Conference USA Rundown & Power Rankings: Week 13
1. Tulsa: 9-3 (7-1) Prev: 1
2. UCF: 9-3 (7-1) Prev: 2
3. ECU: 8-4 (7-1) Prev: 3
4. SMU: 6-6 (5-3) Prev: 6
5. Rice: 6-6 (4-4) Prev: 5
6. Marshall: 5-7 (4-4) Prev: 4
7. Houston: 5-7 (4-4) Prev: 7
8. Memphis: 4-8 (4-4) Prev: 9
9. UTEP: 3-9 (2-6) Prev: 8
10. UAB: 3-9 (2-6) Prev: 10
11. Tulane: 2-10 (2-6) Prev: 11
12. Southern Miss: 0-12 (0-8) Prev: 12
There you have it. This is the final edition of the power rankings for the 2012 regular season. We'll have one more edition after the bowl games that will also preview the incoming teams to the conference.
Despite Tulsa's loss at SMU, the Hurricane kept the No. 1 spot because, well, that's what you get when you wrap up home field for the title game a week early. The Golden Hurricane played its worst first half of football in its two seasons under Bill Blankenship, but rebounded with a ferocious fourth quarter to nearly win, once again proving that this team has zero quit.
SMU jumped to the top of the second-tier squads this week because of the magnitude of its win. The other risers are Rice and Memphis, while Marshall and UTEP fell.
You're well-versed on the TU/SMU game, but here's a quick glance at what else happened around the conference in week 13, including who earned bowl bids and who fell apart.
What an impressive second half of the season for Rice. This team appeared to hit rock bottom in early October, falling to 1-5 after a 14-10 loss to Memphis, but the Owls had no quit. Rice finished the season winning five of its final six, including Saturday's 33-24 road contest over UTEP. The Owls now enter the bowl mix and will wait to find out their destination early next week.
An extremely disappointing season at least ended on a high note Saturday for Houston. The Cougars defeated lowly Tulane to finish their final season in Conference USA 5-7. It's an underwhelming end for one of the conference's top programs.
Mike Price's final game as coach of the Miners was a lot like all the rest: depressing. The loss to Rice was the final game of UTEP's seventh straight losing season, but not one of them has been this bad. 2012 is the first time in that stretch the Miners have failed to win at least four games. Changes must be made in El Paso.
The Wave crashed again Saturday, committing six turnovers in its 40-17 loss to Houston. 2012 is Tulane's 10th consecutive losing season, four of which the Wave didn't win more than two games. Perhaps the conference shakeup will provide some new life to this program, but I doubt it.
Saturday's blowout of UAB secured the Knights a spot in the C-USA title game next Saturday. UCF is another team departing for the sinking ship that is the Big East conference, and nothing would suit George O'Leary's squad more than leaving with a championship. There will be much more throughout the week about the Knights, so for now we'll move on.
Saturday's double-overtime shootout win over Marshall not only provided great joy to the Pirate faithful, it put an abrupt end to the Thundering Herd's season. ECU held on 65-59 in a game with over 1,200 yards of offense and 103 total pass attempts. 2012 won't end with a C-USA championship for the Pirates, but it's still been a pretty good year in Greenville. A 7-1 conference record is always impressive, and a chance to reach the nine-win plateau for the first time since 2009 will keep Ruffin McNeill's squad motivated for its bowl game.
The Herd was four seconds away from a bowl game, but ECU quarterback Shane Carden found Danny Webster in the end zone to force overtime. The Pirates eventually prevailed, leaving Marshall out of the bowl party. Four of the Herd's seven losses are by seven points or fewer, which makes missing out on the postseason even tougher to swallow. The bright spot? Marshall finished No. 1 in the country in passing yards per game with 365.
Memphis' 42-24 win over Southern Miss earned the Tigers their fourth win of the season and gives them a .500 conference record for the first time since 2008. If you think this season wasn't an improvement for the Tigers, think about this: This year's win total (4) is only one fewer than Memphis had the past three seasons combined (5).
Well the Blazers almost didn't get doubled up Saturday, but then they did. UCF jumped all over them to secure its spot in the conference title game, while UAB wrapped up its eighth straight losing season.
I'm not sure what else to say. After Saturday's loss to Memphis, the Eagles are now in a many-way tie for worst team in FBS history. Southern Miss already became the new NCAA record holder for biggest single-season win drop-off in history last week. (From last season's 12-2 to this season's 0-12, the Eagles broke Ball State's win drop-off record of 10.) In all seriousness, this is a proud football program and there is literally nowhere to go but up.