justifies keeping the Herd here, but...they're still the nation's no.3 passing offense, no. 17 scoring offense, and no. 8 total offense. Also, they're still alive for a bowl game. Not by much though. Saturday they made the road to the postseason a little tougher as they lost to UAB 38-31, even though they won the turnover battle 4-1. This week they'll take on Houston in an elimination game, and then they'll head to ECU to finish up the regular season. Considering their inconsistency, they'll probably roll Houston, but who knows what to expect against ECU.
5. Rice Owls (4-6, 2-4) Last: BYE, Up Next: vs. SMU
The Owls maintain their no. 5 spot through the bye week, and will now look ahead to taking on SMU at home. They are another team that are facing an elimination game, and will need to win their last two to make a bowl game. After SMU, they'll head to El Paso to take on UTEP. Considering they've had the Miners' number in recent years, this game against SMU is a huge one.
4. SMU Mustangs (5-5, 4-2) Last: (W) vs. Southern Miss., Up Next: @ Rice
After starting 2-4, including a loss at a then winless Tulane, a bowl game for SMU seemed almost completely out of the picture. Now, after winning 3 of their last 4, they've made it to 5-5, and are in position to be the fourth Conference USA team to become bowl eligible. Saturday the Mustangs ran over Southern Miss 34-6, holding the Golden Eagles to only 178 yards of total offense. This week they'll take on Rice in Houston, before finishing up the season against Tulsa. I'm sure Mustang fans would like to wrap up this bowl bid Saturday, rather than leaving it up to next week's result. Keep in mind though, if SMU wins this week, and Tulsa loses to UCF, next week's game will determine the C-USA West champ.
3. East Carolina Pirates (6-4, 5-1) Last: BYE Up Next: @ Tulane
The Pirates stay put through their bye week, holding down the third spot in the Conference USA power rankings. They've already got a bowl bid wrapped up, but with only one loss in conference they're still hoping for a shot at the C-USA title. This week they'll be at Tulane, before finishing up at home against Marshall. They're conference title hopes hinge on UCF losing out, but at least they've still got a chance. That's more than most can say.
2. Central Florida Knights (8-2, 6-0) Last: (W) @ UTEP, Up Next: @ Tulsa
The Knights fall back a spot in these rankings, after only a week of holding down the top spot. UCF knocked off UTEP 31-24 over the weekend, but needed a late touchdown to do so, and frankly, a little better game planning by the Miners would've produced an upset. Regardless, the Knights will have their opportunity to take back the top spot this week as they'll be at league leader Tulsa. After that they'll finish up at home against UAB. Regardless of what happens this weekend, one win in their last two will almost certainly set up the rematch in a few weeks.
1. Tulsa Golden Hurricane (8-2, 6-0) Last: (W) @ Houston, Up Next: vs. UCF
The Golden Hurricane reclaim their spot atop Conference USA this week, after knocking off Houston 41-7 to rebound from their loss a week ago. In the win they put up 505 yards of total offense, while holding the Cougars to under 300 (262) for the first time all season. Up next, the Hurricane have UCF at home, in what is likely a C-USA title game preview. After that they'll finish up with a game at SMU.