THIS WEEK IN CONFERENCE USA
UPCOMING GAMES (ALL TIMES CT)
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 26
UTEP at UAB (ESPN+) 1 pm
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 27
LA Tech at Rice (ESPN+) 12 pm
No. 22 UTSA at North Texas (ESPN+) 1 pm
Charlotte at Old Dominion (ESPN+) 1 pm
FIU at Southern Miss (ESPN3) 2 pm
WKU at Marshall (CBSSN) 2:30 pm
Middle Tennessee at Florida Atlantic (Stadium)6 pm
2021 RYAN C-USA CHAMPIONSHIP GAME SCENARIOS
Heading into the final week of the 2021 season, below is the 2021 Ryan Conference USA Championship Game outlook:
CFP No. 22 UTSA has clinched the West Division title and will host the 2021 Ryan Conference USA Championship Game. The Roadrunners are seeking a 12-0 regular season when they travel to Denton to take on the surging Mean Green of North Texas, who have won four straight to reach the precipice of bowl eligibility after opening the season 1-6.
Saturday’s game between WKU and Marshall in Huntington, West Virginia, will decide UTSA’s opponent in the title game. WKU has won six straight games and is 6-1 in league play, while Marshall has won five of its last six games to improve to 5-2 in conference play, including last week’s 49-28 win at Charlotte. The game kicks off at 2:30 p.m. CT on CBS Sports Network.
A LOOK AT WEEK 13
It is the final week of the regular season, and all 14 Conference USA teams are in action again in Week 13. There is one game slated for Friday afternoon, which kicks off the weekend for Conference USA, as UAB hosts UTEP at 1 p.m. CT on ESPN+. There are six other games on tap in the league on Saturday, as Louisiana Tech and Rice kick off the action on Saturday at 12 p.m. CT, when they do battle on ESPN+.
The day is however highlighted by a series of meaningful matchups with a lot on the line – none bigger than a winner-take-all matchup to decide the East Division between WKU and Marshall in Huntington, West Virginia, at 2:30 p.m. CT on CBS Sports Network. The winner will travel to No. 22 UTSA for the 2021 Ryan Conference USA Championship Game on Friday, Dec. 3. Additionally, bowl eligibility is on the line for several five-win teams and the aforementioned Roadrunners have a 12-0 regular season on the line when they travel to Denton, where the Mean Green are one win from hitting six. Two matchups between five-win teams have bowl eligibility as the prize for winning – Charlotte at Old Dominion and Middle Tennessee at Florida Atlantic.
UAB (7-4, 5-2 C-USA) is coming off a heartbreaking last-second 34-31 loss in San Antonio with the West Division on the line. The Blazers welcome UTEP (7-4, 4-3 C-USA) to Birmingham on Friday afternoon at 1 p.m. CT on ESPN+. UAB grabbed a late fourth quarter lead at UTSA, but the Roadrunners drove 77 yards in the final 1:05 with no timeouts to seize the division title, while also remaining undefeated. UTEP stormed back to knock off Rice 38-28 last week in the final home game of the season in El Paso. WR Jacob Cowing continued his unbelievable season, hauling in 11 catches for 170 yards and a touchdown in the win, where the Miners outscored the Owls 24-7 in the second half.
Louisiana Tech (3-8, 2-5 C-USA) travels to Houston to take on Rice (3-8, 2-5 C-USA) as both teams wrap up their 2021 seasons to kick off Saturday’s C-USA action at 12 p.m. CT on ESPN+. The Bulldogs dropped a disappointing contest at home last week against Southern Miss, 35-19, on Senior Night, while the Owls fell 38-28 at UTEP.
CFP No. 22 UTSA (11-0, 7-0 C-USA) had won of the most thrilling wins of the 2021 season, coming back late to stun defending C-USA Champion UAB, 34-31, to keep its dream season rolling. UTSA clinched the West Division and will now host the 2021 Ryan Conference USA Championship Game on Dec. 3. The Roadrunners travel to Denton to take on the surging Mean Green of North Texas (5-6, 4-3 C-USA) at 1 p.m. CT live on ESPN+. UTSA QB Frank Harris orchestrated a phenomenal game-winning drive last week, marching the Roadrunners 77 yards in the final 1:05 with no timeouts remaining. Harris connected with TE Oscar Cardenas on a floated, deflected pass after the snap hit the ground to pull off the improbable victory in front of 35,147 at the Alamodome. UTSA is seeking C-USA’s first unbeaten regular season since 2011, when Houston finished the regular season 12-0 (ultimately fell in the C-USA Championship Game, and wrapped the season at 13-1 with a bowl win). The Mean Green have won four straight, including a 49-7 win at FIU last week, to set up an opportunity to spoil UTSA’s bid for a perfect season and achieve bowl eligibility after starting their season 1-6. UNT, boasting C-USA’s best rushing attack, rolled up 378 yards on the ground, as both RB DeAndre Torrey (18 carries for 109 yards and two touchdowns) and RB Ikaika Ragsdale (19 carries for 102 yards and a score), surpassed the century mark.
