Conference USA

Week Three: What We Learned

Conference USA has to step up its game against non-conference opponents.

By Jeremy St. Louis (@jrstlouis

With three weeks of the college football season now assigned to history, here's one thing we know for certain: preseason polls don't mean diddly-squat. I'd love to expand on this but I think we're going to save that one for the Saturday pregame show. And really, you don't want to read my thoughts on it, do you? I'd rather hear from Donovan, Ki-Jana and O.J., so I'm assuming you would as well. Ok, onto what we're really here for - what we learned this week...

1. Nick Mullens will not win an award outside of C-USA

Going into the season, the Southern Miss. QB was put on seven award watch lists - including the Maxwell award for College Player of the Year. Three games in, Mullens has yet to show he belongs on any awards list outside the Conference. Against Troy on Saturday, Mullens didn't even hit 50% of his passes and threw his 5th & 6th INTs of the season (1st in C-USA & T1st in FBS in that category).

Granted, he has thrown the 2nd most passes but Saturday he was making poor reads and throwing short. Donovan McNabb said in the pregame that Troy could be his coming out party. Instead, he was left questioning Mullens' hand size and arm strength after the 37-31 loss.

2. Marshall will be 1-3 by the time Conference play begins

After Chase Litton put on a show last week on beIN SPORTS, the Thundering Herd were massacred at home by Akron (MAC) in week 3 to the tune of 65-38. It was just the 2nd loss at home in 23 games and with #3 ranked Louisville coming to the Joan this week, this could get ugly.  Like, REAL ugly. Lamar Jackson & the Cardinals dropped 63 pts on #2 ranked FSU last week and for Herd fans, they're just hoping they can keep it close. The Cardinals become the highest ranked team to visit the Joan since #3 West Virginia in 2007. After that game, then it's a trip to Pittsburgh before a trip to Denton to kick-off Conference play. In fact, the Pitt game will be a must-win if Marshall want to secure a 4th straight double-digit win season.

 

3. LA Tech are a team on the rise 

They may be 1-2 but Skip Holtz has a team to watch with legit stars at QB, RB & WR. They couldn't take down Texas Tech (Big 12) last week but managed 45 pts in Lubbock and will give every C-USA team a run for their money - starting next week with Middle Tennessee. The big issue for the Bulldogs is their defense. On Saturday, they gave up 5TDs in a row to the Red Raiders and even Holtz called them a 'joke' after the game. If they can get that sorted out, look out. The game against MTSU will be a good measuring stick for them - and for us.

 

4.  The Florida teams are not good 

Hopes were high going into the season that both FIU & FAU would be improved this season and once again make excursions to Florida very difficult for visiting teams. So far at least, it doesn't look like that's the case and the hardest part about the trip for visitors may be deciding what beaches to hit up. There are some standout players on both teams but as of yet, neither side seems to be able to put together the consistency needed to win regularly. FAU let Kansas score 63 last week - including 56 straight - in that blowout. FIU kept it respectable versus UMass - but have now lost six of their last seven going back to last season. They play each other in two weeks in the annual 'Shula Bowl' (on beIN SPORTS) and it could be a 6-3 game. Seriously.

 

5. Conference USA needs a non-conference win

It's my first season covering C-USA but if there is one thing I have learned, it's that they are a legit 'little engine that could' group of teams. By that I mean they have belief that they can hang with the big boys - and some of them certainly can given the right circumstances - but so far, they haven't. And it hasn't even been close. Last week alone the conference was out-scored 544-272 overall, or exactly 2:1. There are still a few good non-conference opponents left they can upset (Louisville, Temple, Pittsburgh, LSU) and many of us who cover the league are certainly hoping they can do just that. The Conference needs it.

This week's beIN SPORTS College Football 'Game of the Week' features winless FIU (0-3) welcoming Central Florida (1-2). The pregame show with Jeremy St.Louis, Donovan McNabb, Ki-Jana Carter and O.J. McDuffie is underway at 6:30p ET. The game will follow at 7pm ET with Matt Martucci & Brett Romberg in the booth and Jordan Daigle on the sidelines.


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