Friday night lights in the Lone Star state leads off week three of C-USA Football, with a pair of challenging non-conference games in league stadiums. Old Southwest Conference rivals Baylor and Rice renew their rivalry in the Owls home opener, along with Arizona State and UTSA meeting for the first time in San Antonio.
Baylor at Rice
This will be Rice’s home opener and the Owls must find a way to get its offense going. That will not be easy against a Baylor defense that has allowed just 20 total points in its first two games (12th nationally). Tyler Stehling has been steady, averaging just under 200 yards passing in the first two games, but a deep and experienced running game has yet to find a rhythm.
UTSA at Arizona State
UTSA will be going up against Arizona State junior RB Kalen Ballage, who tied an FBS record with eight total touchdowns (7 rushing/1 receiving) in last week’s win over Texas Tech, scoring the eight on his first 13 touches. The Roadrunners defense has been solid this season, ranking fifth in the league in total defense and surrendering just 163 total yards in the second half of the first two games. UTSA has allowed just seven third-down conversions in 29 attempts (24.1 percent) 10 of 26 opponent drives (38.5 percent) have resulted in three-and-outs.
Akron at Marshall
The Thundering Herd opened its season in impressive fashion last week with a 62-0 thrashing of Morgan State. Sophomore QB Chase Litton currently has an astonishing 367.23 passer rating (tops nationally) after completing 13-of-16 passes for 309 yards and six touchdowns.
He threw TDs on five consecutive passes against Morgan State, compiling a 5-for-6 for 189 yards and five TDs stat line during that stretch.
Middle Tennessee at Bowling Green
After setting a new Middle Tennessee single-game record with 14 receptions last week, Richie James is second in the FBS with 22 catches on the season, totaling 256 yards (eighth in the country). Dating back to last season, James has 75 receptions over his last eight games combined. Bowling Green has a talented receiver of its own in Scott Miller, who set career highs with five catches for 161 yards and three touchdowns in the Falcons’ win over North Dakota last week.
WKU at Miami (Ohio)
While skill position players usually get the notoriety, WKU’s high-powered offense features one of the nation’s top offensive linemen in senior LT Forrest Lamp. Against No. 1 Alabama’s vaunted defensive front last Saturday, Lamp had 40 pass block situations and “won” on 39 of those without surrendering a sack and just one quarterback hit. Lamp has not allowed a sack over the past two seasons, grading out as one of the nation’s top offensive tackles by Pro Football Focus.
Eastern Michigan at Charlotte
Coming off an impressive 47-14 victory over Elon, Charlotte is back at home for its first-ever matchup with a Mid-American Conference team when Eastern Michigan comes to the Queen City. Senior WR Austin Duke continues to build on the program receiving records he has set, posting his 10th career 100+-yard game (103 on four catches) and going over the 200 mark in career receptions.
FAU at Kansas State
Running back Greg “Buddy” Howell is off to a strong start for FAU, averaging 101 yards per game on the ground with three touchdowns, while receiver Kaleb Woods is coming off a career-best game of nine receptions for 121 yards at No. 25 Miami. This will be Kansas State’s first game since Sept. 2, when it opened with a 26-13 loss at No. 7 Stanford.
Louisiana Tech at Texas Tech
Bulldogs receiver Trent Taylor is the reigning C-USA Offensive Player of the Week after hauling in 11 receptions for a career-high 178 yards and three TDs against South Carolina State. Taylor has led the team in receiving yards in nine of the last 14 games and has a reception in 29 consecutive games, dating back to the 2014 season. Texas Tech enters Saturday’s contest having scored at least 50 points in each of its last seven home games and QB Patrick Mahomes leads the nation in passing yards with 1,023 through two games.
Army at UTEP
Army is off to its first 2-0 start since 1996 as it meets the Miners for the first time. With 372 rushing yards in the first two games of the season, UTEP running back Aaron Jones is ranked second in the FBS in rushing at 186.0 yards per game. He has a pair of 100-yard QUARTERS this season and has scored three touchdowns.
Troy at Southern Miss
The Golden Eagles are 2-0 for the first time since 2009 as it hosts a Troy team that nearly won at No. 2 Clemson last Saturday. Ito Smith and George Payne have each rushed for 100-plus yards in the first two games this season, marking the first time Southern Miss has had a duo accomplish that feat since 2008.
Old Dominion at NC State
This is the third straight season that the Monarchs will face NC State. Linebacker Anthony Wilson earned C-USA Defensive Player of the Week honors after registering a career-high 11 tackles and setting an ODU single-game record with three sacks, the first three sacks of his career. Included were sacks on back-to-back plays. Wilson leads Conference USA with five tackles for loss on the season.
North Texas at Florida
Fresh off its first win under first-year head coach Seth Littrell, North Texas will visit No. 23 Florida. Running back Willy Ivery set new career-highs for attempts (13) and rushing yards (103) last week and scored a touchdown. True freshman Mason Fine made his first start at quarterback for the Mean Green and led them to a 41-20 win.