ECU (9-2; 6-1) vs Marshall (8-3; 6-1). 1 pm, CBS sports Network
This one is easy. It is for all the marbles in the east. The winner takes the division and will host the championship game as a favorite. If ECU looses it will probably not feel as if they are leaving the conference on a high note.
FIU (1-10; 16) vs FAU (5-6; 3-4) Friday 4 pm. Fox Sports 1
FAU is the favorite here. Yes that team whose coach got fired for allegedly using drugs and who is suing the school for reinstatement, could get bowl eligible. If this were not a rivalry game they might just consider loosing it though, since they are generally considered the odds on favourite to be among the teams left out of the bowl season, even if they do get eligible. Off the field FAU is just a huge mess right now.
For FIU this game represents a chance to get some important momentum and partially salvage a season. Rivalry games do this. I doubt Ron Turner gets fired because of the buyout, so getting at least a little momentum is crucial.
Southern Miss (0-11; 0-7) vs UAB (2-9; 1-6) Saturday 2 pm, C-USA all access
Everybody knows that Southern Miss is on the longest losing streak in the country. A win against UAB is not totally outside the realm of possibilty though. It would be huge to get the loosing streak monkey of USMs back, and infuse momentum (am I the only one who thinks that Todd Monken looks 5 years older now than at the beginning of the year?). Yet the team is quite young. My problem is that I don’t see the upset happening. It looks almost as if USM has 2 years in a row a team that has quit on a new coach. UAB on the other hand almost won against Rice last week. The season as a whole was some disappointement though.
UAB failed to take advantage of it’s chances all year. 2-9 just does not sound like an argument to get financing for a better stadium, but 3-9 is not much better. Losing to what some consider the nations worst FBS team would make things a lot worse though. And possibly end Garrick McGees time at UAB. This is a game where UAB has nothing to win, but quite a bit to lose.
North Texas (7-4; 5-2) vs Tulsa (3-8; 2-5) 3:30 pm, Fpx Sports Network
UNT must bounce back form the disaster loss against UTSA! A loss in this game would be a total momentum killer, and bowl officials who can be more choosy this year than in other years will know it. Also the end of an infamous losing streak to northern neighbour Tulsa seems more reachable than at any moment in the last decade. A win makes this an 8-win season, something even few mean green fans dared hope in the preseason.
Tulsa is leaving the conference. Lately they started to play slightly better,the road win at La Tech certainly indicates as much. But the end of season momentum will only be marginal if they should get pasted by UNT. Next years new conference will not be easier, so fans really need to believe that the team is progressing. Also for next season: one down year is Ok, but if next year is anything like this year people will quickly start to look at Bill Blankenships tenure as a tenure of regression and his seat might warm up quickly.
Tulane (7-4; 5-2) vs Rice (8-3; 6-1) 4 pm, FOX College Sports
Tulane can still win the conference! This has already been a magical season for Tulane, but their hard hitting defense might be able to pull another one of. It probably would not be enough, as they’d need help from La Tech. So in all reality it is probably actually nto that important a game for Tulane. Even if they win they are still probable to go to the new orleans bowl.
For Rice this game is big though. A huge amount of starters will graduate after the season and it is crucial to take advantage of that before what will probably be a rebuilding season. A win at home would clinch the Division, a loss and somebody else plays in next weeks championship game.
Louisiana Tech (4-7; 3-4) vs UTSA (6-5; 5-2) 4:30 pm, CSS
This game really only is for pride for La-Tech. They painfully botched bowl eligibilty last week against a bad Tulsa team. This week a win would be a slight upset. The team lost a ton of starters before the season though, and a win might convince part of the fan base that things are moving in the right direction again.
UTSA can still win the conference. It needs help from Tulane, but the road runners are favored in this game and on a tremendous high after the win in Denton. If they don’t get help from Tulane though, the game will become pretty meaningless pretty quickly. People will update their mobile phone scoreboard applications quite frequently to see what happens with Rice. Chances for a bowl are small though. The NCAA is not likely to grant UTSA a waiver for bowl eligibility, unless the roadrunners play in the championship game. They already have tremendous momentum for next year, and that will hardly be changed should they lose.
UTEP (2-9; 1-6) vs Middle Tennessee (7-4; 5-2) 4:45 pm, C-USA all access
Probably the most meaningless game of the week.
It’s been mostly basketball season at UTEP for about 3 weeks already. There were not really big expectations in El Passo this season, and yet the season was mostly disappointing anyway. But if Sean Kuglers mostly young team should manage an upset, they almost have something like momentum going into the off season, having won the game over FIU last week. A loss would just make clear what most of us already know: UTEP is at least another season removed from contention, and right now at the bottom of the Texas FBS pile.
For MTSU this game is not hugely important either, as conference championships are out of the question, a bowl is quite certain this year, and neither a win nor a loss will really move the needle. At least it’s senior day.