Saturday's Tulsa/Tulane game made national headlines, not for football, but for the devastating injury to Tulane safety Devon Walker. Walker's status continues to change, and we continue to hope for the best, his Tulane teammates must find a way to re-focus for a game against Ole Miss in two weeks. It may be in their best interest to put Saturdays thrashing against Tulsa behind them as the Green Wave moves forward in 2012.
Speaking of Saturday, Tulsa gave us a glimpse of the team we expected. The offense was well-balanced and explosive, and quarterback Cody Green looked excellent.
Let's take a trip around Conference USA to see how Tulsa's competition fared in week two of the 2012 season and how each game may affect the C-USA race.
Bye Week: Southern Miss, UAB
The only week one upset we saw around C-USA featured the Houston Cougars. UH wasn't just upset by FBS newcomer Texas State, they were beat by 17 at home. As I mentioned in last week's edition, the performance drop-off from 2011 was expected, but perhaps not to this extent. The Cougars got another shot at a home win in week two, this time against visiting Louisiana Tech. Tech came away with a narrow victory for the second consecutive season, this time in a 56-49 shootout. The good news for Houston is they scored a lot of points this week, a dramatic improvement over last week's 13. More good news is both losses this season were to teams outside C-USA, so the Cougars will have a clean slate once conference play begins. The bad news is, they're 0-2 and staring down the barrel of 0-3 with a trip to UCLA next Saturday. The Bruins have looked extremely impressive through two weeks, crushing Rice and beating Nebraska. If the Bruins take care of business against Houston and the Cougars fall to 0-3, it will be very interesting to see if they will be able to emotionally rebound from what would be their worst start since the 0-11 campaign in 2001.
The Mustangs bounced back from their thrashing at the hands of Baylor with a 52-0 stomping of the FCS' Stephen F. Austin. SMU did some good things in its loss to Baylor, and appeared to build off those in week two. The Mustang offense scored three touchdowns, the defense scored three touchdowns, and even the special teams scored one. By the way, I just realized an interesting tidbit. SMU plays 12 games this season. Nine of those games will be played in the state of Texas, including all four nonconference games. That lack of travel can do nothing but help SMU as it looks to pick up steam heading into C-USA play. The Mustangs continue their pursuit of the Texas State Championship next week when they host Texas A&M.
The Owls got doubled-up at home in week one by UCLA, but with the Bruins' week two-win over Nebraska, that loss doesn't look nearly as bad. Rice faced its second consecutive BCS-conference opponent in week two, and this time got the win. Yes, it was Kansas, who is the butt of most Big 12 jokes, but it is a road win over a Big 12 program nevertheless. While Rice isn't expected to compete for the C-USA West crown, a win like this could give them some confidence as conference play approaches.
The UTEP Miners followed up their opening week loss to OU with a trip to Oxford to face Ole Miss. The game went about the same (respectable score) but unlike last time, week two should bring encouragement for the Miners. UTEP was without Nathan Jeffery due to a minor injury (no pun intended) yet hung around against a SEC defense. Nick Lamaison played much better at the quarterback position and the kicking game was improved, although still shakey. UTEP will look to get into the win column against New Mexico State this Saturday.
I mentioned last week that East Carolina didn't look nearly as impressive as the score indicated against Appalachian State in week one. Their offense was inconsistent and they got the benefit of a few botched calls. Week two saw the Pirates get exposed as they made the trip to South Carolina. Against a Gamecocks team that used its backup quarterback, the Pirates allowed 48 points and over 500 yards of offense. Quarterback Rio Johnson threw three interceptions and ECU's leading rusher had 31 yards. Greenville will remain a tough place play for C-USA teams, but ECU may not be a tough team to beat.
The Herd creamed FCS bottom-feeder Western Carolina in what was a pretty predictable outcome. Rakeem Cato had his second-straight huge passing day, throwing for nearly 400 yards and three scores. Neither week one's matchup with West Virginia or week two's matchup with WCU gives us an accurate picture of how Marshall will fare in 2012 against C-USA level teams. We should get a better idea of where the Herd stands when Ohio comes to town in week three.
The Tigers lost to Arkansas State, who apparently plays FBS football in the Sun Belt Conference. Who knew? Now that's terrible, but at least Memphis did some positive things. Despite gaining fewer than 300 yards and allowing more than 600 yards, converting 20 fewer first-downs than Arkansas State, and only going 3-12 on third-down conversions, they somehow only lost by five. Moral victories, Memphis.
The Knights put on a good show at Ohio State on Saturday, maintaining a 10-10 tie late into the first half and only losing by 15. The offense put up over 350 yards on the Buckeyes, but their three turnovers did them in. The Knights return home in week three to face Florida International, which shouldn't be too difficult as long as UCF plays like it did in Columbus. With how UCF has looked so far in 2012, keep an eye out for the Knights as a C-USA sleeper.