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Monday, September 27, 2021



1. UH Cougars

The Cougars may not have beat Southern Miss as thoroughly as some had hoped, but the bottom line is that they won. It’s hard to gauge how tough of an opponent Tulsa will be this weekend, given the inconsistency of the Golden Hurricane.

Tulsa was expected to be a contender for the C-USA West title, but has already lost to UTEP and SMU, leaving it in desperate need of help to make the title game. The other side of the coin is Tulsa’s ability to hang with talented programs such as Boise State, which narrowly escaped Oklahoma with a 28-21 victory less than a month ago.

This weekend will give both UH and Tulsa better ideas of whom they really are.

2. East Carolina Pirates

The Pirates did exactly what good teams are supposed to do ‘- beat the snot out of bad teams ‘- in a 38-19 victory over Memphis. ECU racked up a staggering 275 yards on the ground, and receiver Darryl Freeney caught five passes for a career-high 116 yards.

The schedule gets a bit tougher as Virginia Tech comes calling for a prime-time nationally televised game Thursday. If the Pirates knock off the Hokies and UH loses, they will jump the Cougars for the top spot.

3. SMU Mustangs

Two more wins. That’s all the Mustangs need to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2006, and they have four remaining regular-season games to work with. Given that only one of their four remaining opponents (Rice, UTEP, Marshall and Tulane) has a winning record, the prospects couldn’t look any more promising for the Mustangs.

Plus, SMU still has a strong shot at winning the West Division. The Mustangs are tied with UH for first place, but they relinquished the tiebreaker with a 38-15 loss to the Cougars on Oct. 24.

4. Central Florida Knights

The Knights find themselves this high even though they needed a last minute drive to defeat Marshall in Orlando last Sunday. Should they find themselves in a similar position against this week’s opponent (Texas), they shouldn’t expect the same result. UCF has to travel to Austin for the matchup, so things could quickly get ugly.

In other words, don’t bet your life savings on UCF.

5. Marshall Thundering Herd

The Thundering Herd is probably still kicking itself after Sunday’s mind-boggling 21-20 loss to Central Florida. Marshall led 20-7 heading into the fourth quarter, but was outscored 14-0 the rest of the way. A win would have made Marshall bowl eligible and kept it in a tie with East Carolina for first place in the East.’ The Thundering Herd’ will have to steal at least one win from Southern Miss, SMU or UTEP to make the postseason.

6. Southern Miss Golden Eagles

The Golden Eagles gave the Cougars everything they had and then some, as UH needed a touchdown with 21 seconds left to escape with a win Saturday. Southern Miss will have an extra week off before it travels to Marshall for a Nov. 14 date with the Thundering Herd, who will certainly be chomping at the bit to get a win after falling apart against UCF.

7. UTEP Miners

The Miners might be the most underachieving team in the league. Saturday’s 38-33 loss to UAB was an embarrassment, considering UTEP outgained the Blazers 607-375 in total yards. The Miners could have moved closer to bowl eligibility and remained in first place in the West with a win. Instead, the Miners may now be headed for their fourth consecutive season without a bowl appearance.

8. Tulsa Golden Hurricane

The Golden Hurricane’s once-explosive offense seems to have lost its luster. Tulsa has dropped three consecutive games and is falling fast out of contention for the West title. The Golden Hurricane will have to win two games over a four-game stretch that includes No. 13 UH, Southern Miss, East Carolina and Memphis to reach the postseason. Good luck.

9. UAB Blazers

As bad as the Blazers have been this season, they remain in the thick of the East Division race. At 3-2 in C-USA, UAB is tied with UCF, Marshall and Southern Miss for second place in the East. The Blazers won’t have an easy time of competing with the powers that be, but they still have faint hope for reaching a bowl game this season.

10. Memphis Tigers

The time is running out on Tommy West’s future as Memphis’ head coach. The Tigers have lost two consecutive games and four of their last five, and they’ll surely run their losing streak to three games against Tennessee on Saturday. It’s a pitiful state of affairs at Memphis these days. This mess will all be over four games from now.

11. Tulane Green Wave

There’s not a lot to be said when a team gets beat 42-0, but to Tulane’s defense, the loss was against LSU. Regardless, the Green Wave is simply bad and, at this point, even a win over UTEP this weekend wouldn’t be enough to warrant an ascension up the C-USA power rankings. At least football fans in the Crescent City have the Saints to look forward to.

12. Rice Owls

At this point, the Owls aren’t even playing for pride ‘- that is a lost cause. To their credit, they finally didn’t lose Saturday. They also didn’t play this past weekend, but why let technicalities get in the way of a good story?

This week, Rice travels to Dallas for a matchup with SMU and its newfound aerial attack, so expect more of the same from the Owls. At least there’s always next year.

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