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About Last Night: UAB, UTSA Win + Power Rankings

CUSA Week 6 was a a time to learn about the league’s contenders. There were tests of powerful offense and great defenses. We also saw some old standbys show why they have hardware in the trophy case. The most entertaining game was the one we hoped would be: UTSA at WKU, which saw 1000+ yards of offense and a final drive with a chance to win. Elsewhere, UAB shrugged off FAU in a bounce-back game.

Friday:

Charlotte 45 FIU 33

The 49ers scored easily against FIU defense that looked like it had no chance. The Panthers showed some spark offensively, something that we have not seen in a while. We wrote Charlotte is in a good spot and controls their destiny the rest of the way. The defense was not perfect, but a win is a win and people will remember the offensive fireworks.

Saturday

Marshall 20 ODU 13 (OT)

Grant Wells hit Willie Johnson from 52 yards out with :33s left in the game to tie vs ODU and then won in OT. A win is precious, but it was mighty unimpressive for those in green. For Ricky Rahne’s ODU, this was a great show and something of a mile marker and showcase of what can be.

UAB 31 FAU 14

N’Kosi Perry looked like Blazer Kryptonite for a bit, until he threw an interception to Grayson Cash that was returned 105 yards for six to end the half. FAU never threatened again while UAB added another TD to pad it. We called this a possible championship preview and it still remains so. FAU has to figure out how to hold off WKU and Marshall but should be favored in both matchups. UAB has Tech and UTSA.

UAB came up big when it mattered in conference, which, whatever you want to say about this program, is how they’ve managed two league titles since The Return. FAU dropped a big game, and that is disappointing but it is not over.

Liberty 41 MTSU 13

Middle jumped up and bit Marshall and got stomped by Liberty, which would be the best team with the best league record if they played in CUSA.

Missouri 48 North Texas 35

The point total for NT mostly came in a 21-point fourth quarter. Mizzou has one of the worst defenses in the nation and this was against backups.

UTEP 26 USM 13

The Miners outlasted USM in what we predicted would be a poor offensive performance for both. The Miners are 5-1, even though the wins have been ugly — 392 total yards and just 16 first downs is unappealing to the eye. But that does not matter because winning is the point of the game. The Miners are winning and are 2-0 in the conference.

UTSA 52 WKU 46

The game of the day was in Bowling Green, Ky where the Hilltoppers were favored by -3. UTSA fans on twitter were chuckling at this, thinking their 5-0 team was going to roll. Close, discerning fans knew that UTSA’s pass defense was vulnerable and WKU had played really good competition. We knew two things coming in: there would be a lot of points and whoever had the ball last would have a chance to win it.

We were right, and UTSA QB Frank Harris had a career day, throwing for six scores against WKU’s terrible defense. He dropped in passes over their heads and while impressive, it has to be noted that the WKU secondary is simply not equal to the task. Harris also caught another score on a throw-back pass. His lone “mistake” was a batted pass that was intercepted. He forced a fumble on the same play, erasing even that.

Baily Zappe threw for 523 yards and 5 TDs, with only the one mistake. That came when facing 3rd and goal from the 15, when he forced in a throw and UTSA defender Hicks made a diving interception. It was a hell of a play, and a great way to cap the game. Wasted, was a stop from the WKU defense that gave Zappe the chance. It looked nearly inevitable for a second, as WKU continued to dink and dunk and bewilder the UTSA defense on the final drive. A chop block call put them at 3rd and goal from the 15.

It really was a crazily entertaining game. WKU’s offense is so fun, executes so well, and shakes off any mistakes. UTSA tried putting 8 in coverage, and were sliced up. They brought pressure and got more success, but it was in the form of WKU guys dropping passes and not necessarily stopping the offense. WKU’s defense was awful, and it is unfortunate that Zappe and company are simply left to gun-sling.

For UTSA, they played the way they have all season. They have enough talent to score on bad defenses. That may read like a slight, but it isn’t. If you do not defend Harris and his guys, they will score on you. They are good enough to score on good defenses, too and both sides of the ball have playmakers willing and able to make a play to win the game when it matters. Hicks’ interception was huge. It was yet another in a series of game-clinching plays for this 6-0 team.

Power Rankings Week 7

We are combining the power rankings with the weekly recap this time. We will see how it goes. The top-7 in this ranking have a shot (in our estimation) of winning the division and therefore the league.

