Tulsa reached the mid point of their season already set to receive some high remarks, but they took the time to sneak in some extra credit Thursday night with a Conference USA win over UTEP. As it stands right now, Tulsa is off to a head start in the Conference USA West Division race and it will be difficult for anyone to catch them.
Here is a look at Conference USA teams at the midpoint of their respective seasons.
Record: 3-3, 2-1 Conference USA
An up-and-down season for East Carolina has netted them a .500 record entering the second half of the year. Wins have come against weak opponents such as a struggling Southern Miss program in transition and a UTEP team with just one win thus far. Against tougher competition East Carolina has come up way short, against South Carolina, North Carolina and Central Florida. The problem has been scoring points, averaging just 20.5 points per game, with a season high of 35 points coming in week one against FCS Appalachian State. A woeful running game averaging just 110.8 yards per game ranks 108th in the nation. If there is a bright spot, it may be that East Carolina is the most disciplined team in Conference USA, ranking first with just 38.0 penalty yards on 3.7 penalties per game.
The postseason does appear to be in the fold for the Pirates with a very favorable second half schedule ahead of them. No teams with a winning record remain on the schedule for East Carolina, who can make up ground and make a push for a spot in the Conference USA Championship game, but they must hope for some help having already lost to Central Florida.
Record: 2-4, 1-1 Conference USA
If Marshall had any sort of defense then the Thundering Herd would be a legitimate Conference USA threat. Instead Marshall is allowing opponents to score an average of 44.5 points per game, the worst in the nation. The good news is they have an offense capable of keeping up most of the time, scoring an average of 40.5 points per game with the nation’s third top passing offense. Sophomore quarterback Rakeem Cato has already passed for 2,311 yards (more passing yards than any other FBS program entering the week alone) and 18 touchdowns to surpass his freshman numbers. He is still prone to mistakes though. Against Purdue he tossed three interceptions and Marshall lost 51-41.
The postseason is still within sight but there is little room for error in the second half. A home game against Central Florida and a regular season finale at East Carolina could be the swing games determining whether or not the Herd go bowling.
Record: 1-5, 0-3 Conference USA
It is another long season for the Rice Owls, who to this point have won just one game but have lost a couple of close calls. Senior and former Michigan Wolverine running back Sam McGuffie leads the Owls in receiving with 316 yards and five touchdowns. Dual-threat quarterback Taylor McHargue, who leads the team in rushing with 365 yards and five touchdowns on the ground, has led the ground game. McHargue has also passed for seven touchdowns and thrown just two interceptions.
The problem for Rice is on defense, allowing opponents to score 38.7 points per game and allowing 49 points or more three times this season. The running defense for Rice ranks 123rd in the country, giving up an average of 269.3 yards per game on the ground.
Record: 6-1, 4-0 Conference USA
Tulsa snuck in one more game before we handed out Conference USA mid-term evaluations but their Thursday night victory over UTEP stayed true to form this season. Using a strong running game (tenth in the nation) to fuel a high-scoring offense (14th in the nation, averaging 41.1 points per game), the Golden Hurricane has put together a six-game winning streak since losing the season opener at Iowa State. Now Tulsa is in firm control of the Conference USA West Division with a 4-0 conference mark before anyone else in the division has won two. The division is clearly theirs to lose at this point, but the second half of the season should be interesting.
A road game at Arkansas on November 3 all of a sudden appears much more manageable than it may have in the beginning of the season, and a late season home contest against Central Florida could be a Conference USA Championship Game preview.
Record: 1-6, 0-3 Conference USA
UTEP had one last chance to prove something before these evaluations went out, but they were unable to do anything against Tulsa Thursday night. One of the nation’s least-productive offenses scores just 16.1 points per game, and when the defense allows nearly 12 more points per game, wins are always going to be hard to come by. Such has been the case for the Miners, losers of six games decided by double-digits, three of which were by 17 points or more. The bright spot for the Miners may be sophomore wide receiver Jordan Leslie, who broke out with 218 receiving yards against Tulsa Thursday night. With the loss Thursday night it appears as though UTEP is heading to another bowl-less season, now one loss away from not being eligible.
Next week we will focus our mid-term evaluations on Central Florida, Memphis, UAB, Southern Miss, Houston, SMU, and Tulane. Each will play their sixth game of the season this weekend.
Kevin is a national college football writer for quadrust.com and the host of the No 2-Minute Warning podcast. Submit your mailbag questions via Tumblr. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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