What Did We Learn From Our First Week of Conference USA Football?

I might argue that Conference USA was the conference that we learned the least about in the opening week of action. It’s hard to have a lot of takeaways when you go into a game knowing that it’s a lopsided matchup and then it plays out exactly as such. But let’s poke around anyways.

A lot of games went according to plan…

UTSA, Middle Tennessee, Western Kentucky, FAU and FIU got dominated by Arizona State, Vanderbilt, Wisconsin and Indiana respectively.

FIU put up more points than I anticipated, and the Blue Raiders and Owls did a lot less on offense than I had hoped for, but all the games turned out as per plan.

On the flip side, Southern Miss and UAB pounded Jackson State and Savannah State, while Charlotte took a while to get rolling but handled their business against Fordham

…but not every game did

Anybody in the office pool here have Old Dominion getting absolutely waxed by Liberty to a 52-10 final score? I sure as hell didn’t.

This one was weird throughout. Liberty had two touchdowns before ODU even got a first down, despite the Monarchs going for a fourth down conversion from their own 30 on the opening drive.

Despite that and two missed field goals, ODU only trailed 14-10 at halftime. Surely they’ll get their wits about them and rally, right?

Nope.

Starting at the 3:16 mark of the third quarter, the Flames ran 19 offensive plays and gained a whopping 280 yards, while Old Dominion didn’t get inside Liberty’s 35-yard line again.

Steven Williams continues to look really young, and the $1.4 million paycheck for this game doesn’t make the sting of such a lopsided loss much better.

They still played better than UTEP, who closed out the first half against Northern Arizona with 158 yards on 15 plays to cut the score to 17-10 NAU… and then managed two first downs, an interception and got sacked five times in the second half.

Marshall raced out to a 21-point lead against Miami (OH) after a lightning delay, and then held on for dear life for a one-score win.

North Texas, meanwhile, got outscored 23-10 in the fourth quarter but still won 46-23 because their offense is going to be that freaking good this year.

So instead, let’s talk about Rice for a minute.

Do we have any clue what this team is?

In their first game against Prairie View A&M they blew a 16-point lead then had to come from behind in order to win 31-28 on a last-second field goal.

Then yesterday they play at home again versus Houston, and the Cougars closed the game on a 28-0 scoring run but only won by 18 points because Rice didn’t trail by more than a touchdown until two minutes into the fourth quarter.

Is Houston this bad? Is Prairie View A&M this good? What of the Owls?

  • Shawn Stankavage vs PVAMU: 7-for-15 for 43 yards
  • Shawn Stankavage vs Houston: 20-for-31 for 204 yards, 3 TD and 1 INT
  • Emmanuel Esukpa vs PVAMU: 32 carries for 173 yards and 1 TD
  • Emmanuel Esukpa vs Houston: 17 carries for 81 yards

Can Rice have a decent year if Stankavage is *actually* a “14-for-23 for 125 yards, a TD and a pick” kind of guy? Or if Esukpa is *actually* a “25 carries for 125 yards and maybe a score” kind of guy? Absolutely not, but all three versions of them (Game 1, Game 2, and the average) are equally likely at this point.

What to look for next week

Some cross-conference “challenge” type action, which is always at least something different and interesting.

Southern Miss, Charlotte and UAB will all face off against Sun Belt foes (ULM, App State and Coastal Carolina) while FAU, UTEP and Rice will face off against Mountain West opponents.

Charlotte and UTEP will struggle a lot more than Rice, but all three are likely to lose. The other half (FAU, UAB and USM) should fare much better and I would anticipate three wins.

We also get our first conference game between FIU and Old Dominion, which should hopefully be more entertaning football for the Monarchs fans.

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