Conference USA Football Rankings And Reactions, Week 5

Week 5 Conference USA football rankings and reactions. Western Kentucky enhanced its position as the conference favorite by pounding Rice on the road, 49-10.

Conference USA Player of the Week

Southern Miss WR Michael Thomas caught seven passes for 155 yards and three scores in the win over North Texas.

Week 5 Conference USA Football Rankings

1. Western Kentucky: W, at Rice 49-10

For the Hilltoppers, laying the wood to Rice in Houston qualifies as a statement win. In what looked like a possible preview of the Conference USA title game, Western Kentucky demoralized one of the league’s most consistent programs. Brandon Doughty is a known commodity, but the way the defense stepped up to shut down QB Driphus Jackson and the Owl ground game, it’s bad news for the rest of the league.

2. Louisiana Tech: W, UL-Lafayette 43-14

The Bulldogs have found a new toy for QB Jeff Driskel. La Tech, which already has RB Kenneth Dixon and receivers Trent Taylor and Paul Turner as playmakers, unleashed WR Marcus Gaines on the Ragin’ Cajuns. The smallest member of the team, Gaines burned UL-Lafayette on eight catches for 165 yards and a 72-yard score right after halftime.

3. Marshall: W, Old Dominion 27-7

The Herd can manage without its starters against the likes of Old Dominion. But the offense really needs a healthy return from QB Michael Birdsong and RB Devon Johnson to keep pace with Western Kentucky in the East Division. While backups Chase Litton and Michael Pittman were serviceable, Pittman rushing for 127 yards on 32 carries, it’s not every week that the Monarchs will be on campus.

4. Southern Miss: W, North Texas 49-14

The offense continues to hum in Hattiesburg. Nick Mullens is quickly becoming the type of quarterback offenses are built around, throwing three of his four touchdown passes to WR Michael Thomas. And the running game was prolific, too, on Saturday, averaging more than seven yards a carry. Plus, Michigan transfer RB Justice Hayes chipped in a career-best 86 yards and a touchdown to complement Ito Smith on the ground.

5. Rice: L, Western Kentucky 49-10

Despite what happened on Saturday, Driphus Jackson is still the Owl quarterback. While the senior got yanked in favor of Tyler Stehling, it was a simple case of head coach David Bailiff looking for a spark on a day that nothing was clicking. Jackson gives Rice its best chance to win, so bank on him being back in the huddle when the Owls fly to Florida Atlantic next weekend.

6. Middle Tennessee: L, Vanderbilt 17-13

This loss could haunt the Blue Raiders right into the continuation of Conference USA play next Saturday. For the second straight week, Middle Tennessee couldn’t close the deal on a Power Five opponent, blowing a 10-point fourth quarter lead to the Commodores. MTSU is talented enough to compete with bigger schools, but only through experience will it learn how to properly finish.

7. Florida International: L, at Massachusetts 24-14

The Golden Panther passing game has regressed, and it’s hurting the production of RB Alex Gardner. Even facing a flimsy Minutemen defensive backfield couldn’t get QB Alex McGough. He dinked-and-dunked his way to 115 yards and one touchdown on 34 pass attempts. If McGough is unable to stretch opposing defenses, it makes it that much easier to stack the box to stuff Gardner.

8. UTSA: W, at UTEP 25-6

Games with the Big 12 and Pac-12 are over. Time to start flexing those defensive muscles, Roadrunners. If there’s been an identity under Larry Coker, it’s come from the defensive side of the ball, with an attacking, overachieving group of defenders. Saturday in El Paso was vintage UTSA, creating five turnovers and outscoring UTEP with a safety and two Michael Egwuagu touchdowns.

9. UTEP: L, UTSA 25-6

Can LB Alvin Jones play offense? Jones was spectacular in Week 5, headlining a defense that deserved a better fate by making three sacks and 10 stops. But the Miner offense is sinking fast, unable to unlock the running game or a mistake-free passing attack. UTEP is really missing RB Aaron Jones, Alvin’s twin, the one guy on this team capable of making opposing defenses nervous.

10. Old Dominion: L, at Marshall 27-7

Redshirt freshman QB Shuler Bentley is most definitely the future in Norfolk. He’s just not the present, as it pertains to the Monarchs’ ability to compete in 2015. Bentley has been off target in his first season as the successor to Taylor Heinicke, completing only 13-of-35 for 101 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions in soggy Huntington Saturday.

11. Florida Atlantic: Bye Week

Next week: vs. Rice

12. North Texas: L, at Southern Miss 49-14

A bad situation at quarterback in Denton is being exacerbated by poor pass protection from the linemen. The Mean Green can run block, creating daylight for Jeffrey Wilson. But they couldn’t keep the Golden Eagles from bouncing around Andrew McNulty and DeMarcus Smith, who combined to go 14-of-32 for 201 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

13. Charlotte: L, Temple 37-3

The 39ers were able to run the ball effectively on Temple, which no one has done this season. It’s a start for a team that’s having all kinds of problems on offense in this debut season in the FBS. Charlotte rushed for 223 yards, 125 from Kalif Phillips, on a sloppy track. Now, the team just needs more consistency from a passing game still playing at an FCS level.

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