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CFB Week 12 Conference Notes: Conference USA

WEEK 12 IN THE C-USA

UPCOMING GAMES (ALL TIMES CT)
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 19
Southern Miss at LA Tech (CBSSN) 7 pm

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 20
Florida Atlantic at WKU (Stadium) 11 am

UAB at No. 23 UTSA (ESPN+) 2:30 pm

Marshall at Charlotte (Stadium) 2:30 pm

Old Dominion at Middle Tennessee (ESPN+) 2:30 pm

Rice at UTEP (ESPN+) 3 pm

North Texas at FIU (ESPN3) 6 pm

QUICK HITTERS

A LOOK AT WEEK 12
With just two weeks remaining in the regular season, all 14 Conference USA teams are in action again in Week 12. There is one game slated for Friday night, which kicks off the weekend for Conference USA, as Louisiana Tech hosts Southern Miss at 7 p.m. CT on CBS Sports Network. There are six other games on tap in the league on Saturday, as Florida Atlantic and East Division leaders WKU kick off the action on Saturday at 11 a.m. CT, when they do battle on Stadium. The day is however highlighted by a massive West Division clash between UAB and CFP No. 23 UTSA in San Antonio at 2:30 p.m. CT on ESPN+, The 10-0 Roadrunners have the opportunity to clinch the division and the ability to host the 2021 Ryan Conference USA Championship Game, while UAB can take a firm hold on the opportunity to win the division heading into the final week with a win. The final contest of the day kicks off at 6 p.m. CT as the surging Mean Green of North Texas aim to keep their bowl hopes alive as they travel to Miami to battle FIU on ESPN3.

Louisiana Tech (3-7, 2-4 C-USA) is coming off an impressive 42-32 win last week at home over Charlotte to snap a five-game skid. The Bulldogs welcome Southern Miss (1-9, 0-6 C-USA) to Ruston on Friday night at 7 p.m. CT on CBS Sports Network. Louisiana Tech benefitted from a big-time performance by RB Marcus Williams, Jr., who carried 29 times for 131 yards and four touchdowns in the win. Southern Miss hung with No. 23 UTSA until the fourth quarter, utilizing Frank Gore, Jr. effectively as the wildcat quarterback, but ultimately fell 27-17 in San Antonio.

WKU (6-4, 5-1 C-USA) has won five straight since opening the season at 1-4, and the Hilltoppers are alone atop the East Division. They return home to Bowling Green and host Florida Atlantic (5-5, 3-3 C-USA) at 11 a.m. CT live on Stadium to kick off Saturday’s six-game slate. WKU won comfortably last week on the road at Rice, 42-21, on the strength of yet another monster performance by the nation’s leading passer, QB Bailey Zappe, who threw for five touchdowns and completed 34-42 passes for 482 yards, while one of the nation’s most explosive players, WR Jerreth Sterns, hauled in seven more catches for 92 yards. Florida Atlantic, has dropped two straight, to Marshall and last week on the road at Old Dominion (30-16). WKU can clinch the East Division and a spot in the 2021 Ryan Conference USA Championship Game with a win and Marshall loss at Charlotte, but should Marshall win this week, the East won’t be decided until WKU’s matchup at Marshall to close the regular season.

UAB (7-3, 5-1 C-USA), remains on the road with a trip to San Antonio to battle one of three unbeaten FBS teams, CFP No. 23 UTSA (10-0, 6-0 C-USA), at 2:30 p.m. CT on ESPN+. The Roadrunners can clinch the West Division with a win, and would also clinch the ability to host the 2021 Ryan Conference USA Championship Game. UAB wouldn’t clinch with a win, but would hold the head-to-head tiebreaker and would be able to clinch the division the final week of the regular season at home with a win over UTEP, should the Blazers leave the Alamodome victorious. UTSA held on to beat Southern Miss last week, 27-17, while UAB picked up an impressive road win at Marshall, 21-14.

Marshall (6-4, 4-2 C-USA) hits the road to take on Charlotte (5-5, 3-3 C-USA) Saturday at 2:30 p.m. CT on Stadium. Marshall is still firmly in the mix for the East Division title, but must win Saturday to set up a winner-take-all game at home against WKU on Nov. 27. The Thundering Herd fell 21-14 at home last week, while Charlotte dropped a 42-32 decision at Louisiana Tech last week, suffering their third loss in the 49ers’ last four.

Old Dominion (4-6, 3-3 C-USA) travels to Murfreesboro, Tennessee, to take on Middle Tennessee (5-5, 3-3 C-USA) at 2:30 p.m. CT on ESPN+. The suddenly surging Monarchs have won three consecutive games, including last week’s 30-16 win at home over Florida Atlantic to keep their bowl hopes alive. RB Blake Watson has been steady over that timeframe, and carried 23 times for 163 yards and a score in the win over FAU. Middle Tennessee is just one win away from bowl eligibility, and the Blue Raiders are coming off a 50-10 win at home last week over FIU. QB Nicholas Vattiato, who earned his second consecutive start, was efficient, completing 20-24 passes for 147 yards and two touchdown tosses. Six different Blue Raiders found the end zone in the win (five offensively) and DB Quincy Riley, who had a 45-yard
interception return for a score.

Rice (3-7, 2-4 C-USA) makes the trip west to battle UTEP (6-4, 3-3 C-USA) at 3 p.m. CT on ESPN+. The Owls have dropped three straight since upsetting UAB on the road, including last week’s 42-21 loss at home to WKU. UTEP has cooled as well, falling for the third straight time last week, dropping a heartbreaker 20-17 in Denton against North Texas. The Miners got another strong effort from star WR Jacob Cowing, who caught five passes for 174 yards and a score.

