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Thursday, November 30, 2023


C-USA POWER RANKINGS: Cougars outranked

1. East Carolina Pirates

East Carolina showed its might by crushing Tulsa, 44-17, on Sunday night to claim its third win in the last four games.

The Pirates are in the driver’s seat to repeat as C-USA East Division champions and only need to win their last two games. But their closing slate won’t be easy.

East Carolina closes the season at home against UAB and Southern Miss, teams that are very much alive in the race for the East title. A loss in either game could make it extremely difficult for East Carolina to win the East Division.

Plus, the Pirates are fighting for the right to host the title game, should’ they win the East. Therefore,’ East Carolina’ shouldn’t expect to have anything handed to it.

2. SMU Mustangs

The Mustangs survived a shootout against UTEP to win their third straight game and become bowl eligible for the first time since 2006. SMU also moved into sole possession of first place in the West Division with UH’s loss to Central Florida.

The Mustangs face a tough matchup at Marshall on Saturday before ending the regular season against Tulane. A sweep of the slate will give SMU its first West Division title and an appearance in the C-USA title game.

The odds appear to be in the Mustangs’ favor.

3. UH Cougars

The Cougars have lived on the edge for much of the season, but they hurtled over the cliff again in Saturday’s 37-32 loss to Central Florida.

UH fell from No. 13 to 24th in the Associated Press Top 25, but that ranking doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.

The Cougars trail SMU by one game in West Division and will miss out on the C-USA title game if the Mustangs run the table. Plus, it probably doesn’t sit well with head coach Kevin Sumlin that his defense worsens with each game.

4. Central Florida Knights

The Knights produced their biggest win of the season by upsetting then-No. 13 UH on Saturday in Orlando, Fla. The win made Central Florida bowl eligible and kept it alive in the race for the East Division title.

The Knights have games remaining against Tulane and UAB, but they’ll need to win both contests and receive some help to claim the East Division crown.

5. Southern Miss Golden Eagles

Southern Miss defeated Marshall, 27-20, Saturday to remain one game behind East Carolina for the top spot in the East Division.

The Golden Eagles, who have won three of their last four games, face Tulsa this weekend before ending the season against East Carolina. If Southern Miss defeats Tulsa, its matchup against East Carolina could decide the East Division race.

6. UAB Blazers

With three consecutive wins, the Blazers are in a position to become bowl eligible and contend for the East Division title with two regular-season games remaining.

UAB finishes the season against East Carolina on the road and at home against Central Florida. If the Blazers miraculously sweep that slate, they’ll win the East Division and face the West champion in the C-USA title game.

7. Marshall Thundering Herd

Marshall fans are growing restless. The Thundering Herd have been stuck at five wins for the last two weeks and are still waiting for the all-important sixth win.

However, Marshall dropped contests against Central Florida and Southern Miss to fall from 5-3 and in the running for the East Division title to 5-5, so they are fighting to become bowl eligible.

Marshall closes the regular season against SMU and UTEP. They need a win in at least one of those games.

8. Tulsa Golden Hurricane

Tulsa’s promising 4-1 start seems like ages ago. The Golden Hurricane has lost five games in a row, the last being Sunday’s 44-17 setback to East Carolina, and is in danger of not receiving a bowl bid after advancing to the C-USA Championship game in three of the last four seasons.

To make a bowl, Tulsa has to win both of its remaining games against Southern Miss and Memphis. This task will be far from easy.

9. Tulane Green Wave

College football pundits predicted all season that Tulane would provide the best chance for Rice to break its winless streak, and the Green Wave did not disappoint.

Tulane has dropped five of its last six contests and will probably add to that loss total with games remaining against Central Florida and SMU. Both matchups are on the road, and both are likely losses.

10. UTEP Miners

The Miners will again be watching the college football postseason from the comfort of their living room sofas.

A’ 35-31 loss to SMU on Saturday officially eliminated UTEP from bowl contention and increased the likelihood that head coach Mike Price will be fired after this season. This program has become too stagnant, and it’s time for athletic officials to make wholesale changes, starting at the top with Price.

11. Memphis Tigers

The Tigers remain in the business of losing. They fell to UAB, 31-21, on Saturday for their fourth consecutive loss and sixth in the last seven games.

Memphis ends the season against No. 24 UH and Tulsa, both of which’ are on the road. Don’t expect the Tigers to put up much of a fight against either team.

12. Rice Owls

Apparently Rice still knows a thing or two about playing football. The Owls pulled out a nail-biter against Tulane on Saturday to avoid the program’s first 0-10 start since 1988.

The good times might continue this weekend against UTEP (3-7), which has lost three consecutive games and four out of its last five. With a little luck, the Owls might win back-to-back games this year.

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