The picture is becoming a little clearer, but there are still plenty of games to play. If we have learned anything thus far in league play, it is that whatever we thought we knew was wrong. Tech won on the road at former CUSA #1 North Texas then lost at home to UAB. This all sets up a nice game this weekend in which the winner likely takes the division. There are a few scenarios that could change all that — including one where we wait to see if NT or UAB is ranked in the College Football Playoff — that will determine the winner. For UAB, the road is easier: just win, baby. A win this weekend puts them in the driver’s seat for the division. Remember when this program did not exist? Now it is one of the best in the league.
Here are the Conference USA advanced stats through week 7 (using @SBN_BillC 5 factors) Sorted by only differential for now. h/t @ksu_FAN. I just want to remind you that UAB did not have a team as recently as 2016. pic.twitter.com/iG9o9Hi8MZ
— Nicholas Carr (@NicholasCarr) October 15, 2018
First place votes in ‘()’.
As always, these are the compiled rankings of the various beat writers and bloggers polled. This week, only eight responses.
1. UAB (7) 3-0, 5-1 — Last week: 1
The Blazers control their destiny even more so than FIU does, considering the Panthers have more games to play. There are fewer variables to control for UAB and they get the best league team remaining at home, on Homecoming, on Children’s Harbor day.
2. North Texas (1) 2-1, 6-1 — Last week: 3. ↑ 1 spot
North Texas beat a solid Southern Miss squad at home, continuing on their remarkable interception run. The only thing going against NT at this point is the attendance. Wren Baker did not like that lightning and rain kept away the fans.
Very grateful for all @MeanGreenSports fans that made it out today. But to be a championship program we need everyone doing their part. Rain kept too many fans away today. @SethLittrell, our players & coaches are doing their part. Buy your tickets now for 10/27 Homecoming vs Rice
— Wren Baker (@wrenbaker) October 13, 2018
Seth Littrell even made mention of it in his post-game comments. Outside of that, the team is right under or right above UAB in a few of the advanced categories (see way above) and that means this game is for most of the marbles. And maybe Tostitos. This game is for the division title — most likely UAB wraps things up if they win. NT can battle if they win — but might be for the league title. These might be your two best teams.
3. FIU 2-0, 4-2 — Last Week: 7 ↑ 4 spots
Yes, everything written above is something like a slap in the face to your East division leaders. FIU look a bit vulnerable, but the same could be said about the entire division. We might not learn much about FIU until they take on FAU on the 3rd of November. The cross-division games are against Rice and UTSA, so FIU will be something of a surprise to whatever west team they face. QB James Morgan is ballin’, and FIU has a nice defense. Good things are happening in Miami.
4. Louisiana Tech 2-1, 4-2 — Last Week 4
J’Mar Smith is getting too much criticism, and praise, says the head coach Skip Holtz. That may be true but someone has to be the scapegoat on this offense that is up-and-down. Since the North Texas game where the offense needed some help from the special teams unit to get good field position for its go-ahead TD, they have struggled mightily. Granted, NT, UAB, and UTSA have some good defenses. A visiting UTEP should be a salve, but the Miners had a bye week to prepare and they have been playing better.
5. MTSU 2-1, 3-3 — Last Week 2 ↓ 3 spots
Middle drops because Brent Stockstill went out with an ankle sprain, and the Blue Raiders could not hold their lead over FIU in Miami. Replace the opponent and you could be writing a story about any game in the last three seasons for the Blue Raiders. Middle had control of their destiny and then lost it. A couple of slips by FIU and Middle is right back in this thing, however.
6. Marshall 2-1, 4-2 — Last Week 6
The Herd were in a similar position after losing to Middle last week. After a nice, offensively dominating win over ODU, the ship is more rightened. Alex Thomson looks more comfortable — something head coach Doc Holliday predicted — and that can mean all the difference for the Herd. Hosting FAU is a make-or-break for both programs in this division race.
7. FAU 1-1, 3-3 — Last Week 5 ↓ 2 spots
The voters did not like FAU this week, which is a bit strange considering they still have good control over their fate. Middle lost one, and is on shaky ground. If FAU can find the fire that ignited their run last season, they should be playing UAB in the C-USA title game. It could very well be back in Boca Raton. On the other side of that coin, if they continue to be inconsistent outside of Motor, they could lose to Marshall and need a miracle to sniff a return to the title game. Huge game this week.
8. Southern Miss 1-1, 2-3 — Last week 8
The Golden Eagles had a shot to put themselves in the conversation by beating North Texas on the road. The offense put up nice numbers in the pass game but struggled in the run game. That is something we have seen all season. The makings of a good team are there, but this division is rough.
9. Charlotte 2-1, 3-3 — Last week 12 ↑ 3 spots
Your 49ers blew the doors off of WKU in last week’s game. The question remains if Charlotte is just the UTSA of the east: better than the absolute worst but not good enough to seriously compete. As it is, a trip to Murfreesboro to see Middle will answer all our questions.
10. UTSA 2-1, 4-2 — Last week 9 ↓ 1 spot
As was suggested above, UTSA is not good but better than Rice and UTEP. The offense is in the “Let’s start the freshman” stage, and Frank Wilson is talking about simplifying the offensive terminology. That is not something you do six games into the season. Well, at least you don’t if you are a good team.
11. Old Dominion 0-4, 1-6 — Last week 11
The Monarchs get a little love because of their talent. The loss to Marshall was understandable but a little bit of a let-down. The Herd have a good run game and that showed in consecutive weeks of dominating the competition. Old Dominion did not stop that at all. The offense got unstuck late, but it was too little, too late. That sums up the season, doesn’t it?
12. WKU 0-2, 1-5 — Last week 10 ↓ 2 spots
The Hilltoppers are in free-fall. Mike Sanford was losing close games and that bought him some time and excuses. This loss to Charlotte, one of the worst teams in the league for consecutive years at least, was nigh-unforgivable.
13. Rice 0-3, 1-6 — Last week 13
The Owls looked awful in the loss to UAB, and that is probably more to do with UAB than anything. Still, Mike Bloomgren’s men looked bad against UTSA. The shine is wearing off, and UTEP is looking more improved.
14. UTEP 0-2, 0-6 — Last week 14
I suppose a win by the Miners will be the thing that vaults them up from here. Will a week’s rest of recruiting and preparation allow the team to upset Tech on the road? We shall see.