Keeping Score

C-USA Top 5: Marshall no longer the prohibitive favorite

The first two weeks of the Conference USA football season have gone well for the league, but it's still early.

There have been seasons in the past where C-USA squads have been competitive with top programs, only to lose some head-scratchers before conference play went into full swing.

This is the second installment of “C-USA Top 5,” which provides a power ranking of the league's top five teams and takes a look around the conference.

Here you have it, the top five teams in C-USA:

1. Marshall (2-0): The Thundering Herd is no longer such a clear cut favorite to run away with the conference this year. The team hasn't been terribly impressive in wins over Miami-Ohio (42-7) and Rhode Island (48-7). There's reason to believe Marshall will eventually get it together and a good time to start would be this weekend with a home game against rival Ohio (1-1).

2. Texas-San Antonio (1-1): The Roadrunners came very close to knocking off Arizona Thursday, but it wasn't meant to be in a 26-23 outcome at the Alamodome. UTSA travels to Oklahoma State for a 6 p.m. game on Saturday. UTSA has played well early, but it will have to be perfect to beat the Cowboys.

3. Western Kentucky (1-1): The Hilltoppers should have beaten Illinois Saturday, but late turnovers cost them dearly in a 42-34 loss on the road. WKU looks like a bowl team, but it will need to win at Middle Tennessee Saturday to keep the momentum going.

4. Louisiana Tech (1-1): The Bulldogs make a big jump after being surprisingly dominant in a 48-20 victory over a Louisiana-Lafayette team that some expected to make a run at the Group of 5's major bowl bid. 

5. North Texas (1-1): The Mean Green edges out Rice, which had a bye week in week two, for the final spot. After a poor performance on offense in a 38-7 loss at Texas in the season opener, North Texas bounced back to destroy SMU, 43-6, in Denton. North Texas looked like the same team that rolled to wins in 2013, and it should be competitive in a tough C-USA West this season.

C-USA's TOP 5 NOTES

C-USA's Star of the Week: Louisiana Tech junior running back Kenneth Dixon went 99 yards for a touchdown against ULL and finished with two touchdowns and 184 yards on only 12 carries.

C-USA's Worst Week: There's no shame in losing to Nebraska and Alabama on back-to-back weeks, but Florida Atlantic didn't look very impressive in doing so. Some expected FAU to compete for a bowl bid this year, but it has looked like a punching back so far by being out-scored, 96-7. The 41-0 loss at Alabama last week was much more lop-sided than the final score. The game was called due to weather with 7:53 remaining and Alabama led 31-0 at halftime.

Rivalry returns: This week marks the start of conference play with two league games on the slate – Western Kentucky at Middle Tennessee and Louisiana Tech at North Texas. Both games provide interesting matchups, but the WKU-MTSU battle is a traditional rivalry. It's called “100 Miles of Hate,” referring to the distance between the two schools' campuses in Bowling Green, Ky., and Murfreesboro, Tenn. The Hilltoppers are feeling pretty good about themselves these days, and for very good reason. However, expect Middle Tennessee (1-1) to put up a good fight Saturday.

Perfect start: While C-USA has just missed out on earning a win over a Power 5 squad, the conference is 7-0 against other Group of 5 teams and most of the games have been decisive victories:

Western Kentucky 59, Bowling Green 31

UTSA 27, Houston 7

UAB 48, Troy 10

Marshall 42, Miami-Ohio 27

UTEP 31, New Mexico 24

North Texas 43, SMU 6

Louisiana Tech 48, UL-Lafayette 20

FIU wises up: After Florida International denied a football credential to its lone dedicated beat writer at the Miami Herald, it finally decided to come through and give David J. Neal the credential. Just count it as another bone-headed move by FIU athletic director Pete Garcia.

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