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CFB Week 10 Conference Notes: Conference USA

UPCOMING GAMES (ALL TIMES CT)

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 6
LA Tech at UAB (CBSSN) 11 am

North Texas at Southern Miss (ESPN+) 2 pm

Middle Tennessee at WKU (Stadium) 2:30 pm

Rice at Charlotte (ESPN+) 2:30 pm

Marshall at Florida Atlantic (CBSSN/FB) 5 pm

Old Dominion at FIU (ESPN3) 6 pm

No. 16 UTSA at UTEP (ESPN2) 9:15 pm

QUICK HITTERS

A LOOK AT WEEK 10
Byes are all complete, as all 14 Conference USA teams are in action in Week 10, all of which are conference matchups, and all of which are on Saturday. It’s a full
day of C-USA football, as the opening game kicks off at 11 a.m. CT, as Louisiana Tech travels to Birmingham to battle the Blazers of UAB on CBS Sports Network. The final game of the day sees the No. 16 UTSA Roadrunners make the in-state trek to El Paso to take on UTEP on ESPN2 at 9:15 p.m. CT. Sandwiched between those two, and among four other league contests, Marshall heads down to Boca Raton to face Florida Atlantic on CBS Sports Network/Facebook at 5 p.m. CT in a battle of two teams tied atop the East Division (alongside WKU), at 3-1 in C-USA play.

UAB (5-3, 3-1 C-USA), fresh off its bye week, is set to host Louisiana Tech (2-6, 1-3 C-USA) at Protective Stadium at 11 a.m. CT on CBS Sports Network to kick off Conference USA play on Saturday. UAB fell at home its last time out, 30-24 to Rice, while the Bulldogs suffered a defeat at the end of regulation in Norfolk last week, at Old Dominion, 23-20. UAB QB Dylan Hopkins threw for 318 yards last time out, with TE Gerrit Prince serving as his primary target. Prince caught four passes for 114 yards and a score. Louisiana Tech will need a strong performance from the duo of QB Austin Kendall and WR Smoke Harris on Saturday if the Bulldogs have designs on rallying for bowl eligibility over the next four weeks.

North Texas (2-6, 1-3 C-USA) is set for its second road trip in as many weeks, traveling this time to Hattiesburg to take on Southern Miss (1-7, 0-4 C-USA) at 2 p.m. CT on ESPN+. The Mean Green snapped a six-game skid last week at Rice, knocking off the Owls 30-24 in overtime in Houston, and will be looking to make it two straight on their trip to Hattiesburg. RB Ayo Adeyi found the end zone in overtime, his second rushing score of the day, to lift the Mean Green. Southern Miss fell on the road last week, 35-10, at Middle Tennessee.

Middle Tennessee (4-4, 2-2 C-USA) hits the road to take on one of Conference USA’s hottest teams, WKU (4-4, 3-1 C-USA), who have won three straight. The Blue Raiders and Hilltoppers kick off at 2:30 p.m. CT from Bowling Green on Stadium. Middle Tennessee QB Mike DiLiello filled in for an injured Chase Cunningham, who left in the first half of the 35-10 win over Southern Miss. DiLiello finished with 78 yards passing on 8-12 passing, and added 11 carries for 77 yards and two touchdowns on the ground in the win. WKU boasts the nation’s top passing offense (435.8 yards per game), and the Hilltoppers aerial assault was on full display in the 45-13 win last week over Charlotte.

Rice (3-5, 2-2 C-USA) makes the trip east to battle Charlotte (4-4, 2-2 C-USA) at 2:30 p.m. CT on ESPN+. Both teams enter play coming off losses, as Rice fell at home to North Texas in overtime, and Charlotte was beaten 45-13 at WKU. The Owls will likely be without QB WIley Green, who left the game early due to injury against North Texas last week. QB Jake Constantine will likely be under center this week in Charlotte. The 49ers are dealing with some QB injury issues of their own, as Chris Reynolds missed last week’s loss at WKU due to a hand injury, which paved the way for James Foster, who earned his first career start.

