Conference USA

C-USA Bowl Projections: Southern Miss, FAU help their causes in divisional play

Southern Miss defensive end Jacques Turner, left, and defensive back Kelsey Douglas celebrate a sack by Turner against Kentucky on Sept. 2 at Roberts Stadium in Hattiesburg.
Southern Miss defensive end Jacques Turner, left, and defensive back Kelsey Douglas celebrate a sack by Turner against Kentucky on Sept. 2 at Roberts Stadium in Hattiesburg. jcfitzhugh@sunherald.com File

The hirings of Lane Kiffin at FAU and Butch Davis at FIU are producing immediate results in Conference USA.

FAU's 69-31 win over North Texas may have been the most surprising final score in the nation on Saturday. During their current three-game winning streak, the Owls are averaging 55 points a game.

FAU is 4-3 overall and 3-0 in C-USA as it prepares to enter a difficult stretch to close out the season, including Saturday's game at WKU.

The C-USA East may be decided when Marshall (6-1, 3-0) travels to FAU on Nov. 3.

We'll find out Saturday if FIU (4-2, 2-1) is legit when it travels to face Marshall on Saturday. FIU's first three wins over Alcorn State, Rice and Charlotte didn't show a whole lot, but the 23-10 victory over Tulane gives the team some credibility.

Conference USA still seems prepared produce as many as 10 bowl eligible teams this season, but Louisiana Tech (3-4, 1-2) and Middle Tennessee (3-5, 1-3) may have a hard time getting to six wins.

There's some shuffling in this week's C-USA Bowl Projections for games featuring C-USA tie-ins:

▪  Gildan New Mexico Bowl (Dec. 16) — WKU (5-2) vs. Colorado State (6-2) — The Hilltoppers have a shot at picking up a win over an SEC opponent on Nov. 4 at Vanderbilt. At the moment, they seem destined for seven victories.

▪  R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl (Dec. 16) — UTSA (4-2) vs. Arkansas State (4-2) — UTSA will need to hit the seven-win mark to make sure it gets a bowl bid. The Roadrunners should roll at UTEP on Saturday. UTSA head coach Frank Wilson, a New Orleans native, would enjoy a return home.

▪  Boca Raton Bowl (Dec. 19) — FAU (4-3) vs. Central Michigan (4-4) — It seems likely that the AAC won't fulfill its bid here. I doubt a team like Houston or SMU wants to sign up for what would be a home game for the Owls.

▪  Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl (Dec. 21) — Marshall (6-1) vs. South Florida (7-0) — I still consider Marshall the favorite to win the C-USA East, but FAU presents a major challenge. I've got South Florida in this game because I like UCF to beat the Bulls in the regular season finale. If USF does lose to either UCF or in the AAC title game, the Bulls will likely try to get a bowl bid outside of the AAC's unimpressive options or choose to stay close to home and possibly play the C-USA champion in St. Petersburg.

▪  Bahamas Bowl (Dec. 22) — UAB (4-3) vs. Ohio (6-2) — The Blazers suffered a setback in a 25-24 loss at Charlotte last week, but are likely to reach bowl eligibility with games remaining against Rice and UTEP.

▪  Armed Forces Bowl (Dec. 23) — North Texas (4-3) vs. Army (6-2) — All was going right for the Mean Green before the trip to FAU last week. We'll find out if they can recover quickly with a potentially tricky home game against a desperate Old Dominion team on Saturday. Army has already accepted a bid to this game. UNT and Army have played three times over the last two seasons, including last year's Heart of Dallas Bowl.

▪  Independence Bowl (Dec. 27) — Southern Miss (5-2) vs. Virginia (5-2) — It still seems unlikely that the SEC fulfills its tie-in, opening up the distinct possibility of a C-USA squad filling this spot. USM needs to close strong, but the Independence would be an attractive option. Virginia faces a tough stretch to close out the season, including games against Louisville, Miami and Virginia Tech.

C-USA Power Rankings

1. Marshall (6-1, 3-0)

2. FAU (4-3, 3-0)

3. North Texas (4-3, 3-1)

4. Southern Miss (5-2, 3-1)

5. Western Kentucky (5-2, 3-1)

6. UTSA (4-2, 1-2)

7. UAB (4-3, 2-2)

8. FIU (4-2, 2-1)

9. La. Tech (3-4, 1-2)

10. Middle Tennessee (3-5, 1-3)

11. Old Dominion (2-5, 0-3)

12. Charlotte (1-7, 1-3)

13. Rice (1-6, 1-2)

14. UTEP (0-7, 0-3)

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