Keeping Score

C-USA Bowl Projections: FIU drops out of the picture, who could join?

By PATRICK MAGEE

pmagee@sunherald.com

Twitter: @Patrick_Magee

TIM ISBELL/SUN HERALDSouthern Miss quarterback Nick Mullens looks for an open receiver as UTEP's Dashone Smith applies pressure, Saturday, Oct. 31, 2015.
TIM ISBELL/SUN HERALDSouthern Miss quarterback Nick Mullens looks for an open receiver as UTEP's Dashone Smith applies pressure, Saturday, Oct. 31, 2015. SUN HERALD

FIU's bowl hopes likely came to an end last week, making it unlikely that Conference USA fulfills its seven bowl tie-ins.

FIU (4-5, 2-3) is no longer in the bowl hunt thanks to its 31-17 loss at FAU Saturday. The Panthers should beat Charlotte this week, but there's no way they beat Marshall or Western Kentucky in the final two games.

Middle Tennessee (3-5, 2-2) will likely be 3-6 after facing Marshall Saturday, but it has three very winnable games after that – at FAU, vs. North Texas and at UTSA.

Old Dominion (3-5, 1-3) and UTEP (3-5, 1-3) both have a shot to reach six wins and bowl eligibility with a strong close. ODU appears to be the most capable of the two teams at the moment with UTSA, UTEP and FAU appearing to be winnable games. Both teams need to win this week and the Nov. 14 UTEP-ODU game in Norfolk, Va., could serve as an elimination contest.

Here's C-USA Bowl Projections for Week 10:

Gildan New Mexico Bowl – Rice vs. Colorado State – 1 p.m., Dec. 19 (ESPN)

Rice (4-4, 2-2) isn't quite as good as it's been in recent seasons, but the Owls have a good shot at winning three more with UTEP, UTSA and Charlotte still on the slate. They host Southern Miss on Nov. 14, but that game is looking more like a loss for Rice. Colorado State is just 3-5, but it could be a favorite in its four remaining games – Wyoming, UNLV, New Mexico and Fresno State.

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl – Southern Miss vs. Arkansas State – 8 p.m., Dec. 19 (ESPN)

This match-up seems fairly likely unless USM (6-3, 4-1) wins the Conference USA West and the New Orleans Bowl decides AGAIN that it wants Louisiana-Lafayette. Arkansas State (5-3) has a big game when it travels to Sun Belt co-leader Appalachian State (7-1) Thursday.

Miami Beach Bowl – Western Kentucky vs. Houston –  1:30 p.m., Dec. 21 (ESPN)

It's becoming more apparent that WKU (7-2, 4-0) can be beaten and Marshall appears to be the team capable of doing it in C-USA play. However, the Hilltoppers and Thundering Herd will play at Bowling Green, giving WKU the edge.

Popeyes Bahamas Bowl – Middle Tennessee vs. Ohio – 11 a.m., Dec. 24 (ESPN)

With FIU apparently out of the running for a bowl game, this is likely the place that MTSU (3-5, 2-2) will land if it reaches the six-win mark. Ohio (5-3) is looking like a seven-win team in a tough MAC.

St. Petersburg Bowl - Marshall vs. Cincinnati - 10 a.m., Dec. 26th (ESPN)

Marshall (8-1, 5-0) will probably be a 10-win team when it goes to Western Kentucky in the regular season finale. Head coach Doc Holliday has done a great job of keeping the program rolling despite the graduation of star quarterback Rakeem Cato. I see Temple landing in Hawaii and Houston going to Miami so this spot opens up for Tommy Tuberville's Cincinnati squad (5-3).

Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl - Louisiana Tech vs. Washington - 1:20 p.m., Dec. 26 (ESPN)

The Pac-12 has seven bowl tie-ins, but could have as many as 10 bowl-eligible teams this season. Washington will likely reach 6-6 and need a bowl home. Dallas seems a good fit.

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