1. Tulsa: 6-1 (4-0) Previously: 1
2. Central Florida: 4-2 (2-0) Previously: 2
3. East Carolina: 4-3 (3-1) Previously: 4
4. Houston: 3-3 (2-0) Previously: 5
5. Marshall: 2-4 (1-1) Previously: 6
6. Rice: 2-5 (0-3) Previously: 9
7. SMU: 2-4 (1-1) Previously: 3
8. Tulane: 1-5 (1-1) Previously: 12
9. Southern Miss: 0-6 (0-2) Previously: 11
10. UTEP: 1-6 (0-3) Previously: 8
11. Memphis: 1-5 (1-1) Previously: 7
12. UAB: 1-5 (0-2) Previously: 10
The top two teams held their ground in this week's power rankings, but that's about all that stayed the same. Every other team rose or fell, most notably SMU dropping to No. 7 after their debacle at Tulane. As each week goes by, Conference USA is looking more and more like a five team race. Tulsa and Houston appear to be separating themselves from the rest of the West, while UCF, ECU and Marshall appear to be the contenders in the East.
Speaking of Tulsa, the Golden Hurricane put on quite the second-half show Thursday night. After taking just a 6-3 lead into the break, TU laid the hammer down on UTEP with a 20-0 third quarter. Alex Singleton ran for two more scores, moving into a tie for first-place on Tulsa's all-time rushing list.
The defense played one of its strongest games of the season, forcing three turnovers and taking one of them back for a touchdown.
UTEP hung around with a strong defensive effort in the first half, but TU's talent advantage surfaced in that dominant third quarter and the Miners had no shot. At 1-6, UTEP doesn't have much to play for the rest of the season except pride. Tulsa on the other hand, has plenty to play for. The 6-1 Hurricane host Rice next week and will attempt to move to 7-1 before heading into their pre-Arkansas bye week.
Now let's take a look around the conference and see what else went down in week seven.
Bye Week: Marshall
Slowly but surely, the Houston Cougars are climbing themselves back into the Conference USA title picture. The Cougs lost a lot of talent in the offseason in addition to losing head coach Kevin Sumlin to Texas A&M. Couple that with a 0-3 start and things weren't looking good for the defending champs. But never count out a perennial winner, and that's what Houston is. Saturday's blowout-win over UAB gives the Cougars three straight and moves them to 2-0 in conference play. Up next is a Thursday night trip to face a desperate SMU team.
The Owls earned their second win of the season on Saturday, taking down previously unbeaten Texas-San Antonio from the WAC. Rice has two impressive wins on the season now, but the problem is, neither helps them in the conference race. With five conference games remaining, Rice has to win out plus get some help if they want any shot at the title. That starts Saturday when they head to Tulsa to face the Hurricane. A loss in Tulsa and the Owls' are done.
Right when the Mustangs looked like they were ready to take the next step, they suffered a terrible road loss at Tulane. They struggled most of the game, but still managed to fight back in the fourth quarter and take the lead. Then Tulane stunned everyone and marched right down for the game-winning touchdown. This loss not only comes to a bad team, but it puts the Mustangs a game behind both Houston and Tulsa in the C-USA West race. That makes this Thursday's home bout with Houston a must-win for SMU, as they can't afford to fall two games behind the Golden Hurricane.
The Green Wave earned win No. 1 on Saturday, fighting to the end to beat SMU. In what will be one of the biggest upsets in the conference this season, Tulane's Ryan Griffin threw for 300 yards and three touchdowns. This team deserves a lot of credit for continuing to play hard despite the winless record and the adversity they've had to go through, and while they might not be fighting for a postseason berth, they can play the spoiler to other teams with more performances like Saturday's.
The Knights squeaked out a tight one Saturday, beating Southern Miss in double overtime. UCF moves to 2-0 in the East and is the only school in that division without a conference loss. The Knights' remaining schedule bodes well for them hold that lead as they sit around and wait for the NCAA to rule whether they will be eligible to play in the postseason. If the NCAA doesn't rule by the end of the season, UCF will be eligible to win Conference USA and compete in a bowl game.
The Pirates truly gave Memphis "no quarter" on Saturday, stomping the Tigers 41-7. Shane Carden threw for over 300 yards and five touchdowns to lead the way and the defense held Memphis off the scoreboard until midway through the fourth quarter. If ECU wants to keep pace with UCF in the East division, next week's trip to UAB is a must-win.
The Golden Eagles just can't buy a break this season, losing in double-overtime Saturday at UCF. Although they're 0-6, it is clear that this isn't the worst team in Conference USA. The Eagles have fought the likes of ECU, Louisville and UCF to the wire, while losing to teams like Boise State, Nebraska and Western Kentucky. Things don't get much easier this week when the high-powered Thundering Herd comes to town, but there is some glimpse of optimism for Southern Miss. If they can make it past Marshall, their remaining schedule is Rice, UAB, SMU, UTEP and Memphis. Those are all very winnable games, so don't rule the Eagles out of a bowl game quite yet.
The Tigers had a big opportunity to move to 2-0 in the conference at ECU on Saturday, but instead walked the plank in epic fashion. The Pirates got ahead 41-0 and Memphis solidified itself as a pretender.
After getting blown out at Houston on Saturday, the Blazers are still looking for their first win against an FBS opponent. Similarly to Tulane, UAB won't be experiencing any postseason play this year, but can play the spoiler role. Their first opportunity to do that will come next week when they host ECU.