This week’s power rankings love the recent winners of the latest Big Important Game. This is as it should be. When a good team beats another good team on the road, it rockets you up the standings — at least it should. There was a little disagreement this week. Someone voted for MTSU to be first-placed (reasonable) and there was a vote for North Texas (understandable, but perhaps less defensible). With ten votes this week (of the fourteen usually polled) we have our latest and greatest power rankings.
First place votes in ‘()’.
1. UAB (8) 2-0, 4-1 — Last week: 4th. ↑ 3 spots
The Blazers are getting love this week for beating the preseason betting favorite to win the division in Ruston. They have the beat writers’ favorite — North Texas — at home in two weeks. Bill Clark’s boys control their fate the rest of the way. It perhaps is a bit too early to think of the logistics of moving the SWAC championship game that will be held on the scheduled day of the CUSA championship game. It is maybe time to put in a few calls to talk it out, however.
2. MTSU (1) 2-0, 3-2 — Last week 5th. ↑ 3 spots
Middle Tennessee beat the two favored teams — by any measure — in the East division and can rightly be proud. The issue is that the Blue Raiders had to make big giant comebacks in both games and did not look good in either first half. That could be a function of the opponents (reasonable) or a reflection of how shaky Middle Tennessee is. After all, as recently as Thursday night there was a StockstillOut twitter account.
2. North Texas (1) 1-1, 5-1 — Last week 2nd. No movement.
It is a testament to how well the first four weeks were to North Texas that they remain this high after losing at home to Tech, and playing so poorly to UTEP. The Miners are sneakily improving, and the rest of the league may find that out in the upcoming weeks. It could also be that North Texas is struggling with injuries (starting RB Loren Early is done for the year and starting corner Kemon Hall was out for most of the Tech games and all of the UTEP game). The offense still produced numbers and is on pace with last year’s record-setting offense. You can see how Seth Littrell misses a game-changer like Jeff Wilson, however.
4. Louisiana Tech 1-1, 3-2 — last week 1st. ↓ 3 spots
Count me among those who do not think J’Mar Smith is to blame for the tough game last week. That defensive line for UAB was ferocious. The truth its that Tech had been playing with fire all season, relying on the wide receivers to win jump-balls and make plays for the offense. UAB is really good — everyone in Ruston should know that now — and the trio of teams in the West was always likely to give one of the other two a tough loss. Tech fans are now anyone-but-UAB fans, like NT fans are anyone-but-Tech fans the rest of the way. A three-way tie looms if NT can win in Birmingham.
5. Florida Atlantic 1-1, 3-3 — Last Week 6th. ↑ 1 spot
Lane Kiffin’s boys looked a little bit like their 2017 selves against ODU. Coincidently, the Monarchs were a turning point for the offense last season. I do not know if FAU can win out the rest of the way, given some of the weaknesses we have seen, but they have loads of talent and QB Chris Robison is getting better every week.
6. Marshall 1-1, 3-2 — Last week 3rd. ↓ 3 spots
Getting a rivalry win two weeks ago only to drop all momentum in losing at home to Middle was a heartbreaker. The Herd had a giant question mark at QB and it was exacerbated by Alex Thompson’s poor performance in place of redshirt-freshman Isaiah Green. Doc Holliday got to watch Brent Stockstill nearly single-handedly (left handedly) win the game for his Blue Raiders while Thompson struggled. After two years of beating a Stockstill-less Middle, this was due.
7. FIU 1-0, 3-2 — Last week 7th. No movement
If there is a forgotten team in the East, it is the Panthers. Incredibly, seemingly everyone is forgetting that there is the makings of a good defense and a solid offense here while being 1-0 in league play with Middle coming to Miami.
8. Southern Miss 1-0, 3-2 — Last week 8th. ↑ 1 spot
With all the talk (rightly so) around the NT-LT-UAB squads, USM is in the same situation as FIU. QB Jack Abraham is the most accurate quarterback in Hattiesburg since Nick Mullens, and while he may not break a game like Keon Howard or Kwadra Griggs could, he might be just what USM needs: a guy to get the ball to playmakers. In this case that would be Quez Watkins.
9. UTSA 2-0, 3-3 — Last week 9th. No movement.
Frank Wilson’s Roadrunners have a share of the division title but no respect. Wilson’s press conference was mostly him discussing the offense’s woes. Count me among those who think the Roadrunners will struggle without an offense to compliment the defense. There are even some questions about the defense considering the three-game win streak has come against some of the nation’s worst offenses. Wins are wins, however, and all UTSA needs now is a bit of luck — and perhaps some timely improvement at the QB spot — and they control their destiny.
10. WKU 0-1, 1-4 — Last week 10th. No movement.
Western is not so far behind things that they could not possibly recover and challenge in this division. The issue is that Mike Sanford’s Hilltoppers are not good. There is fight and youth but we are going to have to settle for seeing half-game quality and half-game mistakes from this group.
11. ODU 0-3, 1-5 — Last week 11th. No movement.
ODU is losing momentum gained from that Virginia Tech win. It is unfortunate, considering they were robbed at ECU. The truth is that the Monarchs played much better in these last three games than they did in their first. There are more upsets on the way, which would be wins that ODU would not have considered upsets in the preseason. This is all for pride the rest of the way.
12. Charlotte 1-1, 1-4 — Last week 12th. No movement.
Charlotte has their lone conference win and will likely lose the rest of the way. Watching Georgia Tech run through Louisville I wondered allowed, “Why doesn’t Charlotte go triple?” This is a suggestion made to every bad team, and it is never received well but is always a good idea. The triple option can be very successful, and will buck trends. The problem is that it is unsexy. When North Texas was struggling, someone suggested the triple or even the shotgun triple run by Tulane’s Willie Fritz. When Seth Littrell was hired and asked about his offense he joked “Triple option”. Everyone laughed.
13. Rice 0-2, 1-5 — Last week 13th. No movement.
QB Shawn Stankavage won the job in the summer and had some good games. He also turned the ball over to UTSA too many times. When the run game stalls — and it will — there needs to be something to keep the defense honest. Stankavage did a good job against Houston in this area, but has struggled recently. Jackson Tyner got some time but he did not impress. Rice lost some momentum from the early season.
14. UTEP 0-2, 0-6 — Last week 14th. No movement.
If Rice is not careful, they will be overtaken by an improving UTEP squad. I think the bye will help the Miners prepare for two really tough defenses — at Louisiana Tech, and home to UAB. Those two squads will likely stop the Dana Dimel momentum cold, but we should acknowledge the improved play in El Paso.