College Football had an interesting week — Louisville, Oklahoma, Michigan, Utah, and FLorida all were upset. Here in CUSA the MGN number one and three fell and number two was challenged by the league’s worst team. So goes college football. It is crazy.
Unfortunately, the league’s best game was on Facebook, while the most exciting game — La Tech v UAB – was on CUSA.tv, which is a hodgepodge of quality depending on the host. Bein has a good production but they can’t flex out of their games for better ones — nor would they want to for an extra 2K viewers at most. The league really needs to have television production for all league games and I do not see that happening soon. The best situation is that North Texas vs UTSA — the CUSA GOTW — is on ESPN3.
As we get ready to rank these teams, let us just say that no one is really deserving of the number one spot. I am uncomfortable with each pick made here.
1. Marshall (4)
The Thundering Herd had a poor game against Charlotte but they beat a team they should have beaten and now are 4-1 with a conference win. They have the talent and the staff and do not look amazing but they do not look like the team that was a sieve on the way to the 3-9 season in 2016. I do not feel comfortable with this pick but they have a good enough defense and can score when they need to. Chase Litton is still a good QB even if Marshall hasn’t exploded for points like in years past. They should be undefeated in conference when they travel to Boca Raton in November for a yuuuuge division matchup.
2. North Texas (5)
Wut. I was tempted to rank our favorite team at number one but I have seen this defense first hand and still am not ready to pull the trigger. Troy Reffett’s group had a good gameplan against one of the league’s most explosive offenses in Southern Miss but this blog will need one more week against a top league offense to say it is ready to be number one. The UAB and Southern Miss wins are looking really shiny right now. This week’s matchup is huge. NT opened as 4.5-point underdogs but that line has moved to about 2.5 as bettors are leaning on NT.
3. Southern Miss (6)
Losing at home to North Texas last week was a kick in the ass. The Golden Eagles came to San Antonio ready to prove a point against the statistically best defensive team in the league. Jay Hopson and company already knew what could happen when a paper tiger defense faces a team that can really score (ahem, NT put up 540 yards and 43 points). So they probably were not too fazed by the UTSA defense. Ito Smith carved up the defense for big yards. USM averaged something like 9 yards per play. Were it not for Keon Howard (he started for Kwadra Griggs) fumbling (and another Staggers fumble) this might have been a rout. USM has trouble in the secondary (Mikell is targeted each week) but can score with anyone.
4. La Tech (1)
Let us be real: UAB is a good team. Losing to them in Birmingham is not shameful. There is a point where you can say “what good are our earthly weapons against that“. That being destiny and Birmingham magic. The Blazers blocked the game-winning field goal to seal their first CUSA victory. Louisiana Tech probably wins this game if they were a little healthier and had a slightly more experienced team. This was not as bad of a loss as it might have seemed.
5. UTSA (3)
I was a Runner skeptic, as I did not believe the combination of Baylor, Southern, and Texas State were any kind of measure for this team. While the San Antonio media was hyping a 11-0 season the team was sliced up by the explosive Golden Eagles in the Alamodome. Were it not for some Keon Howard fumbles (he’s always good for one or two) UTSA might not have been as close as they were. They did not look like the stout defensive team their stats were touting and that is unsurprising. Having been tested and bested, I would not be surprised if UTSA came out ready to meet the challenge of stopping the Mean Green in Denton. Still, that may be a pipe dream.
6. FAU (7)
The fightin’ Kiffins put up gigantic numbers the last two weeks in wins over MTSU and Old Dominion. The problem with these is that both teams are less impressive versions of their 2016 selves. The running game is the league’s best (but NT’s is right behind) and next week’s home game against the Mean Green will tell us what we need to know about the Owls. The improvement is noted, however. The upcoming slate will tell us more: NT, @WKU, Marshall, @LaTech.
7. WKU (1)
How do you fall so far after a win? Well when you play the worst team in the league as they are going through turmoil and manage to only win by a point. I wanted to believe in this team because of the players who have won so much in their time, but all indications are that the coaching staff is holding them back. I would not be surprised to see WKU turn things around — there is a lot of football to be played — but they are ripe for being picked apart by a decent CUSA team.
8. UAB (8)
What? How are the Blazers not rising up the ladder? Well let us be real (again). That win was an ugly win. J’Mar Smith willed his team to a tie (missed extra point) and then a victory (blocked FG). He did this without some key players. So it goes. UAB is better than we expected and will give teams trouble but this is not a standings table, this is a power ranking table. That was a fun game, however. #BirminghamMagic
9. MTSU (10)
This feels right. MTSU should lose to the those above and beat the teams below. The Blue Raiders play AT UAB this week and might get beat by a little Birmingham Magic.
10. FIU (11)
The Panthers were almost 4-1. The weakest 4-1 possible but instead they are 3-2 and about where they should be. They have beaten who they should have: Rice, Charlotte, Alcorn St (too close for comfort). They have lost to teams they should have: #22 UCF, MTSU. The Blue Raiders have not fallen so far that they cannot beat up on bottom tier teams. FIU is behind the FAU Owls in rebuilding pace but they started further back.
11. ODU (9)
FAU might have run up the score? No? Yes? ODU is not a bad team they just lost a lot of players from a really good one and are rebuilding. This is not uncommon in CUSA or at the G5 level so we want to give them a pass for that. Still, that was a bad loss.
12. Rice (12)
I appreciate the gumption of Rice scheduling Standford and Pitt but those look bad when David Bailiff has a terrible team. When private schools have bad football teams it look like it will never be fixed. The entire conference likes Bailiff but this program looks like it is regressing and will not stop. While the difference between first and last in this league is not that great, it is hard to see another W on the schedule. The hope here is that UTSA-Rice is another weird one like last year or that Rice can jump out to another 17-point lead against NT at home. The problem is Rice lost both of those games in 2016 and UTSA and NT look so much better than that which highlights the terrible state of the program.
13. UTEP (14)
This was in the W column for a good portion of the game. UTEP looks awful and Mike Price was a weird hire, but this was a good effort from a team against the ropes. The new-coach bounce will maybe carry over for another week or two but the teams on the schedule are too tough to see any W’s from. Southern Miss probably scores 45 on the Miners, but the UTSA matchup is always intriguing.
14. Charlotte (13)
Charlotte’s almost-loss to Marshall (the new number one!) was less impressive than UTEP’s almost-loss to WKU simply because UTEP led. Charlotte just does not look like they will win a game this season.