Week 11 Conference USA Football Rankings
1. Western Kentucky: Bye Week
Next week: at Florida International
2. Marshall: W, Florida International 52-0
After stumbling to Middle Tennessee a week ago, the Herd dispatched a clear message that it’s still the team to beat in Conference USA. The defending league champs clicked in every phase of their rout. Plus, inconsistent young QB Chase Litton was as in command of the offense as he’s been all year. It was perfect timing for Marshall, which now has two weeks to prep for a trip to Western Kentucky that’ll decide the East Division champion.
3. Louisiana Tech: Bye Week
Next week: at UTEP
4. Southern Miss: W, at Rice 65-10
The Golden Eagles are playing with a take-no-prisoners mentality over the last month, outgaining Rice in Houston, 682-214. Just in time, too, for the Nov. 28 showdown with Louisiana Tech to decide the West Division. And Southern Miss is getting it done on both sides of the ball, allowing now more than 10 points in each of the last four games. QB Nick Mullens is throwing darts, which ought to concern a Bulldog secondary that has underachieved throughout this season.
5. Middle Tennessee: W, at Florida Atlantic 24-17
For the Blue Raiders, there’s no overstating the importance of this win to the program. It was their first of the year on the road, and it was a sound response to last week’s emotional upset of Marshall. Middle Tennessee has now positioned itself to partake in the postseason, needing a win over North Texas or UTSA to become bowl eligible. To be safe, the Raiders better capture both games.
6. Florida International: L, at Marshall 52-0
The Panthers just can’t figure this road thing out. Okay, so Florida International wasn’t supposed to beat the Herd in Huntington, but losing by 52 underscored how inept Ron Turner’s team has been away from home in 2015. FIU finished the regular season 1-6 outside of its own building, and must get to 5-0 at home next week versus 8-2 Western Kentucky to achieve bowl eligibility and a .500 mark.
7. Old Dominion: W, UTEP 31-21
The Monarchs have pulled to within a win of bowl eligibility, with games remaining against Southern Miss and Florida Atlantic. And that’s a really big deal for a program that joined the FBS just a year ago. Focal point RB Ray Lawry was limited to five carries on Saturday, yet Old Dominion still cranked out 441 yards thanks to the passing of David Washington and the running of Jeremy Cox from off the bench.
8. UTEP: L, at Old Dominion 31-21
The Miners were just never the same after star RB Aaron Jones was lost back in early September. UTEP, a team that relies so heavily on the ground game, didn’t adjust to the absence of Jones. Without the tone-setter in the backfield, Sean Kugler’s attack has lacked balance, and the defense is on the field for too long. Fortunately for the Miners, Jones has another year of eligibility and was injured so early that he should be back in the spring.
9. Rice: L, Southern Miss 65-10
There’s are bad seasons and a can-the-coach kind of flops. The Owls and David Bailiff may have entered the latter category following an absolutely brutal showing at home versus the Golden Eagles. Bailiff ought to be fine, and he’s generally done a terrific job at Rice. But this 4-6 campaign has been utterly perplexing, especially since it began with a standout senior, Driphus Jackson, behind center.
10. UTSA: W, at Charlotte 30-27
Finally, an UTSA opponent with similar talent as the 49ers. The Roadrunners took advantage of their surroundings, surviving in overtime for their second win of the season. Larry Coker has always had faith in his RB Jarveon Williams, who rewarded his coach’s confidence on Saturday afternoon by rushing for a game-high 181 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries.
11. Florida Atlantic: L, Middle Tennessee 24-17
Charlie Partridge must work on his offense this offseason. The unit’s struggles were evident again in Saturday’s loss, converting just 3-of-16 third and fourth-down attempts. And dual-threat QB Jaquez Johnson continued to be a weak facsimile of his former self. Partridge’s future will be tied closely to the development of his rookie backfield members, QB Jason Driskel and RB Trey Rodriguez.
12. North Texas: L, at Tennessee 24-0
The Mean Green put forth a respectable effort against a far superior opponent, but it was obviously not enough in Knoxville. North Texas, in general, has fought hard since Dan McCarney was fired on Oct. 10, which will help interim head coach Mike Canales when he’s looking for new work in a few weeks. The Mean Green has two more chances to win a second game in 2015, at Middle Tennessee and versus UTEP.
13. Charlotte: L, UTSA 30-27
So close, yet so painful. The 49ers rallied late and took the Roadrunners to overtime, but stalled when it mattered most. And now Charlotte has lost eight straight, with remaining road trips to Kentucky and Rice. Brad Lambert will have a ton to work on this offseason, including a ground game that averaged 2.5 yards per carry and failed to produce a single run beyond 10 yards.