As Marshall takes its first steps on the Conference USA comeback trail, the rest of the East Division is loaded with standings-shifting games. On the other side, we will see if Texas-San Antonio is all that.
Looking at the games, in order of (my) interest:
FLORIDA ATLANTIC (2-3, 1-0) at OLD DOMINION (2-2, 0-0), 6 p.m.
Lane Kiffin may have settled on a starting quarterback in Jason Driskel, who went 22 of 29 for 187 yards and a TD in the Owls’ 38-20 win over Middle Tennessee. But the big story is Devin “Motor” Singletary, who scored four touchdowns and has 492 rushing yards through five games.
Note about ODU: Special teams are playing well, leading the league with a 27.1 kickoff return average, 9.8 on punt returns and eight punts inside the 20-yard line. The Herd gets the Monarchs next week, so this is a good flip-over game during commercials.
LINE: FAU by 4.5. OLD DOMINION, AT LEAST TO BEAT SPREAD
FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL (3-1, 2-0) at MIDDLE TENNESSEE (2-3, 0-1), 3 p.m.
Yes, that’s FIU atop the East Division, with a legitimate chance to knock the Blue Raiders to 0-2. And the Raiders are still very much without QB Brent Stockstill (maybe out for season) and WR Richie James.
But I’m not sure if a six-point win over Rice and a one-point win over Charlotte are positive or negative omens. The 49ers took a 26-7 lead and gained 504 total yards, one of their best-ever performances.
Meanwhile, MTSU trailed nearly all of a 38-20 loss at Florida Atlantic. John Urzua threw for 359 yards, but that only meant that the Raiders abandoned the run game. They were gashed for 252 rushing yards and allowed Devin Singletary to score four touchdowns.
The Blue Raiders will not abandon the run this time.
LINE: MTSU by 10. MTSU
SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI (2-2, 0-1) at TEXAS-SAN ANTONIO (3-0, 0-0), 7 p.m.
TV: Stadium on Facebook, local TV in San Antonio
If Marshall becomes a contender for the East Division title, it has to go through these West teams in the last two weeks to pull it off.
By quirk of scheduling, the teams also played last year in the Alamodome, and the Roadrunners plowed through the Golden Eagles 55-32. After a 45-28 loss last week to North Texas, Southern Miss doesn’t look to be contender material.
The Roadrunners lead the league in most of the defensive categories, but the sample size is still the smallest — wins over Baylor, Southern and Texas State. It’s a shame their game against Houston was canceled, but it’s been a tough hurricane season.
LINE: UTSA by 13.5. SOUTHERN MISS TO BEAT SPREAD, AT LEAST
LOUISIANA TECH (3-2, 2-0) at ALABAMA-BIRMINGHAM (2-2, 0-1), 4 p.m.
TV: CUSA TV
In its Year of the Comeback, UAB’s 46-43 loss to North Texas may be even more impressive than at first glance, as the Mean Green appears to be a contender. But the Bulldogs have given up 55 points over the last three games, so they may have fixed issues on that side of the ball.
Tech’s J’Mar Smith is second in C-USA in passing yardage, 264.0 per game.
LINE: La Tech by 12. LA TECH
WKU (2-2, 0-1 in C-USA) at UTEP (0-5, 0-1 in C-USA), 8 p.m.
TV: CUSA TV.
Yes, Mike Price is back on the UTEP sideline, holding down the fort for the next seven games after Sean Kugler threw in the towel. Price was in the fifth year of his retirement, so he is rested and ready. Don’t know if he’s tanned, though there’s plenty of sun in that part of the world.
WKU’s defense has allowed 74 points (excluding defensive TDs) in four games, the lowest in its 11-year FBS era.
LINE: WKU by 19. EL PASO BEATS SPREAD, SOMEHOW
ARMY (3-2) at RICE (1-4), 6:30 p.m.
TV: beIN Sports
I’ve run out of words and interest.
LINE: Army by 13.5. ARMY
Last week: 2-4
East: FIU 2-0, FAU 1-0, Marshall 0-0, Old Dominion 0-0, WKU 0-1, MTSU 0-1, Charlotte 0-1.
West: North Texas 2-0, Louisiana Tech 1-0, Rice 1-1, UTSA 0-0, Southern Miss 0-1, UAB 0-1, UTEP 0-1.
Rushing yards: Jeffery Wilson, NT, 666; Devon Singletary, FAU, 492; Benny LeMay, Charlotte, 450.
Passing yards: Mason Fine, NT, 1,442; J’Mar Smith 1,320; White, WKU, 1,047; Litton, Marshall, 1,014.
Pass efficiency: Dalton Sturm, UTSA (51-67-0, 659, 6 TDs); Mason Fine, NT (102-163-4, 1,442, 11 TDs, rating 154.3); A.J. Erdely, UAB (50-94-1, 743, 6 TDs). Marshall: Litton 7th (90-150-3, 1,014, 8 TDs).
Receptions: Teddy Veal, La Tech, 30; Ty Lee, MTSU, 28; Jalen Guyton, NT, 24; Tyre Brady, Marshall, 23; Marcel Williams, Marshall, 22.
Receiving yards: Jalen Guyton, NT, 444; Tyre Brady, Marshall, 407; Teddy Veal, La Tech, 331.
Team total offense: North Texas 510.8, UTSA 482.0, Southern Miss 447.5. (Marshall 8th, 366.2).
Team total defense: UTSA 207.0, Southern Miss 316.0, MTSU 348.2. (Marshall 6th, 380.5).