Three games were postponed this week — Rice at Tech, NT at UAB, GW at CLT. One even was cancelled next week as UAB at UTEP was cancelled also1.
Marshall continued to show dominance in their destruction of MTSU 42-14. They are the clearest best team in the conference, whatever that means at this point. UTSA dominated the second half against UTEP 52-21. There was a talent disparity there, mixed with some rust from UTEP, and a lot of superiority on the part of the Roadrunners.
Meanwhile, WKU and USM played a dull 10-7 game wherein someone tried to fight the players. On Friday, FAU won 38-19, continuing a streak of dominance that extended back to when FIU was a good squad. FAU is not quite at the level they were during the Kiffin years, but they still had no trouble with the Panthers.
If your team is bad, say like the above-mentioned FIU squad, you can take solace in the fact that this season has been a wash and there are no real good conclusions you can take about much of anything this season. FIU has had a difficult time practicing because of contact-tracing and the rhythms of a normal season are thrown off. Sure, many teams are facing the same situation but that does not make the FIU situation a lie. They were in for something like a rebuild and this pandemic season is straining their capabilities more than it would otherwise. I can buy that logic.
Unfortunately for teams like Marshall, who are good, and were expected too be good, it means that we do not appreciate them as much as we would otherwise. It was easy to forget about them a bit and wins over MTSU and other CUSA teams are relatively unimpressive — through not fault of their own. They were named the “Reveal Suits” National Team of the Week voted on by the Football Writers Association. So there is that.
Every game played at this point is an accomplishment, and something of a win for all parties involved. You have to question what the value of going through with it all is, however. The experts warn that COVID this winter is going to be ridiculously bad, and so far they are looking like they are right on. There is value in having some sense of normalcy and routine in all of this, I will agree. How much normalcy are we getting when Rice has played two games and Southern Miss has played eight?
What normalcy is there in contesting a conference title game between a couple of teams with wildly differing schedules? What is the point and is it worth it?
Wins Can Be Had in UTEP, But It Has To Look Different Than It Does
Dana Dimel knew the job would be difficult. He said as much. He planned to recruit, build up the program slowly, and said he would rely on his experience helping to build up a program in Manhattan, Kansas as the template. There, the Wildcats famously went from being absolute garbage to becoming a beacon of mid-table-but-we-can-surprise-you football under Bill Snyder.
I can see the vision at UTEP. They have had talent in there. In recent years a linebacker, running back, corner, and an offensive lineman have gone on to the NFL. Talent is available for the choosing. Like any situation, the million-dollar question is putting together a coherent team around those pieces. That is the situation everywhere. Dana Dimel’s squads have not done enough of that team-building in recent years. The offenses have not been dynamic enough. The QB choices and development too flawed, and the defenses have been unsound.
I can see how it would work. It just has not been working so far. The key is in the execution of said plan. That is not going so well.
UTSA Is Rebuilding But Has Played a Weak Schedule
There is a lot to like about UTSA’s new head coach Jeff Traylor. He’s a Texas HS football guy, and he seems appropriately energetic about the chances at UTSA. Given some of the criticisms of the previous staff — they did not develop that well, the offenses were incoherent, the defenses were tough and talented but not always consistent — simply making those changes would bring more wins.
It is difficult to gauge the impact, however, because of the circumstances. Beating Texas State was relatively impressive, but the blown lead was not. Beating SFA by only 14 (24-10) was unimpressive but it was a win. Middle is bad and UTSA squeaked by, UAB and BYU are good and UTSA hung close. Army is decent, but not as good as they’ve been and UTSA was handled easily, and Tech is injured but talented in spots and UTSA made a miraculous comeback. FAU is good and dominated, and UTEP is sorry and was appropriately dispatched.
My rough estimation of UTSA is that they have talent, they have pieces, and they have something like a plan now, and they need much more time to gel. I can see a version of this team with Traylor’s recruits looking real dangerous. The previous staff was great at adding talent but weak and developing and deploying them. We do not know that Traylor and company will be able to bring them in at the same rate or if he will be a better developer and game-day coach. This season’s results have not told us too much different and what it has shown us is too muddy to make much sense of.
WKU Won But It is Not Fun To Watch
I wonder how much of the UTSA situation will be like WKU’s now. They had a surprising year last year with Mike Sanford’s players and team performing better than we expected. We could conclude that the new staff simply was better at coaching the game-day type stuff and it showed. This season, we see a big regression and something like a return to terrible offense. Brohm (and others) were able to bring talent and put them in a fantastic offensive scheme. That brought more talent as players wanted to be a part of that exciting offense. A win is nice, but a 10-7 squeaker over lowly USM is not nice at all.
I am using cancelled over postponed because that particular event was canceled even if the matchup is intended to be made up.↩