After four weeks of play, still not a whole lot is settled in Conference USA. It's pretty clear that at this point UCF and Tulsa are the class of the league, but beyond that, who knows where anyone truly stands. Really, who knows if even UCF and Tulsa will remain where they are as conference action gets into full swing. In any case, here's a look at the Conference USA Football Power Rankings for week 5.
12a. Memphis Tigers (0-4) Last: (L) @ Duke, Up Next: BYE
For a second, just a second, it seemed like Memphis might finally make their way out of the bottom spot in Conference USA. Late in the third quarter, the Tigers were down only 3 to a team that was favored to win the game by 21. Of course, the Blue Devils finally opened it up, and walked away with a 38-14 win. When the dust settled, the Memphis offense managed only 152 total yards and 7 points, even though Duke gave them 4 turnovers. Up next, the Tigers have a bye, before a home matchup with Rice. With ECU and UCF following that one, who knows when they will finally come up with their first win.
12b. Tulane Green Wave (0-3, 0-1) Last: (L) vs. Ole Miss, Up Next: vs. Louisiana-Monroe
It's not often that we get a chance to break out the "a" and "b" rankings, but this is definitely a deserving case. Tulane's 39-0 loss on Saturday now makes it 13 in a row for the Green Wave. In fact, they have not won a game since taking out UAB on September 17th, 2011! Tulane ranks outside of the top 100 in passing yards per game (104th - 189.7 ypg), rushing yards per game (124th - 9.7 ypg), points per game (124th - 7.3 ppg), and points against per game (106th - 36 papg). Truth is, Tulane probably deserves the 12 spot all alone, but we'll give them one more week to prove otherwise. And, with Louisiana-Monroe coming to town, that's a tall order.
10. Houston Cougars (0-3) Last: BYE, Up Next: vs. Rice*
The Cougars remain in their 10th spot through the bye week, and now prepare to take on crosstown rival Rice. After starting the season 0-3, and struggling to get anything going in two of those three contests, it'll be interesting to see what the Cougars can do against a team that will be looking to get back at them for last year's 73-34 shellacking. After Rice, Houston will have games against North Texas and UAB at home. If they can find a way to pick up the win against the Owls, they just might be able to get their season back on track.
9. Southern Miss. Golden Eagles (0-3, 0-1) Last: (L) @ Western Kentucky, Up Next: vs. #19/17 Louisville
Things have gone from bad to worse in Hattiesburg. A season ago, Southern Miss was the Conference USA champ, had 12 wins, and got their choice as to which bowl game they wanted to play in. This year, they're 0-3, and are now coming off a 42-17 road loss to Western Kentucky. Now, the Hilltoppers aren't bad, but for USM to be down 42-3 late in the 3rd quarter suggests that they are very good. I just don't buy that. The Golden Eagles managed only 264 total yards, while giving up 560, including 370 on the ground. Up next for Southern Miss, are home games against top 25 teams Louisville and Boise State. After that, they hit the road to take on UCF, and then return home to play Marshall. If I had to take a guess, this team will go through the first half of the season without picking up a win.
8. UAB Blazers (0-3) Last: (L) @ #14 Ohio State, Up Next: vs. Tulsa
The Blazers move up a spot after putting up a solid effort against Ohio State on the road. In the game, they managed better than 400 yards of total offense, and were down only six midway through the 4th quarter. If not for a couple of turnovers deep in their own territory, the Blazers just might have come out with a win. Up next, UAB will have a shot at home against Tulsa, and will then take on Southeastern Louisiana, and Houston. While the Blazers should give the Hurricane a run for their money, if they aren't able to pick up a win there, they will definitely have some opportunities to up one or two in the weeks that follow.
7. SMU Mustangs (1-2) Last: BYE, Up Next: vs. #15/14 TCU
The Mustangs actually moved up a spot after their bye week, but I did consider putting winless UAB ahead of them. Truth is, the only thing holding SMU out of the bottom three spots is their lone win over Stephen F. Austin. But, that win can only go so far. In their two games against Baylor and Texas A&M, the Mustangs were outscored 107-27, and neither of those teams are even in the top 25. This week SMU will take on crosstown rival TCU, and while I don't expect quite the blowout that Texas A&M put on them, TCU should handle them easily.
