In another difficult week for Conference USA teams, Central Florida upheld the league's honor.The Knights (2-1) handled Florida International 33-20 in a game pitting one team leaving C-USA and one entering next season. It wasn't that close - the Knights led 23-0 at halftime and the stats were even more lopsided.UCF had 249 total yards at that point to FIU's 26, and the first downs were 13-2. Playing its ball-control style, the Knights held the ball for 211/2 of the 30 minutes and converted eight of 11 third downs.That result falls in line with a 56-14 thrashing of Akron and a competitive 31-16 loss at Ohio State. The Knights have the week off before welcoming Missouri to Bright House Networks Stadium in Orlando, Fla., then open C-USA play on Thursday, Oct. 4, against East Carolina.
Stat-wise, the Knights are in some customary positions - second in C-USA in scoring defense and total defense and first in pass efficiency defense.UCF seems primed to win the East Division, and likely will be eligible for the postseason. The school was hit with postseason bans in basketball and football after the NCAA Committee on Infractions cited a lack of institutional control, but is contesting the football penalties.The school formally filed its appeal Monday, and the process likely will take until after the end of this season.At the other end of the spectrum, Memphis lost its second game in a row to Sun Belt opposition, falling 48-30 to Middle Tennessee. The Tigers (0-3) suffered four turnovers, resulting in 24 Blue Raider points.That was the low point of a lousy week for the league. Texas-El Paso (1-2) defeated New Mexico State 41-28, but Marshall lost to Ohio 27-24, Rice (1-2) lost to Louisiana Tech 56-37, Alabama-Birmingham (0-2) lost to South Carolina 49-6, Southern Methodist (1-2) lost to Texas A&M 48-3 and Houston (0-3) lost to UCLA 37-6.
East Carolina drew first blood in the C-USA league schedule, going into Hattiesburg and downing Southern Mississippi 24-14. Before 34,140, Shane Carden passed and ran for a touchdown, and Montese Overton returned a fumble recovery 16 yards to give the Pirates (2-1, 1-0) a 24-7 lead.Carden went 13-of-27 for 171 yards, but coach Ruffin McNeil was pleased with the sophomore."I feel as if he will get better and more comfortable as he gets more game reps. I thought he handled his first start well and was very poised," McNeil said.This week, ECU (2-1, 1-0) takes on North Carolina, coached by former Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora. Southern Miss (0-2, 0-1) wades into the Sun Belt, traveling to Western Kentucky.
Could Louisiana Tech (2-0) have walked into C-USA a year early and blown everybody away, UCF included?It's an interesting question after the Bulldogs laid waste to Houston (56-49) and Rice (56-37). Neither game was quite that close - the Bulldogs led 56-35 late against Houston, and took a 21-0 lead on Rice before trading scores the rest of the way.Tech is third in the nation in scoring offense (56.0), fifth in total offense (603.0) and ninth in rushing (289). Quarterback Colby Cameron is 10th in total offense (332.5) and 19th in pass efficiency rating.But Cameron is a senior and the Bulldogs have 11 others in the starting lineup. Rice quarterback Taylor McHargue said he wouldn't be surprised if the Bulldogs crack the Top 25 this fall, but sees some rebuilding in 2013."I don't know if it's going to be a seamless transition," McHargue said. "But I definitely think they'll come in and definitely compete for the conference title. I wouldn't say they're going to walk in and take it; there are still some really good teams in this conference, I feel like."But, no, that was a good team, and it's also a tough place to play."
Tech will get tested a little harder in the coming weeks, playing at Illinois and Virginia, home to Nevada-Las Vegas and against Texas A&M at Shreveport, La. The Bulldogs then play their last Western Athletic Conference schedule, only six games including fellow C-USA entrant Texas-San Antonio.BrieflyTulane senior safety Devon Walker has been transferred from the Tulsa, Okla., hospital, where he was treated after breaking his neck. He has entered an inpatient rehabilitation center, whose name and location is being kept private.While Rice plays Marshall in conference play, the most interesting game of the week is Tulsa hosting Fresno State. Fresno eviscerated Colorado last week, taking a 55-7 halftime lead and winning 69-14.So what does Marshall's Rakeem Cato have to do to win the league's offensive player of the week? He went 44-of-65 for 432 yards and three touchdowns against Ohio, but was beaten out by UTEP's Nick Lamaison.
OK, the Miners did win their game, and Lamaison did pass for 300 yards and four touchdowns.ECU's Overton won defensive honors, while Pirates punter Trent Tignor won special-teams honors. Tignor averaged 42.2 yards on his 10 punts, pinning Southern Miss twice inside the 3-yard line.Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.