In one of the premier C-USA matchups of the week, Marshall (5-3, 3-1 C-USA) travels South to Boca Raton to battle Florida Atlantic (5-3, 3-1 C-USA) in a key fixture between two of the three teams tied atop the East Division. The game kicks off at 5 p.m. on CBS Sports Network/Facebook, with the winner taking a step closer to a potential divsion title. Marshall blanked FIU 38-0 in Huntington behind RB Rasheen Ali’s big day with 26 carries for 133 yards and two scores in the win. Florida Atlantic held on to knock off UTEP last week, 28-25 in Boca. The Owls held a 28-10 lead late in the fourth quarter and withstood a furious rally by the visiting Miners to get to 3-1 in league play, and within one win of bowl eligibility.

Old Dominion (2-6, 1-3 C-USA) makes the trip down to Miami to take on FIU (1-7, 0-4 C-USA) at 6 p.m. CT on ESPN3. The Monarchs picked up their first conference win since 2018 with a 23-20 win over Louisiana Tech at home, courtesy of a Nick Rice 46-yard game-winning field goal as time expired last week. FIU was shut out on the road at Marshall, 38-0, as the Panthers dropped their seventh straight.

The night wraps up with a bang, as No. 16 UTSA (8-0, 4-0 C-USA) travels to El Paso to take on UTEP (6-2, 3-1 C-USA) on ESPN2 at 9:15 p.m. CT. The Roadrunners were idle last week, and enter play Saturday as one of just six undefeated teams remaining in the FBS, and one of two in the Group of Five (No. 2 Cincinnati). The Miners dropped a close one in Boca Raton last week, falling 28-25 on the road. They have the opportunity to pick up a big win in their quest for a potential West Division title, and will do so late on Saturday night in front of a national audience.

UTSA CLIMBS IN POLLS
UTSA moved up in both of the major polls despite being idle last week. The Roadrunners come in at No. 16 in the Associated Press Top 25 (up seven spots) and No. 18 in the USA Today AFCA Coaches Poll (up four spots). UTSA is one of just six undefeated teams remaining in the FBS, and hits the road for an in-state West Division showdown at UTEP on Saturday on ESPN2 at 9:15 p.m. CT. The first edition of the College Football Playoff rankings will be released Tuesday night.

WKU KEEPS ROLLING
The WKU Hilltoppers knocked off Charlotte 45-13 at home Saturday afternoon, picking up their third consecutive win, which sees WKU in a three-way tie atop the East Division at 3-1. QB Bailey Zappe threw for 393 yards and four touchdowns (to four different receivers) in the win, and the WKU defense forced a pair of Charlotte turnovers in the win.

ODU WINS FIRST C-USA GAME SINCE 2018
Old Dominion defeated Louisiana Tech 23-20 on Saturday, earning its first C-USA win since Nov. 10, 2018, when the Monarchs roared back to beat North Texas 34-31 in Norfolk. K Nick Rice made a gamewinning 46-yard field goal as time expired on Saturday to seal the win.

NORTH TEXAS UPSETS RICE IN OT
North Texas snapped a six-game losing streak on Saturday afternoon, knocking off Rice 30-24 on the road in overtime. The Mean Green got a pair of rushing scores from RB Ayo Adeyi, including the game-winner in overtime. LB KD Davis had a career-best 18 tackles, one of which was for loss, as the Mean Green won in Houston.

ALI LOVES TDS, HERD SHUT OUT FIU
Marshall RB Rasheen Ali led the Thundering Herd to a 38-0 shutout win at home over FIU to remain in a tie atop the East Division. Ali carried 26 times for 133 yards and two more touchdowns. Ali ranks second nationally in rushing touchdowns, and now has 15 in eight games.

FAU KEEPS PACE IN THE EAST
Florida Atlantic is one of three teams at 3-1 in the East Division, tied for first place after beating UTEP, who was 6-1 entering play. The Owls are now 5-3, and have won 12 straight at home.