6. East Carolina Pirates (2-2, 1-0) Last: (L) @ North Carolina, Up Next: vs. UTEP
While the Pirates record says 2-2, it doesn't show just how much they've struggled. In their past two games, they have managed only 462 yards of total offense (both games combined), and for the season they rank in the bottom 15 in the FBS in rushing yards per game and points for. So far they've beat Appalachian State (an FCS school that is 2-2), and a Southern Miss team that at this point is on the ropes. This week they'll take on a UTEP team that played well in spurts, and has given teams like Oklahoma, Ole Miss, and Wisconsin fits. After UTEP they'll hit the road to take on UCF, before returning home to take on Memphis. The next couple weeks should tell us whether ECU is a contender or a pretender.
5. Rice Owls (1-3, 0-1) Last: (L) vs. Marshall, Up Next: vs. Houston*
The Owls nearly came up with a huge win over the weekend that would have given them a great deal of confidence for the conference run. But, the Owls just don't have the defense. On the season, Rice ranks 124th in the FBS in points allowed at 45.8 ppg. This week, they'll take on Houston at Reliant Stadium, and while it is certainly a game that they can win, if they let the Cougar offense loose, they may not be able to keep pace either (The Cougars did put up 49 points against La Tech). After Houston, the Owls travel to Memphis before returning home to take on UTSA. If they can figure out how to come up with a few stops, there's a possibility they could be sitting at 4-3 at that point.
4. UTEP Miners (1-3) Last: (L) @ #23 Wisconsin, Up Next: @ ECU
The Miners squandered away a great opportunity to knock off a nationally ranked Big 10 opponent on the road. They played bad for two quarters, and were still down only 4 points with only a few minutes to play, before finally falling 37-26. The good news is the brutal non-conference run is over, and while their worst nightmares came true, as starting safety Richard Spencer is done for the year, the Miners still have an opportunity to make this season a success. If they are going to, it will have to start this week with ECU. After that, the Miners have a home game with SMU, and then a road date with Tulsa. We should know exactly how good this team will be after that week.
3. Marshall Thundering Herd (2-2, 1-0) Last: (W) @ Rice, Up Next: @ Purdue
The Thundering Herd did well to knock of Rice this weekend on the road. After all, they hadn't won a game in the city of Houston since joining the league back in 2005. The win gets the Herd back to 2-2 as they head into a tough road game at Purdue. On the season, Marshall is now averaging better than 560 yards of total offense a game, and they sit at 1st in the FBS in passing yards per game. If they can continue to produce offensively as they have through the first third of the season, they should easily be contending for a C-USA title. After Purdue, the Herd has game vs. Tulsa, at Southern Miss, and vs. UCF. They certainly have their opportunities to prove they are for real.
2. Tulsa Golden Hurricane (3-1, 1-0) Last: (W) vs. Fresno State, Up Next: @ UAB
The Hurricane fell into a 20-7 hole at home on Saturday, but they outscored Fresno State 20-6 from there en route to a 27-26 victory. Tulsa has now established itself as a consistent well rounded football team. Through 4 weeks, they rank in the top 60 in the FBS in passing yards per game (58th) and points against (54th), and they also rank in the top 20 in rushing yards (17th) and points for (18th). This week they're at UAB, and next week they're at Marshall. If they're going to put themselves in position to win the conference, they'll need to continue on with that consistency, and at least split the next two games.
1. Central Florida Knights (2-1) Last: BYE, Up Next: vs. Missouri
The Knights remain in their top spot through the bye week, but Tulsa is quickly gaining on them. UCF is currently in the middle of a four game home stand, with contests against Missouri, East Carolina, and Southern Miss in the next three weeks. If they can manage to win all three, they will likely keep their top spot at least until that November 10th date with Tulsa. But, if they lose even one, the Hurricane will certainly have an opportunity to overtake them.