C-USA POWER RANKINGS: Business as usual
1. UH Cougars
The 13th-ranked Cougars remain in the driver’s seat for the C-USA West Division title, but only barely after pulling out a miraculous 46-45 come-from-behind win over Tulsa on Saturday.
A loss would have allowed SMU to move into first place and would have made it difficult for UH to return to the C-USA championship game for the first time since 2006. Now, all the Cougars have to do is win out against their three-game slate of Central Florida, Memphis and Rice to end the season and they’ll have the West title.
Quarterback Case Keenum (3,815 yards passing yards, 28 touchdowns) will continue to do his part, but the Cougars’ defense, which has surrendered an average of 44 points in the last two games, needs to improve in a major way.
2. SMU Mustangs
The Mustangs received a scare from Rice on Saturday, but managed to escape with a 31-28 win that put them one win away from bowl eligibility with three regular-season games remaining.’ In all likelihood, they’ll earn a bid to a postseason bowl.
SMU, however, still has its sights on winning the West Division, a highly attainable goal. Still, SMU doesn’t control its own destiny. The Mustangs need UH to lose a game somewhere along the way to have a shot at the West title.
3. East Carolina Pirates
East Carolina was trounced by then-No. 22 Virginia Tech, 16-3, on Thursday, so they won’t be penalized for that loss.
The Pirates are still in the driver’s seat for the East Division title, but they have a difficult closing slate.
East Carolina will hit the road this weekend to face a desperate Tulsa squad before finishing with UAB and Southern Miss. The Pirates’ final two opponents are locked in four-way tie for second place in the East Division. Those matchups will all likely have championship implications.
4. Marshall Thundering Herd
The Thundering Herd missed an opportunity to wrap up bowl eligibility in a close loss to UCF nearly two weeks ago, but has a chance to make up for that with a win against Southern Miss on Saturday.
A’ victory’ at home’ this weekend’ would bolster Marshall’s chances for regaining control of the East Division race and all but eliminate Southern Miss from contention.
5. Southern Miss Golden Eagles
The Golden Eagles will resume their season at Marshall on Saturday after taking last weekend off.
Southern Miss has dropped four of its last six games, but can stay alive in the race for the East Division title with a win Saturday. One more victory will make the Golden Eagles bowl eligible for the 16th consecutive season.
6. Central Florida Knights
As expected, the Knights were steamrolled by No. 2 Texas in a 35-3 loss on Saturday in Austin.
UCF will try to rebound against No. 13 UH this weekend in Orlando, but it won’t be easy. The Knights don’t have an explosive offense, but they’ll have to find a way to match the Cougars (42.1 points per game) score for score to have a chance at an upset.
7. UAB Blazers
Suddenly, the Blazers have newfound life with back-to-back wins. They’re tied with Marshall, Southern Miss and UCF for second place in the East Division and are two wins away from becoming bowl eligible with only three regular-season games remaining.
UAB can move one step closer to bowl eligibility by defeating Memphis on Saturday.
8. Tulsa Golden Hurricane
The Golden Hurricane is on the verge of collapsing after suffering four consecutive losses. Saturday’s 46-45 loss to No. 13 UH was the latest example of Tulsa’s strange reversal of fortunes.
Tulsa ends the regular season with games against East Carolina, Southern Miss and Memphis. It might need to win all three to reach a bowl game.
9. Tulane Green Wave
The Green Wave is mathematically not out of contention for bowl eligibility. Tulane needs to pull off a miraculous sweep of its closing slate against Rice, UCF and SMU to obtain six wins.
However, no one in their right mind would bet money on this happening.
10. UTEP Miners
The Mike Price era as head coach at UTEP should be coming to an end sometime soon.
After suffering an embarrassing 45-38 overtime loss to Tulane on Saturday, the Miners are quickly headed for their fourth consecutive season without an appearance in a postseason bowl. If that doesn’t signal that a change is needed in El Paso, nothing will.
11. Memphis Tigers
Speaking of coaching changes, the Tigers will make one at the end of this season.
Tommy West was fired Monday, but he’ll be allowed to coach the Tigers in their final three regular-season games. Memphis closes against UAB, No. 13 UH and Tulsa, so don’t expect any fireworks down the stretch from a team with only one win in its last six games.
12. Rice Owls
The Owls gave SMU a fight in Saturday’s game, but their efforts fell short – as usual. Rice’s best shot at a win will come against Tulane on Saturday. Considering how well Tulane played against UTEP last Saturday, this no longer seems like a favorable matchup for the Owls.