1. UAB 2-0, 4-2 ⬆

The Blazers played the best team in the East and handled business in true Dragon fashion. That second-half shutout makes me think they will be just fine in the league as they take on two division foes in UTSA and Tech.

Last week: 2nd
Next up: at USM on Stadium 2:30pm

2. UTSA 2-0, 6-0 ⬇

We like the Runners’ chances and they have a knock for coming up big when it counts. We will give the Blazers the benefit of the doubt until that changes on the field. A criticism is that they play to their competition — UNLV, ahem — and that is playing with fire.

Last week: 1st
Next up: vs Rice on ESPN+ 5pm

3. La Tech 1-0, 2-3 ↔

The Dawgs were idle this week. They are coming off a heartbreaking loss, but are well-positioned to compete with the top of the division.

Last week: 3rd
Next up: at UTEP on ESPN+ 8pm

4. Charlotte 2-0, 4-2 ↔

The 49ers took care of business vs FIU. They can score, and they have an opportunistic defense. There no reason to think they can’t be in the championship game with a little luck and the right prep. It begins this week against their bête noir in FAU.

Last week: 4th
Next up: Idle, then vs FAU on CBSSN 6:30 10/21

5. FAU 1-1, 3-3 ↔

The Owls had a great opportunity to show they were ready to challenge the top dog but they wilted majorly in Birmingham. That is concerning, and maybe something like a hallmark of the WT era.

Last week: 5th
Next up: Idle, then at Charlotte on CBSSN 6:30 10/21

6. Marshall 1-1, 3-3 ↔

A great escape vs a poor ODU is not something you generally brag about, but it was a gusty performance. The Herd pulled it out and in the end the wins matter more than how they were achieved (see UTEP). I do not know if the Herd stack up well against the rest of the division, but North Texas should be a cakewalk.

Last week: 6th
Next up: at North Texas on Friday on CBSSN at 6pm

7. WKU 0-1, 1-4 ↔

The conference debut for Bailey Zappe was a great one — 523 and 5 scores — but the one interception lost it for the squad. The same old problems we saw vs Indiana were present against UTSA. That the Runners are one of the league’s better teams means that WKU can theoretically compete. That offense gives them a chance against anyone.

Last week: 7th
Next up: at ODU on ESPN3 2:30pm

Solid But No Real Chance

These two teams have winning records right now, but fairly unimpressive performances in amassing them. Wins are the most important thing but the manner in which they are achieved is a good predictor of how many will be amassed in the future.

8. UTEP 2-0, 5-1 ⬆

The Miners have beaten ODU and USM, two poor squads, and required some grit-and-grind to make its so. Hey, but 5-1 means people are paying attention.

Last Week: 9th
Next up: vs La Tech on ESPN+ 8pm

9. Rice 1-0, 2-3 ⬇

The Owls were idle this week and have had a couple of weeks to prepare for a big game down the road. There was a time when I liked the Owls chances in this kind of game but it is hard to see it with how well the Runners are playing.

Last week: 8th
Next up: at UTSA on ESPN+ 5pm

The Rest

These programs are not even pretenders. Maybe spoilers and season-ruiners.

10. NT 0-2, 1-4 ⬆

I liked what I saw from the defense for about 60% of the game against Mizzou. I liked what I saw from the offense in the 4th quarter. There is not much to be excited about the rest of the way.

Last week:12th
Next up: vs Marshall on CBSSN 6pm

11. Middle 1-2, 2-4 ↔

I suppose you could argue that Middle should be higher by virtue of their one league win, but they sort of proved that the rain and Marshall self-harm was the reason for the victory and not much to do with Middle.

Last week: 11th
Next up: Idle, then at UCONN on 10/22

12. ODU 0-2, 1-5 ⬆

Beating Marshall would have been huge, and simply competing with them was a way to build excitement for the current project under Rahne. Now a ridiculous challenge defensively, but maybe an opportunity to get some points against a poor Topper defense.

Last week:13th
Next up: vs WKU on ESPN3 2:30pm

13. USM 0-2, 1-5 ↔

Will Hall is doing sad press conferences. Losing to UTEP is bad, especially at home. Now, the reigning champs come into town.

Last week: 13th
Next up: vs UAB on Stadium at 2:30pm

14. FIU 0-2, 1-5 ↔

It sure feels like Butch Davis is maybe treading water at this point. The defense is poor and the offense is sporadic. They are not really competing every week and there does not feel like there is a real plan.

Last week: 14th
Next up: Idle, then vs WKU on 10/23

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