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Chuck Landon: MU makes no hay on down days of C-USA

Oct. 11, 2012 @ 12:14 AM

There has been a lot of shoulder shrugging in Conference USA's home office this football season.

"It's just one of those years," reads the official league alibi.

C-USA certainly better hope so because the league has been somewhere south of mediocre during the first half of the 2012 season.

That smell coming from Dallas?

It's not from an oil spill.

Instead, it's from a major college football conference which features only two winning records among its 12 members.

Just two.

Mull that over.

Tulsa is 5-1 to lead the West Division and UCF is 3-2 to top the East. Otherwise? Well, East Carolina is at .500 with a 3-3 record, but the other nine members all have losing records.

Remember when I began insisting last spring that this would be the weakest Conference USA has been in football since Marshall joined the league in 2005?

Well, the prediction came true.

Did it ever.

SMU is 2-3 after losing to Baylor, Texas A&M and TCU. Houston is 2-3, but fired its offensive coordinator after an opening-season loss to Football Championship Subdivision opponent Texas State. Then, Marshall rounds out the two-win teams with a 2-4 mark.

Four C-USA have one win. The list includes Memphis at 1-4, whose lone victory is over now hapless Rice. Then there's UAB at 1-4, but the Blazers are showing signs of life after scoring 42 and 51 points in their last two games.

UTEP is 1-5 and coach Mike Price officially is on the hot seat since the usually offensive-minded Miners have been awful on that side of the ball. Finally, there's Rice, which wasn't bad until starting quarterback Taylor McHargue got injured against Marshall. It's been all downhill since then to a 1-5 record.

Bringing up the rear are Southern Miss and Tulane at a horrid 0-5.

First-time head coach Ellis Johnson isn't having much fun in Hattiesburg, Miss., where the Southern Miss fan base is accustomed to nothing but success. So far, the Golden Eagles haven't even been competitive, in part because they're down to their third-string quarterback, who is a true freshman.

As for Tulane, the Green Wave has scored only 45 points in five games and is simply the worst football team among the 120 FBS programs.

That's how weak C-USA is this season.

Which makes Marshall's 2-4 record even more unacceptable. This was the season the Herd could have enjoyed unparalleled success in C-USA. It was the perfect opportunity.

But, so far, Marshall hasn't made the most of it.

And it isn't going to get any easier when UCF, Memphis, Houston and SMU leave and are replaced by Louisiana Tech, Florida International, UT-San Antonio and North Texas next season.

La. Tech is ranked No. 23 in the top 25 poll with a 5-0 record, heading into a game against No. 22 Texas A&M Saturday. And guess who will be playing the Bulldogs next season? Marshall.

Since Old Dominion and Charlotte aren't ready to join C-USA yet, La. Tech will compete in the East Division next season. And the Bulldogs will be the team to beat.

Meanwhile, UTSA also is causing a stir with a 5-0 record. The Roadrunners under coach Larry Coker play Rice on Saturday in Houston.

The other two new additions are struggling. FIU is 1-5 with its only win coming over Akron, 41-38. North Texas is 2-4 with losses to LSU, Kansas State, Troy and Houston.

So, although the future isn't now in C-USA, it might be looking up in 2013.

Chuck Landon is a columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Call him at 304-526-2827 or email him at clandon@herald-dispatch.com.

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