The Tulsa Golden Hurricane escaped Birmingham with a win Saturday, although it wasn't pretty or easy. In yet another game full of silly mistakes, the Hurricane dug deep and made enough plays in the clutch to win. Alex Singleton continued his assault on the end zone Saturday, scoring three times to increase his season touchdown total to eight in just five games. With 27 career scores, Singleton is just four rushing touchdowns away from moving into the top 10 in Conference USA history.
With the win, TU improves to 2-0 in C-USA play and UAB drops to 0-1. Tulsa will take on Marshall next week while the Blazers host Southeastern Louisiana of the FCS as they attempt to with their first game of 2012.
Here's week five's C-USA Power Rankings along with a quick rundown of how TU's competition fared this week.
1. Tulsa: 4-1 (2-0)
2. East Carolina: 3-2 (2-0)
3. Central Florida: 2-2 (0-0)
4. Marshall: 2-3 (1-0)
5. SMU: 1-3 (0-0)
6. Houston: 1-3 (1-0)
7. UTEP: 1-4 (0-1)
8. Rice: 1-4 (0-2)
9. Southern Miss: 0-4 (0-1)
10. UAB: 0-4 (0-1)
11. Memphis: 0-4 (0-0)
12. Tulane: 0-4 (0-1)
Bye Week: Memphis
The Pirates joined Tulsa in the two-conference-win club on Saturday, handling UTEP at home 28-18. This ECU team isn't nearly as explosive as some of their past teams have been, but this club is solid all over the board. In what could be one of the weakest seasons in a long time for Conference USA, if the Pirates can find some consistent quarterback play, they might just be good enough to take the East Division title.
UCF lost a home heartbreaker to Missouri on Saturday, just two weeks after giving Ohio State a solid fight. The Knights' offense moved the ball very effectively against Mizzou, and a five-point loss is nothing to be ashamed of, but they have to feel like it is an opportunity missed. UCF has certainly passed they eye test so far this season, but their first C-USA test comes at home this Thursday when ECU rolls into town. Although it may still be fairly early in the season, Thursday's game could have a big impact on who wins the East Division.
The Thundering Herd made a trip to Purdue Saturday, and ended up giving the Boilers a pretty good fight. The Herd outscored Purdue 27-9 in the second half and out-gained Purdue by 90 yards, but ultimately fell 51-41. Combine that performance with a heartbreaking loss to the 5-0 Ohio Bobcats, and Marshall is another team that passes the eye test. After four games, the Herd ranks 3rd nationally in passing yards per game. Their in-state rival West Virginia is No. 1. They'll host Tulsa in what should be a great game next Saturday.
Coming in at 0-3, the Golden Eagles were in desperate need of a statement win to turn the season around. They nearly got it Saturday against No. 19 Louisville, but came up just short at home, 21-17. The weather in this one was fitting for how the Eagles' season has been: A rainy, sloppy mess. Seriously, if you didn't see video of this one, it was played in a torrential downpour. The elements probably worked in the Eagles' favor, limiting the explosiveness of Louisville's offense, but at the end of the day, they sit at 0-4 and face a matchup with Boise State.
The Mustangs brutal schedule continued on Saturday, but despite a strong effort, an eight-point loss to TCU drops them to 1-3. The good news for Southern Methodist is that conference play hasn't started yet, and they've been competitive in every game except the loss to Texas A&M. C-USA play begins next week at UTEP, followed by a trip to lowly Tulane. If the Mustangs can take down the Miners, they would likely take a 2-0 conference record into a home meeting with Houston. The Mustangs' goal of winning the West Division is still ahead of them.
UH stopped the bleeding on Saturday, overwhelming Rice 35-14 at home. The Cougars looked more like their old selves Saturday, piling up 600 yards of offense and five touchdowns. Despite looking like a shell of its former self during a 0-3 start, Houston, like SMU, knows conference wins are what's most important, and the Cougars are off to a 1-0 start. Houston hosts North Texas next week and UAB after that, so there's a decent chance they'll find their way back to .500.
2012 has been like Groundhog Day for UTEP, with every game reading the same old script. One competitive loss after another, each riddled with missed opportunities and mistakes. Quarterback Nick Lamaison had looked better and better this season, but threw just 9-27 on Saturday with three interceptions. The kicking game remained a problem, as Steven Valadez missed another attempt. Across the board, this team is very solid, but unless they get more consistent play from the quarterback position and the special teams, the Miners will be in for a long season.
The Owls struggled to run the ball and play any sort of defense against Houston on Saturday, losing their second consecutive conference game and falling to 1-4 on the season. If Rice wants any chance of hanging around in the C-USA West race, they absolutely have to beat Memphis next Saturday. If the Owls lose that, they'll be 0-3 in the conference heading into Tulsa, which has blowout written all over it.
Things just keep getting worse for the Green Wave in 2012. Saturday's 62-10 home loss to Louisiana-Monroe was Tulane's third consecutive blowout loss, and easily the worst of the three. The Wave allowed over 200 yards on the ground, and rushed for staggering negative-nine yards. A winless season is looking more and more realistic for Tulane.