CUSA Week 6

Voting for the best CUSA team is supposed to get easier as we see teams play each other. But what do we do with *mediocre* teams that jump up and bite the favorites? What do we do with Louisiana Tech? Well, let us try and make some sense of the conference this week.

My ballot last week:

  1. MTSU
  2. SoMiss
  3. WKU
  4. LaTech
  5. ODU
  6. Marshall
  7. UTSA
  8. North Texas
  9. FIU
  10. FAU
  11. UTEP
  12. Rice
  13. Charlotte

My ballot this week:

  1. MTSU 4-1, 2-0
  2. LaTech 3-3, 2-1
  3. WKU 3-3, 2-1
  4. Southern Miss 4-2, 2-1
  5. ODU 4-2, 2-0
  6. UTSA 2-3, 1-1
  7. North Texas 3-3, 2-1
  8. Marshall 1-4, 0-1
  9. FIU 2-4, 2-0
  10. Charlotte 2-4, 1-1
  11. FAU 1-5, 0-2
  12. Rice 0-5, 0-3
  13. UTEP 1-5, 0-3

Middle Tennessee had a bye week. They are the most complete team in the conference and are preparing for a big showdown with WKU.

Louisiana Tech nearly ran away from WKU, but allowed the Hilltoppers to make a comeback late. What do we do with this Bulldog team? They nearly beat Middle Tennessee and held on to the win at home against WKU. They were expected to be good but have a tendency to play to their opponent — UTEP, SCST for example. That means they are ripe for an upset down the line in my eyes.

We have not seen WKU play a good game against decent competition. The offense is explosive but their defense is a huge question. Then again they’ve played some good offenses — La Tech, Bama. This week vs MTSU is huge. We will learn a lot.

Southern Miss has been heading toward this kind of loss all season. Sure, they came back against Kentucky — but they had to come back against Kentucky. They did not look amazing against UTEP, nor Rice. UTSA’s questionable offense gashed the Golden Eagle “defense” for four plays of 70+ yards. Next week LSU will destroy this team, and then a nice CUSA stretch of Marshall, Charlotte at home. That should right the ship some.

ODU won against UMASS, and has done their job against lesser foes. We just did not know they were lesser foes until ODU outclassed them. They have separated themselves from the chaff of CUSA and have a bye before travelling to Bowling Green and taking on WKU. After that the schedule lightens up and I can see a relatively good chance of an ODU-MTSU tie at the top of the division. That would be very interesting.

UTSA get the nod over our guys because they beat a top-four CUSA team. While I remain skeptical of this team’s ability to win on the road, or well-prepared teams, UTSA has taken near full advantage of other teams in the Alamodome. Arizona State played in San Antonio on a Friday night and Southern Miss had to wake up early for the 11am road game. Those are not excuses, just interesting facts. UTSA has a reeling Rice in Houston next week before hosting a bad UTEP and a rebuilding North Texas after that. If UTSA is for real, they will go 3-0 in those games. They certainly are favored to do so if only slightly.

Your North Texas Mean Green Fightin’ Eagles beat up traditional CUSA powerhouse Marshall at home. Last season in Huntington the Thundering Herd used a fake punt to shake off a game NT squad that was hanging around too long. This year NT returned the favor and Eric Keena’s audible sparked a NT run that won the game. I predicted a North Texas win here before the year because Marshall is not that good and North Texas is surprisingly (to some) stout on defense. NT gets a bye next week before a trip to New York against Army. That game has huge bowl implications for our squad. Yes, bowl implications.

Marshall were bad on the road. This continues a bad run of form all season. The Herd have no byes to break up the schedule and are facing a crisis. Some folks expected conference contention, but they do not have the explosive offense or the stout defense to compete with the class of the conference. FAU and Charlotte at home should be the salve that cures the Herd’s ills, but North Texas was supposed to be that last week. After that, Southern Miss, a surprisingly good ODU, Middle Tennessee, a rejuvenated FIU, and finally WKU. Marshall is going to take a lot of Ls this season.

FIU is 2-0 in conference after firing Ron Turner. I do not know what to make of this team considering those wins came against FAU and UTEP. I cannot see them favored by much against Charlotte, and not at all against the rest of the slate.

Charlotte gets some love because they are still transitioning and beat FAU. They still are not that good but they are not dysfunctional, which cannot be said for the teams below them. They squeaked by FAU on the road after a hurricane. That set of circumstances is probably what they will need to get any more wins the rest of the way.

Florida Atlantic is not dysfunctional. But they did lose to one of the least talented teams in the conference at home. FAU was picked as a surprise contender by more than one CUSA follower and so the fact that they are so bad is disappointing.

Rice had a bye to think about what they have not done. Not winning at home against North Texas two weeks ago after having a 17-point lead was unforgivable, even if they had the lead in OT again. The Owls scored well against Southern Miss but UTSA did that also. For all UTSA’s exploits at home, they are a completely different team on the road. But then again Rice is a short drive away and Rice Stadium is not exactly Kyle Field on Saturdays. North Texas comprised 35% of the attendance and I expect there is a good chance UTSA will bring even more than that. That should motivate the Owls even more, right?

UTEP was supposed to be good this season. After enduring an injury-plagued 2015, the silver lining was the experience the replacements got then would pay off with a deeper team now. That has not been the case. The offensive line is questionable and the offense is solely reliant on Aaron Jones to break a long run. He has, usually, but the workload is taking its toll. Wait — questionable line, talented running back: that sounds like North Texas. We may be looking at the future for the Mean Green here. You can make the argument that UTEP will turn this around as their schedule lightens. But then again FIU at home is not a huge ask and they could not manage a win there. After a week off, they travel to UTSA, then take on a good ODU. There is still hope in El Paso but not much.