North Texas (4-6, 3-3 C-USA) travels to South Beach to take on FIU (1-9, 0-6 C-USA) at 6 p.m. CT in the final C-USA game of the day, on ESPN3. The surging Mean Green picked up their third win in as many weeks, again keeping their bowl eligibility hopes alive, beating UTEP 20-17 in Denton. UNT led 17-7 in the fourth quarter, and despite UTEP tying it up at 17-17 in the final minute, North Texas QB Austin Aune connected with WR Detraveon Brown for a 58-yard gain down the sideline to set up K Ethan Mooney’s game-winning 27-yard field goal to send the Homecoming crowd home happy.

UTSA’S POLL POSITION
UTSA remains inside the top-20 of both of the major polls following their win over Southern Miss last week. The Roadrunners again come in at No. 15 in the Associated Press Top 25 and No. 18 in the USA Today AFCA Coaches Poll (down two spots). UTSA is one of just three undefeated teams remaining in the FBS, and remains home at the Alamodome for a West Division clash against UAB on Saturday on ESPN+ at 2:30 p.m. CT. UTSA ranked No. 23 in the second edition of the College Football Playoff rankings last week and will find out where they are in the committee’s top 25 when the new rankings are released again Tuesday night.

ROADRUNNERS STAY PERFECT
CFP No. 23 UTSA came back to remain unbeaten, knocking off Southern Miss 27-17 in front of 30,105 strong at the Alamodome on Saturday afternoon. UTSA utilized a strong fourth quarter to hang on and improve to 10-0 and 6-0 in conference play, setting up a massive West Division clash next Saturday at home against UAB, where UTSA can clinch a spot in the 2021 Ryan Conference USA Championship Game with a win over the Blazers. UTSA WR Joshua Cephus led the way with eight catches for 106 yards and a touchdown. The Roadrunners enter Week 12 as one of just three unbeaten FBS teams (No. 1 Georgia and No. 5 Cincinnati are also 10-0 after wins this week).

BLAZERS HOLD ON IN HUNTINGTON
UAB picked up a huge 21-14 win on the road over Marshall on Saturday. UAB had strong performances from TE Gerrit Prince (five receptions for 100 yards) and WR Trea Shropshire (two catches for 100 yards), as well as RB DeWayne McBride (25 carries for 125 yards and two touchdowns). The win for UAB sets up a key West Division matchup at No. 23 UTSA next week, where should the Blazers win, they would grab the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Roadrunners heading into the final week of the
season, which would have the pair deadlocked at 6-1 in league play.

ZAPPE LEADS WKU TO 5-1 IN C-USA PLAY
WKU QB Bailey Zappe, who earlier in the week was named as a semifinalist for both the Walter Camp Player of the Year and Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award, showed why on Saturday in WKU’s 42-21 win at Rice. Zappe completed 34-42 passes for 482 yards and five touchdowns in the victory, WKU’s fifth straight. The Hilltoppers top the East Division standings at 5-1, and control their own destiny in their quest for a spot in the Ryan 2021 Conference USA Championship Game. This marks Zappe’s fifth game this season with over 400-yards passing, which leads the FBS, and is two more than any other player in the country (Will Rogers, Mississippi State).

WILLIAMS PACES BULLDOGS TO WIN
Louisiana Tech RB Marcus Williams, Jr., totaled four rushing scores in the Bulldogs’ 42-32 win over Charlotte on Saturday afternoon. The Appalachian State
transfer carried 29 times for 131 yards and the four touchdowns. It marked the fourth time this season a C-USA player has had four rushing scores in a game (UAB’s DeWayne McBride vs. Louisiana Tech on 11/6, Rice’s Jordan Myers vs. Texas Southern on 9/25 and Marshall’s Rasheen Ali at Navy on 9/4). QB Aaron Allen had a big game as well for Louisiana Tech, completing 21-27 passes for 324 yards and two touchdowns, while WR Smoke Harris caught eight passes for 98 yards and a score in the win.

THE SAFETY DANCE
Old Dominion recorded a pair of safeties in its 30-16 win over Florida Atlantic on Saturday. It marked the first time a C-USA team recorded two safeties in a single game since Memphis did so at Missouri on 9/14/96. The FBS record for safeties in a game is three, a feat accomplished on four occasions. Oddly enough, ODU scored four times on two-point plays – the two safeties, a blocked extra point that was returned for two points and a two-point conversion after a Monarch touchdown in the fourth quarter. Old Dominion saw strong performances from QB Hayden Wolff (21-33 for 289 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions), RB Blake Watson (23 carries for 163 yards and a touchdown), WR Ali Jennings (four catches for 99 yards), LB Jason Henderson (12 tackles, a half tackle-for-loss and a quarterback hurry) and LB Jordan Young (10 tackles and a half tackle-for-loss).

MIDDLE TENNESSEE DEFENSE CLAMPS DOWN
Middle Tennessee completely shut down FIU, holding the Panthers to 155 yards of total offense in a 50-10 win on Saturday to pull the Blue Raiders within one win of bowl eligibility. It was a full team effort offensively, as five different Blue Raiders scored touchdowns (three rushing and two passing), and DB Quincy Riley returned an interception for a touchdown as well. S Reed Blankenship led the way for Middle Tennessee with nine tackles, a sack, an interception and a pass-breakup in the win.

NOVIL COMES UP LARGE
North Texas DL Dion Novil helped lead North Texas to a big homecoming win, 20-17 over UTEP, to keep the Mean Green’s bowl hopes alive. UNT has won three straight to improve to 3-3 in conference play (and 4-6 overall). Novil recorded seven tackles, 2.5 of which were for loss, a forced fumble and a pass-breakup in the win over the Miners Saturday afternoon.

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