EAST DIVISION 3-0 IN CROSS-DIVISION MATCHUPS LAST WEEK
There were three cross-division matchups last week in Conference USA, and the East Division teams won all three. Old Dominion knocked off Louisiana Tech 23-20, Middle Tennessee beat Southern Miss 35-10 and Florida Atlantic held on to take down UTEP 28- 25 in Boca Raton.

ZAPPE CONTINUES TO CHUCK IT
WKU QB Bailey Zappe, who leads the nation in passing yards per game (425.9), was fantastic again last week for the HIlltoppers as they picked up their third straight win, knocking off Charlotte 45-13 at home. Zappe completed 33-45 passes for 393 yards and five total touchdowns (one rushing) with a pair of interceptions. Zappe has completed 71.4% of his passes (279-391), which is sixth nationally, for 3,407 yards with 33 touchdowns (leads the FBS) and just six interceptions. He also has two rushing touchdowns on the season. Zappe has surpassed the 365- yard passing mark in all eight games this year for WKU.

Opponent Passing Yds PassingTDs
9/2 vs. UT-Martin 424 (28-35) 7
9/11 at Army 435 (28-40) 3
9/25 vs. Indiana 365 (31-44) 3
10/2 at Michigan State 488 (46-64) 3
10/9 vs. UTSA 523 (38-60) 5
10/16 at Old Dominion 397 (36-54) 5
10/23 at FIU 382 (39-49) 3
10/30 vs. Charlotte 393 (33-45) 4

JERRETH STERNS STAYS HOT
WKU WR Jerreth Sterns is the FBS leader in several categories entering Week 10. The former Houston Baptist wideout is the national leader in receiving yards per game (144.5) and in receptions per game (11.6). Sterns has caught 93 passes (leads the FBS) for 1,166 yards (leads the FBS) and 11 touchdowns (second in the FBS) in eight games in 2021. He hauled in 10 passes for 89 yards and a touchdown last week in a win over Charlotte. Sterns has caught 70 passes for 806 yards and seven scores in his past FIVE games.

AERIAL ASSAULT IN C-USA
Conference USA has been the home of some of the most prolific passing attacks in the FBS through the first nine weeks of the 2021 season. Four C-USA quarterbacks rank in the top-20 nationally in passing yardage per game – WKU’s Bailey Zappe leads the FBS (425.9), Marshall’s Grant Wells is ninth (313.4), FIU’s Max Bortenschlager is 18th (269.2) and Louisiana Tech’s Austin Kendall is 19th (267.7). Additionally, four C-USA signal-callers rank inside the top-25 nationally in passing touchdowns – Zappe leads the FBS (33), Middle Tennessee’s Chase Cunningham, Charlotte’s Chris Reynolds and UTSA’s Frank Harris are tied for 22nd (16). Zappe (71.4%) and Harris (68.3%) rank sixth and 21st, respectively in completion percentage among FBS quarterbacks as well. C-USA quarterbacks also rank 2-3-4 nationally
in yards per completion – Bortenschlager (17.51), UTEP’s Gavin Hardison (16.45) and UAB’s Dylan Hopkins (15.94).

C-USA RECEIVERS LIGHTING IT UP
With all the success of the quarterbacks in C-USA, someone has to catch those passes, and in turn, CUSA receivers are all over the national leaderboards. In terms of receiving yards per game, three of the top-12 spots belong to receivers who hail from CUSA programs – WKU’s Jerreth Sterns leads the way (144.5), followed by UTEP’s Jacob Cowing, who is 11th (101.4) and FIU’s Tyrese Chambers (95.2) is 14th. Sterns (11), UAB TE Gerrit Prince (seven), UTSA WR Zakhari Franklin and Chambers (six) are also inside the top-20 in receiving touchdowns, ranking first, 14th and 24th respectively.

Big plays are seen all over the field across C-USA, as six pass-catchers rank inside the national top-15 in terms of yards per reception – Chambers leads
the nation (26.28), while UAB WR Trea Shropshire is second (24.18), Prince is sixth (22.43), Florida Atlantic WR Je’Quan Burton is 11th (20.06), Cowing is 14th (19.78) and Louisiana Tech WR Bub Means is 15th (19.74).

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