1. La Tech (1)
La Tech nearly knocked off South Carolina in a game that would have been the most impressive non-con victory for the league. As it was, the Bulldogs probably played it too conservatively in their go-ahead drive and that cost them the game. S&P+ has them losing to UTSA and Southern Miss (both in Ruston??) but I think this is a really good team that does not have too many flaws. The QB play isn’t super efficient but the defense keeps things close enough where that isn’t a problem
2. WKU (2)
WKU ended their losing streak at two and now will likely begin a four-game win streak against UTEP, Charlotte, ODU, and FAU before facing Vandy. This ranking has given WKU lots of slack for the coaching change and this stretch should be enough for everyone to get into a good groove.
3. MTSU (3)
Backup QB John Urzua played well against a poor Bowling Green but he could use some help from the run game. This blog is more of a believer in MTSU than others, but the schedule is more unkind to them than others. They won’t win the division — especially if Stockstill stays hurt — but they should not be taken lightly.
4. UTSA (5)
UTSA handled rival Texas State much easier than I predicted, only not by much. The run game looked potent late and Jalen Rhodes is a really good back. UTSA still has not been played a team at their level in talent and psyche (which is how I categorize a reeling Baylor, OU game notwithstanding) and so it is difficult to feel out the Runners properly. That said, UTSA can only play the teams in front of them. The bye week allows a recharge before they host USM (favorable) and visit NT (winnable). In fact UTSA is favored to win the rest of the way according to S&P+
5. Southern Miss (4)
Southern Miss was idle.
6. Marshall (7)
Marshall was idle.
7. UNT (8)
North Texas is showing the offensive firepower that was advertised when Littrell was hired. NT is a top-17 offense nationally and leads the conference in various offensive categories including points per game. UAB is a decent enough opponent that we cannot call that a fluke. NT has a deep threat (Guyton) and one of the league’s two best backs in Jeff Wilson. If the secondary could approach pre-season expectations this thing could be a contender. As it is, NT is still second tier on the league.
8. UAB (9)
UAB probably wins the game against UNT if it were in Birmingham. That’s the way football goes. The Blazers showed a new aspect of their offense that may have simply been exposing (yet again) the weakness of North Texas’ once-strong secondary. Still, everyone feels good about that loss in which the Blazers came back from 30-14 to tie with 27 seconds remaining. If the kick return team and subsequent defensive play was better the overtime could have produced a winner. So it goes. The Blazers are tough and will be good next season. This year they will play spoiler.
9. ODU (6)
I still like the coach but we can drop all pretense of not knowing that this is not a good football team this season. Injuries and roster turnover have put ODU in rebuild mode. They were not expected to do much in Blacksburg and they did not.
10. FAU (10)
Devin Singletary had himself a game as FAU narrowly lost in Buffalo. The advanced stats like FAU more than I do and the Owls are clearly better than the rest of this list. That is why they remain here after a loss.
11. FIU (12)
The Panthers won the latest under-undercard of CUSA, as they beat Rice 13-7 in an awful game. This has been useful for sorting the bottom half of this conference.
12. Rice (13)
Rice rose only because the teams below them are so demonstrably awful. David Bailiff is well-liked and that has saved him his job so far. That and a conference title way back when. This is a tough situation as the other three private schools in the state are in better conferences and are on upswings.
13. Charlotte (10)
The 49ers lost to terrible Georgia State 28-0 at home. Things are not looking good for this team and the only worse situation is in El Paso. The good news is that WKU had a similar situation before making a series of great hires that led to a couple of conference titles.
14. UTEP (14)
Time was that UTEP owned the NMST series but that time has past. The most interesting thing in Miner fandom is to predict the next firing. UTEP’s situation is eerily similar to the end of the Dan McCarney era.