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Chuck Landon: Analyzing C-USA teams

Oct. 01, 2013 @ 12:24 AM

How is Conference USA football shaping up?

That’s a timely question considering league play begins in earnest this weekend.

So, let’s take a look.

As usual, C-USA is long on offense and short on defense. During the predominantly non-conference portions of their schedules, members have posted such scoring outputs as 52, 52, 55, 52 and 55 points.

The problem is the notoriously weak defenses in C-USA are, perhaps, even worse than usual. So far during the 2013 season, member schools have allowed such torrential totals as 72, 60, 59, 59, 56 (three times), 52 (three times) and 51 points.

Basically, only two C-USA teams are playing well on defense – Marshall and Tulane. That’s why the Herd, 2-2, and Green Wave, 3-2, are early favorites for bowl bids.

Here’s a team-by-team look at Conference USA.

n Tulsa – This was supposed to be the best team in the league. Instead, Tulsa isn’t even the best in a suddenly very ordinary West Division. What happened? The Golden Hurricane lost several starting offensive linemen to graduation and can’t run the ball anymore.

That exposed the fact Tulsa quarterback Cody Green can’t beat anyone with his arm. In Tulsa’s most recent loss – 38-21 to Iowa State – Green committed three fumbles and tossed an interception. Tulsa is 1-3.

n Rice – The Owls are the favorite in the West, by default. Rice is 2-2 despite struggling to beat FAU, 18-14, last week.

n Tulane – The Green Wave is winning with a running game and defense. Orleans Darkwa, who rushed for 118 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries during a 31-14 win over UL-Monroe last week, has established himself as the best running back in C-USA.

Quarterback Nick Montana never will be confused with his daddy, Joe, but he is managing games. As for the defense, it held ULM to 26 yards rushing and forced five turnovers.

n UTSA – The Roadrunners are 2-3 coming into a road game against Marshall at 2 p.m., Saturday, in Edwards Stadium. Eric Soza is one of the best quarterbacks in the league and leads a talented, well-coached offense that is scoring points on everybody. But UTSA’s weak defense is keeping the Roadrunners from being more of a factor.

n North Texas – The Mean Green is an early surprise with a 2-2 record. We’ll know more after a key game at Tulane on Saturday.

n Louisiana Tech – Coach Skip Holtz’ lack of success at South Florida appears to have followed him to Ruston, La. The struggling Bulldogs are 1-4.

n UTEP – New coach, same results. The Miners are 1-3.

n Middle Tennessee – The Blue Raiders haven’t lived up to some rather lofty expectations. MTSU, 3-2, was mauled by BYU and pushed to overtime by FAU.

n Florida Atlantic – The Owls are better than their 1-4 record.

n FIU – The Golden Panthers are worse than their 0-4 record. Much worse.

n UAB – Same ol’ Blazers. Score a lot, but give up a lot more. That’s why they are 1-3.

n Southern Miss – The Eagles are 0-4 and have lost 16 consecutive games. Wonder if the fickle USM fans remember the good ol’ days with Jeff Bower?

n East Carolina – The Pirates, 3-1, just laid an impressive 55-31 road whipping on North Carolina. They don’t play much defense, but have impressive playmakers on offense.

Conclusion?

Marshall’s home game against East Carolina on Nov. 29 should decide both the East Division and C-USA titles.

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at clandon@herald-dispatch.com.

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