This past weekend was supposed to be a banner one coming into the year. UAB was opening Protective Stadium and celebrating a league win as they began defense of the their crown in a new palace. Instead, we have seen UABers defending the attendance numbers, the 5-0 Roadrunners as road dogs vs 1-3 WKU, and once-mighty Marshall playing what-if.
That’s the nature of the game and this league right now. The quality is down — for various reasons — and that has an effect throughout. It means if you are a new coach in the league — like a Traylor or Rahne — you have an outside shot of shocking the world with a relatively easy win. But that is an external point of view. It is hard to win this league and there is not a whole lot a single coach and do to change the perspective. It is hard to sustain after winning as well. Frank Wilson, Bobby Wilder, and now Seth Littrell are all head coaches who have been to bowl games with their teams that have now either been moved on, or are getting hard stares.
1. UTSA 1-0, 5-0
The Roadrunners have the most impressive record but the numbers suggest there is a weakness. Multiple weaknesses, in fact. I do not know that there is an impressive win outside of that Memphis comeback and they were down 21-0. There is plenty to be said about a team that will fight for 60 minutes but it also says something that they have to fight for 60. They remind me a lot of recent year’s UAB, with their ability to find a play, a drive, a moment and pull it out. They have a weakness in the secondary and Bailey Zappe has been tearing up bigger, stronger, faster defenses than this one.
Next up: at WKU on Stadium at 6pm
2. UAB 1-0, 3-2
The Blazers got smoked at home in their new stadium, and that is going to bring up some feelings. Bill Clark teams play best when they have a chip on their shoulders, and this season was saw them (thus far) get a lot of praise and support for being so successful the last few seasons. Perhaps a good as-kicking its the cure. It was after the Georgia game, and they took it out on North Texas. Liberty handled them just about as well as Georgia did, but with less talent. The next game will be telling, as sees another talented team in red come into Protective.
Next up: vs FAU on Stadium at 2:30pm
3. La Tech 1-0, 2-3
The best team with three-losses in the nation, it seems. There is a lot to like about Tech. Austin Kendall has gumption, grit and grind, and he has receivers and backs that can make plays in the open field. For a while, it looked like they could call up any pass play vs NC State, ranked, and recent victors over Clemson, and be successful. Ultimately the gods have a vendetta vs Tech and keep introducing new and crueler ways to lose. This one saw them waste 30 seconds from the 30 after Kendall saved a 4th and 10 with his legs. Did I mention the defense is nice, also? Just so much to like and so much to be scared of if you are a Tech fan. They can win this league! And might get to the title game only to lose on a Tony Romo play or something. It is destiny.
Next up: Bye
Last week: 3rd
4. Charlotte 1-0, 3-2
The 49ers played Illinois well, which is not saying too much but is still noteworthy. This team has a division win, and controls their destiny the rest of the way. There is enough talent and cleverness offensively to like their chances.
Next up: at FIU on CBSSN 6pm
Last week: 4th
5. FAU 1-0, 3-2
The Owls whooped on FIU for the fifth straight year and this time nearly put up 60. There were questions about Willie Taggart’s offense and those questions are not as prominent. They got beaten hard by Air Force a couple of weeks ago but like Charlotte, control their destiny the rest of the way. They have the talent and the defense to win the league easily.
Next up: at UAB on Stadium 2:30pm
Last week: 6th
6. Marshall 0-1, 2-3
The Herd fumbled and bumbled their way into a rainy loss at Middle. That is not completely disqualifying but it is concerning. Doc Holiday’s teams would save the inexplicable meltdown games for late in the year, and it seems Huff wants to do it early. No matter, the Herd still boast talent and a presumably good staff. They have tough opponents and cannot afford too many self-immolations.
Next up: vs ODU on CBSSN on FB 1pm
7. WKU 0-0, 1-3
Long time readers of this publication will know we thought highly of WKU all year — basically since they penned the Bailey Zappe experience to a year in Bowling Green. He has been as advertised and the offense has been explosive. The defense is just about the worst in the nation in at least a couple of categories. The good news is that they have not faced CUSA competition and it should be easier than quality opponents they have faced. I have seen some surprised CUSA fans as they see that WKU is favored by 3 at home. The price paid for not playing good opponents is that you may get smacked in the mouth by a “poor” team. Zappe should enjoy throwing for 500 yards against UTSA but his defense will need to support him more than it has.
Next up: vs UTSA on Stadium at 6pm
Last week: 7th
Teams That Are Winning But We Do Not Believe In Them
A couple of squads that have glaring flaws.
8. Rice 1-0, 2-3
A solid win over a poor USM squad that was nearly given away. Meh.
Next up: bye
Last week: 8
9. UTEP 1-0, 4-1
Being 4-1 is good, but the manner in which this was achieved has been lacking. We will acknowledge the Miners and their 1-0 conference record and note they might even pull off a second one vs the Golden Eagles this week. I do not believe in the Miners but what I believe does not translate to on-field results. As long as Dana Dimel’s crew believes, they have a chance at it.
Next up: at Southern Miss ESPN 3 6pm
Last week: 13th
The Rest Of The League
This group is bad, or seriously flawed, and does not even have a solid win of which to boast (in most cases).
10. Southern Miss 0-1, 1-4
Things look bad in Hattiesburg, losing to the lowly Rice Owls and not really being as competitive as the interim coached version of this squad last year. Will Hall is not off to a sparkling start with what seemed like a talented team. The immediate future sees UTEP come to town and that would ordinarily mean a win, but this Miner squad has a little newfound believe and the Golden Eagles have …
Next up: vs UTEP ESPN 3 6pm”
Last week: 9th
11. Middle 1-2, 2-3
If you have watched a lot of CUSA you know Middle is good for one inexplicable win each year. Remember when they busted out for like 500 rushing yards out of nowhere? What was that? This time they had help from Mother Nature and the slippery ball. They won, but were outgained. Also working against this team is that they have two conference losses and a long road to hoe.
Next up: at Liberty on ESPN3 2:30pm
Last week: 12th
12. North Texas 0-2, 1-3
This team had a bye for which to ready themselves vs Missouri. The oddsmakers have it as a -20 for the Tigers and that sounds about right. The Mean Green ave scored a league low 79 points and I do not have the feeling like the SEC talent on display in Missouri will be shocked and awed by the Mean Green derping their way on offense this week. The defense showed some things vs Louisiana Tech but they will need to elevate their game to scoring points on turnovers to help out the cause.
Next up: at Miss SEC Network 6pm
Last week: 10
13. ODU 0-1, 1-4
That was the winnable game, and they nearly made the comeback. Rickey Rahne’s squad blocked a punt but couldn’t pull out the offensive execution to win the thing vs UTEP. Traveling to El Paso is tough — just about the longest trip for anyone in this league. There is a lot to like in this early stage of the Rahne regime, but there will be few wins this season.
Next up: at Marshall CBSSN/FB 1pm
Last week: 14
14. FIU 0-1, 1-4
Butch Davis may have just officially lost the cause. They were dominated in the second half against FAU – -the Shula Bowl! — and have not been competitive in two/three years. Davis made a little splash when he arrived, but that water has calmed and he has been far surpassed in performance.
Next up: vs Charlotte on CBSSN 6pm
Last week: 11th