Conference USA Football Roundup: Week 3 Scores, Rankings, Reactions

Conference USA Week 3 Roundup, Rankings, Breakdowns & Recaps

Follow and/or Contact @RichCirminiello

Scroll down for thoughts & picks for each Conference USA team.

Conference USA Player of the Week

Southern Miss outlasted Texas State behind a career-best 230 yards and four touchdowns on 27 carries from RB Jalen Richard.

Conference USA East Rankings After Week 3

1. Marshall (2-1)
2. WKU (2-1)
3. Middle Tennessee (2-1)
4. FIU (2-1)
5. Old Dominion (2-1)
6. Florida Atlantic (0-3)
7. Charlotte (2-1)

Conference USA West Rankings After Week 3

1. Louisiana Tech (1-2)
2. Rice (2-1)
3. Southern Miss (2-1)
4. UTEP (1-2)
5. North Texas (0-2)
6. UTSA (0-3)

Conference USA Out of Big Six Bowl Hunt

Just three weeks into the season, go ahead and scratch Conference USA off the list of leagues contending for a spot in a Big Six bowl game. That honor will go to someone from the American or the Mountain West.

The division races will be competitive; Western Kentucky, Marshall and Middle Tennessee out of the East. And Rice and Louisiana Tech out of the West. But that’s the extent of the drama that the league will produce in November and December.

Conference USA’s bid to keep pace with the Toledos and the Temples of the world crashed and burned in the Midwest. The Thundering Herd flat-lined at Ohio last Saturday, while a Hilltopper rally against Indiana fell short in Bloomington in Week 3.

Just like that, no more unbeaten teams, meaning no chance of rising above the Miami Beach Bowl for the conference champ.

For Western Kentucky, it was the same old problem that haunted the team in 2014—too soft on D, even for QB Brandon Doughty and his array of playmakers. The Hoosiers, led by RB Jordan Howard and QB Nate Sudfeld, trampled the Toppers for 639 yards and 34 first downs. And as long as WKU can be bullied on defense, all of the aforementioned league challengers have a legitimate shot of overtaking the preseason favorite.

Western Kentucky as more than just a target for fantasy owners and shootout aficionados. It was fun while it lasted, though three weeks wasn’t enough to even gain traction outside of the league confines. Conference USA is what it is—an eclectic mix of competitive teams that’ll entertain, but no longer entertains dreams of a major bowl game.

Charlotte: Long road to competitiveness

The 49ers began life as an FBS member with back-to-back wins over Georgia State and Presbyterian. What did it all mean? Evidently, not too much. Middle Tennessee didn’t exactly lay out the league welcome mat in Saturday’s 73-14 throttling that actually could have been worse. By comparison, Old Dominion was outscored by an average of six points in 2014, its Conference USA debut, so Charlotte might need a few breaks before earning that third win.

Florida Atlantic: Turnovers

If you’re careless and sloppy with the ball, you’re not going to defeat anyone … even Buffalo. The Owls outgained and generally outplayed the Bulls in all phases except turnovers. And FAU isn’t the kind of team that’s going to overcome three fumble and a pair of interceptions. Silver lining? The future looks promising behind center with QB Jason Driskel, as well as with sophomore WR Kamrin Solomon.

Louisiana Tech: Fixing the defense

If the Bulldogs are going to battle back from a 1-2, the defense will have to be addressed. Making excuses if you’d like; Western Kentucky strafes everyone, or, hey, they took Kansas State into triple-overtime. But doing so misses the point that Louisiana Tech’s individual talent, up front and in the secondary, is not matching the results on the field. Skip Holtz needs to shore up his pass D and start generating more money plays.

Rice: QB Driphus Jackson

The Owl offense will be tough to stop in Conference USA play if Jackson performs the way he did Saturday against North Texas. Rice is going to run the ball with authority, because that’s what it’s designed to do for head coach David Bailiff. But when Jackson calmly connects on 28-of-37 for 364 yards, three touchdowns and no picks, it puts a ton of pressure on opposing defenses.

Southern Miss: The offense

It might be time to get excited about the Golden Eagle offense. The patience Todd Monken and his players is beginning to pay dividends. Southern Miss outgunned Texas State in a shootout, getting four touchdown passes from Nick Mullens, who’s playing well, and four touchdown runs from Jalen Richard. And, yeah, it’s Texas State, but are the Bobcats that different than the defenses USM will see each week in league play?

UTEP: Life after RB Aaron Jones

Looks as if the Miners will be able to move the ball without their injured star after all. They may not be able to stop anyone, but they’ll drag mediocre teams into track meets. UTEP rallied from a two-touchdown, fourth-quarter hole to beat rival New Mexico State in OT. In the win, the team amassed an almost perfectly balanced 542 yards, with QB Ryan Metz exiting the bench to throw three scoring strikes.

Western Kentucky: Big Six Bowl Hopes Dead

The Hilltoppers are still a Conference USA contender, and probably the favorite. But any dreams of copping the Group of Five berth in a Big Six bowl game died in Bloomington, Ind. Defense—once again—was the Toppers’ undoing, as RB Jordan Howard and QB Nate Sudfeld spearheaded a 600-yard attack. Western Kentucky is what it is. And while that may be good enough to win a league title, the 2015 goals will end there.

Week 3 Scores & Picks: How’d We Do?

Conference USA Football Picks Through Week 3: Straight Up: 22-9, ATS: 19-10

Buffalo 33, at Florida Atlantic 15

Line: Buffalo -3.5, o/u: 65, Prediction: Florida Atlantic 33, Buffalo 27

Rice 38, at North Texas 24

Line: Rice -7.5, o/u: 55, Prediction: Rice 37, North Texas 20

at Kansas State 39, Louisiana Tech 33 3OT

Line: Kansas State -9.5, o/u: 51, Prediction: Kansas State 31, Louisiana Tech 21

at Marshall 47, Norfolk State 7

Line: No Line, o/u: No Line, Prediction: Marshall 51, Norfolk State 10

at Oklahoma State 69, UTSA 14

Line: Oklahoma State -24.5, o/u: 55.5, Prediction: Oklahoma State 45, UTSA 13

at Indiana 38, WKU 35

Line: Indiana -2, o/u: 69.5, Prediction: Western Kentucky 39, Indiana 37

at FIU 39, North Carolina Central 14

Line: No Line, o/u: No Line, Prediction: Florida International 41, NC Central 7

Southern Miss 56, at Texas State 50 ESPN 3

Line: Texas State -3, o/u: 64.5, Prediction: Texas State 37, Southern Miss 33

at Middle Tennessee 73, Charlotte 14

Line: Middle Tennessee -19.5, o/u: 62, Prediction: Middle Tennessee 41, Charlotte 21

NC State 38, at Old Dominion 14

Line: NC State -18.5, o/u: 62, Prediction: NC State 38, Old Dominion 20

UTEP 50, at New Mexico State 47 OT ESPN 3

Line: UTEP -2.5, o/u: 64.5, Prediction: UTEP 35, New Mexico State 30

MORE: Week 3 College Football Rankings, No. 1-128