Week 6 Conference USA football rankings and reactions. Western Kentucky and Marshall solidified their position as the league’s premier programs with blowout wins over Middle Tennessee and Southern Miss, respectively.
Conference USA Player of the Week
WKU QB Brandon Doughty completed 28-of-36 passes for 359 yards and five scores with a pick in the win over Middle Tennessee.
Week 6 Conference USA Football Rankings
1. Western Kentucky: W, Middle Tennessee 58-28
The Hilltoppers have a head of steam, and it’s going to be tough to slow them down in the second half of 2015. Since losing to Indiana on Sept. 19, Western Kentucky has defeated Miami U., Rice and Middle Tennessee by a combined score of 163-42. QB Brandon Doughty has been his usual prolific self, but the return from injury of RB Anthony Wales is helping to add more balance to the offense.
2. Louisiana Tech: W, at UTSA 34-31
The Bulldogs need to shore up a pass defense that has too much experience and talent to continue being spotty in coverage. Roadrunner sophomore Dalton Sturm had never started a game at this level, yet still completed 18-of-27 for 227 yards, four touchdowns and two picks. With quarterbacks Dak Prescott, Brent Stockstill and Driphus Jackson next on the schedule, La Tech will keep being dragged into shootouts.
3. Marshall: W, Southern Miss 31-10
The Thundering Herd might be ready to defend its Conference USA title after all. Despite injuries at quarterback and running back, Marshall is enduring behind the play of a suffocating D performing at a championship level. Chuck Heater’s kids were unstoppable versus Southern Miss, one of the league’s hottest offenses prior to Friday night, notching a whopping 17 quarterback hurries, 15 pass breakups, five takeaways and four sacks.
4. Southern Miss: L, at Marshall 31-10
If the Golden Eagles are going to shake off Friday’s demoralizing loss, and return to competing for bowl eligibility, they’ll have to fix the O-line … immediately. The blocking unit, which had played so well during the opening month, was completely outclassed by the speed and pressure of the Herd front seven. Marshall was all over QB Nick Mullens, who could only hit 29-of-58 passes for 314 yards, one touchdown and one pick.
5. Middle Tennessee: L, at Western Kentucky 58-28
What happened to the blue-collar Blue Raider defense? After keeping Illinois and Vanderbilt in check in near upsets the last two weekends, Middle Tennessee imploded at Western Kentucky, yielding almost 600 yards. It couldn’t create turnovers, prevent big plays or make timely stops on third downs. The result? A third loss in a row and a narrowing margin for error for qualifying for a coveted postseason game.
6. Rice: W, at Florida Atlantic 27-26
QB Driphus Jackson may have singlehandedly saved the season for the Owls. Rice looked headed for a third consecutive loss—and two games below .500—when Jackson rallied the squad with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns. The Owls must still cut down on their unforced errors, such as 10 penalties for 88 yards, but the strong finish in Boca Raton is the kind of thing in-season turnarounds are built upon.
7. Florida International: W, UTEP 52-12
For the Panthers, the rout of the Miners may go down as the most impressive performance of the Ron Turner era. And not a moment too soon, considering the team had dropped back-to-back games by 10 points. Florida International saw contributions from the offense and the D, and a slew of huge plays out of the passing game could ignite an attack that had been sputtering lately.
8. Old Dominion: Bye Week
Next week: vs. Charlotte
9. UTSA: L, Louisiana Tech 34-31
Tough loss, to be sure, in a game UTSA could have won. The silver lining, though, is that the Roadrunners may have found a quarterback to begin building around. Dalton Sturm saw the first significant action of his career, and showed flashes. He led UTSA in rushing, while throwing four touchdown passes. Plus, SMU transfer WR JaBryce Taylor was immediately comfortable with Sturm, catching three balls for a team-high 99 yards and two scores.
10. UTEP: L, at Florida International 52-12
The wheels are off the Miners. And Sean Kugler has no answers at the midway point of the season. UTEP has been embarrassed in each of the last two weeks, losing to UTSA and FIU by a combined score of 77-18. The offense is void of playmakers, while the defense was gashed through the air by a Panther team that had previously been struggling to generate points and chunk yards.
11. Florida Atlantic: L, Rice 27-26
Blame it on the weather … or an inability to keep the kids focused. Florida Atlantic was seemingly in control early in the fourth quarter, when a long delay drained all of the team’s momentum. QB Jaquez Johnson and the offense retreated, and the defense allowed two touchdowns in the final seven minutes of a crushing home loss that could haunt FAU over the final seven games.
12. Charlotte: Bye Week
Next week: at Old Dominion
13. North Texas: L, Portland State 66-7
Where do you begin? Obviously, the Mean Green has problems that extend beyond just personnel and X’s and O’s to lose this badly to an FCS team. Is there any heart or pride left in Denton after being outgained, 670-198, and allowing four plays of at least 50 yards? RB Jeffrey Wilson is a talent, but no one will ever know if the defense can’t get off the field.