Conference USA Football Roundup: Week 1 Scores, Rankings, Reactions

Week 1 Conference USA Roundup

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Western Kentucky, like much of Conference USA, remains a mystery

So, after four quarters, what are we supposed to make of Western Kentucky?

The opening weekend of any season always drips with intrigue and unanswered questions. New faces in key places. A slate of unfamiliar non-conference opponents, often of the FCS variety. And the inevitable rust that accumulates during a long offseason. But the Hilltoppers are especially mysterious after one game.

Western Kentucky is thought to be this year’s Marshall in the conference—tons of points, plenty of wins and a chance to run the table and crack the Top 25. However, the team that couldn’t be stopped—or stop anyone—a year ago completely flipped the script Thursday in Nashville.

The Toppers went on the road to defeat an SEC program, Vanderbilt. Huge, right? Well, sort of. On the one hand, Western Kentucky actually showed up on defense, keeping the ‘Dores out of the end zone for the first 59:27. And an inability to make stops was seemingly the only thing keeping WKU from erupting into a Group of Five powerhouse. On the same night, though, the trademark offense fizzled.

Record-setting QB Brandon Doughty was kept in check, his numbers artificially inflated by a 65-yard Tyler Higbee sprint down the sideline. Plus, the O-line was overmatched, resulting in a pedestrian night from prolific RB Leon Allen. The Toppers averaged 4.6 yards per play, well below last year’s seven-yard norm. Head coach Jeff Brohm saw hints of hope on D, but that progress will be meaningless if the offense is easier to corral.

Western Kentucky opened 2015 with a win over an SEC opponent, which is nothing to guffaw over. What does it all mean if the calling card, Doughty and the offense, exposed fault lines? A league that had plenty of reasons to celebrate in Week 1 will be closely monitoring the state of the frontrunner throughout September.

Louisiana Tech: QB Jeff Driskel

Sure, it’s hard to get too carried away when the opponent is Southern, but the Bulldogs liked what they saw from their new quarterback. Driskel, who transferred from Florida, was sharp in the first half, finishing 12-of-15 for 274 yards, four touchdowns and no picks. While rougher tests are ahead, the opener provided an important confidence boost for a player with a shaky past in Gainesville.

Charlotte: Welcome to the show

The 49ers aced their first-ever FBS test on Friday, beating Georgia State in Atlanta, 23-20. It was a monumental and memorable step for head coach Brad Lambert, whose team has only been in existence since 2013. The Charlotte D will struggle against better competition, but the offensive triplets of QB Matt Johnson, RB Kalif Phillips and WR Austin Duke provide hope for when the schedule stiffens.

Florida International: Signature win

After losing three times by no more than three points in 2014, the Panthers might be learning how to pull out nail-biters. Florida International shut down UCF in Orlando Thursday night for a signature win of the Ron Turner era. There’s heavy lifting to do on offense. The way linebackers Anthony Wint and Treyvon Williams fly around, though, FIU could play its way into a bowl berth this December.

UTSA: Evidently, the Roadrunners have a quarterback

It’s no longer 2014 in San Antonio. The team that produced just seven touchdown passes all last season was borderline potent in Week 1. Redshirt freshman QB Blake Bogenschutz went 25-of-43 for 332 yards, two touchdowns and two picks. The fact that he made plays against the Pac-12’s Arizona lends hope that UTSA might actually have an offensive pulse in 2015.

Old Dominion: When all else fails, lean on Lawry

The Monarch D couldn’t stop Eastern Michigan, which means it won’t stop anyone in 2015. And young QB Shuler Bentley was slow to crank in his first start. Still, ODU survived its opener because Ray Lawry is the workhorse out of the backfield. He piled up 223 yards and four touchdowns, but it’ll be up to Bentley to mature so that defenses don’t stack the box to stuff No. 33.

Florida Atlantic: The offense

The Owls were terrible on the road in 2014, averaging a league-low 13.7 points in seven games. If Saturday was any indication, Florida Atlantic will be a whole lot tougher to stop in 2015. FAU went into Tulsa and amassed 563 yards, including 300 on the ground. Yeah, the Owls came up short in overtime, but the running of Greg Howell and the dual-ability of QB Jaquez Johnson equals hope for fewer power outages this fall.

Conference USA Player of the Week

Marshall safety Tiquan Lang. started out the scoring with a pick six from 30 yards out, and he snuffed out a late drive with a 55-yard interception return for a touchdown in the 41-31 win over Purdue. On the day he came up with a team-leading 17 tackles with the two picks.

Conference USA Football Rankings After Week 1

Conference USA East

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

Conference USA West

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

Week 1 Conference USA Football Scores & Picks: How’d We Do?

C-USA Football Predictions For Week 1: Straight Up 9-2, Against The Spread 6-3

FIU 15, at UCF 14
Line: UCF -17, o/u: 46.5, Prediction: UCF 30, Florida International 17

WKU 14, Vanderbilt 12
Line: Vanderbilt -1.5, o/u: 65, Prediction: Western Kentucky 31, Vanderbilt 24

Arizona 42, UTSA 32
Line: Arizona -31.5, o/u: 52.5, Prediction: Arizona 42, UTSA 13

Charlotte 23, Georgia State 20
Line: Georgia State -6.5, o/u: 74, Prediction: Georgia State 35, Charlotte 30

Old Dominion 38, Eastern Michigan 34
Line: Old Dominion -6, o/u: 66, Prediction: Old Dominion 35, Eastern Michigan 27

Tulsa 47, Florida Atlantic 44 OT
Line: Tulsa -7, o/u: 62.5, Prediction: Tulsa 34, Florida Atlantic 24

Arkansas 48, UTEP 13
Line: Arkansas -33, o/u: 49, Prediction: Arkansas 49, UTEP 10

Rice 56, Wagner 16
Line: NO LINE, o/u: NL, Prediction: Rice 49, Wagner 10

Louisiana Tech 62, Southern 15
Line: NO LINE, o/u: NL, Prediction: Louisiana Tech 45, Southern 14

Middle Tennessee 70, Jackson State 14
Line: NO LINE, o/u: NL, Prediction: Middle Tennessee 45, Jackson State 21

Mississippi State 34, Southern Miss 16
Line: Mississippi State -23.5, o/u: 55.5, Prediction: Mississippi State 42, Southern Miss 13

Marshall 41, Purdue 31
Line: Marshall -7.5, o/u: 64, Prediction: Marshall 34, Purdue 24


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