Week 10 Conference USA Football Rankings
1. Western Kentucky: W, Florida Atlantic 35-19
The Hilltoppers hit the snooze button in the first half before finally shaking free from the Owls down the stretch. They’re entitled after winning so many games in routs. Western Kentucky continues to get plenty of ground support for QB Brandon Doughty, with Anthony Wales and D’Andre Ferby both averaging around eight yards a carry. WKU must maintain its focus for one more week, at FIU in two weeks, before the showdown with Marshall to close the regular season.
2. Louisiana Tech: W, North Texas 56-13
After some injuries and false starts during the season, Bulldog RB Kenneth Dixon is gearing up for a strong finish in Ruston. La Tech’s touchdown machine scored six of them, while rushing for 195 yards on 22 carries. The Bulldogs are going to need No. 28 to be at full strength down the stretch as the team prepares for its season-ending tilt with Southern Miss that should decide the West Division.
3. Middle Tennessee: W, Marshall 27-24
Now that is more like it. Well-rested and as healthy as they’ve been in a while, the Blue Raiders finally played up to their potential to snap Marshall’s seven-game winning streak. The offense was balanced, the defense bent more than it broke and the team delivered in OT. If 4-5 Middle Tennessee can build off Saturday, there’s still time to rally and earn a coveted bowl invitation. And a lack of talent has not been the issue in Murfreesboro.
4. Marshall: L, at Middle Tennessee 27-24
Tough overtime loss, the Herd’s first since Week 2 at Ohio. But nothing has changed for Marshall in the big picture of things. If it can rebound to win its final its final two, including Nov. 27 at Western Kentucky, it’ll represent the East Division in the Conference USA championship game. After allowing 353 yards and three touchdowns to Blue Raider QB Brent Stockstill, the Herd must tinker with the pass defense before that finale with the Hilltoppers.
5. Southern Miss: Bye Week
Next week: at Rice
6. Florida International: W, Charlotte 48-31
Facing a must-win situation for their bowl hopes, the Golden Panthers outclassed the 49ers behind the passing of Alex McGough and the running Alex Gardner. McGough is quietly having a terrific second season at FIU, throwing 21 touchdown passes to five picks. Now comes the heavy lifting for Florida International, which must upset Marshall or Western Kentucky to become bowl eligible.
7. Old Dominion: W, at UTSA 36-31
If the Monarchs have one primary objective this offseason, it should be to continue developing David Washington at quarterback. The converted wide receiver has flashed plenty of potential, throwing for 378 yards and rushing for 69 more in Saturday’s win. And with that victory, Old Dominion remains in the bowl hunt, needing two of three against UTEP, Southern Miss and Florida Atlantic to become eligible.
8. UTEP: W, Rice 24-21
The Miners continued to be a solid home team, moving to 3-1 at the Sun Bowl on a Jay Mattox field goal with 48 seconds left. And the trio of QB Mack Leftwich, RB Jeremiah Laufasa and WR Jaquan White has instilled energy into a once-lifeless offense. But for UTEP to achieve bowl eligibility, it must improve on the road this month, with must-win tests still ahead at Old Dominion and North Texas.
9. Rice: L, at UTEP 24-21
The Owls’ season took a turn for the worse with Friday’s loss in El Paso, dropping them below .500 with three games remaining. Rice has been a major disappointment in 2015, but especially the trademark ground game, which produced just 96 yards on 30 carries against a weak Miner D. The Owls must win two of the final three against Southern Miss, UTSA and Charlotte to reach .500 and be eligible for a bowl berth.
10. Florida Atlantic: L, at Western Kentucky 35-19
The Owls put a scare into the Hilltoppers for more than a half. But moral victories are of little value to a team that exited the bowl discussion after suffering its seventh loss. Florida Atlantic didn’t get the year it expected from dual-threat senior QB Jaquez Johnson, who misfired again Saturday. With three games remaining, FAU might want to give some reps to rookie Jason Driskel, the quarterback of the future.
11. Charlotte: L, at Florida International 48-31
At long last, the 49ers got some decent play from the quarterbacks, with Lee McNeill, Brooks Barden and Matt Johnson each throwing a touchdown pass. But as long as Charlotte is playing defense as if it’s still in the FCS, snapping a seven-game losing streak will prove elusive. The 49ers have three remaining shots to pick up a win in 2015, UTSA, at Kentucky and at Rice.
12. UTSA: L, Old Dominion 36-31
Larry Coker is now 5-16 over the last two seasons. Might the Roadrunners benefit from some fresh energy on the sidelines? While Coker has done a fine job getting UTSA out of the development stage, he’s hit a wall since the start of 2014. And, yeah, an injury to QB Blake Bogenschutz has hampered the offense, but losing at home to Old Dominion was another sign of how stagnant this Roadrunner program has become.
13. North Texas: L, at Louisiana Tech 56-13
After winning for the first time in 2015 last weekend, it was business as usual for the Mean Green, which lacks the personnel to pace with some of the better teams in Conference USA. RB Jeffrey Wilson continues to run hard, and QB DaMarcus Smith does some nice things as a dual-threat. However, the defense needs to be rebuilt from the ground up and the O-line was trucked by Louisiana Tech.