Charlotte (5-6, 3-4 C-USA) travels to Norfolk to face off against the surging Old Dominion Monarchs (5-6, 4-3 C-USA), at 1 p.m. CT on ESPN+ with bowl eligibility on the line. Charlotte has dropped four of its last five, including a 49-28 loss at home last week to Marshall. ODU on the other hand, has won four consecutive games, including a 24-17 win last week at Middle Tennessee to keep the Monarchs’ bowl hopes alive in head coach Ricky Rahne’s first season on the sidelines (after ODU did not play during the 2020 season). Old Dominion WR Ali Jennings caught four passes for 146 yards, while LB Jason Henderson led the way with nine tackles and a forced fumble in the win.
FIU (1-10, 0-7 C-USA) hits the road to take on Southern Miss (2-9, 1-6 C-USA) Saturday at 2 p.m. CT on ESPN3. FIU has dropped 10 straight, including a 49-7 loss at home against North Texas last week. Southern Miss utilized its “Superback” system to knock off Louisiana Tech last week, 35-19, in Ruston for the program’s first FBS win under head coach Will Hall, and first by the Golden Eagles since the regular season finale in 2020.
WKU (7-4, 6-1 C-USA) travels to Huntington, West Virginia, to battle Marshall (7-4, 5-2 C-USA) at 2:30 p.m. CT on CBS Sports Network with the East Division title and a spot in the 2021 Ryan Conference USA Championship Game on the line. WKU, who opened the season at 1-4 with a difficult early schedule, has won six straight, including a 52-17 win over Florida Atlantic last week. QB Bailey Zappe threw for 460 yards and six touchdowns, while WR Jerreth Sterns hauled in 12 passes for 143 yards and a touchdown in the win. Both keep rising up the C-USA record books for their monster seasons. Marshall had an impressive 49-28 win last week in Charlotte, paced by RB Rasheen Ali, who ran for 203 yards and three scores.
Middle Tennessee (5-6, 3-4 C-USA) makes the trip to Boca Raton to take on Florida Atlantic (5-6, 3-4 CUSA) at 6 p.m. CT on Stadium with bowl eligibility on the line. The Blue Raiders fell 24-17 at home last week to Old Dominion, despite having a chance to potentially tie things up late in the fourth quarter. FAU was beaten 52-17 in Bowling Green by WKU, their third straight loss heading into the regular season finale.
UTSA’S POLL POSITION
UTSA remains inside the top-20 of both of the major polls following their win over UAB last week. The Roadrunners again come in at No. 15 in the Associated Press Top 25 and No. 20 in the USA Today AFCA Coaches Poll (down two spots). UTSA is one of just three undefeated teams remaining in the FBS, and travels to Denton to take on the Mean Green on Saturday at 1 p.m. CT. UTSA came in at No. 22 in the third 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. 22 UTSA The Roadrunners enter Week 13 as one of just three unbeaten FBS teams (No. 1 Georgia and No. 5 Cincinnati are also 11-0 after wins this week) following Saturday’s thrilling 34-31 over UAB in front of 35,147 fans at the Alamodome. QB Frank Harris connected with TE Oscar Cardenas on a 1-yard touchdown with just three seconds remaining to clinch the C-USA West Division, and ensure that the Roadrunners would host the 2021 Ryan Conference USA Championship Game. Harris finished 25-36 for 323 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions in the win.
ZAPPE, STERNS LEADS WKU TO 6-1 IN C-USA PLAY
WKU QB Bailey Zappe, was phenomenal again on Saturday in WKU’s 52-17 win over Florida Atlantic on Senior Day. Zappe completed 39-49 passes for 470 yards and six touchdowns in the victory, WKU’s sixth straight. The Hilltoppers top the East Division standings at 6-1, and can clinch their spot in the Ryan 2021 Conference USA Championship Game with a win next week at Marshall. This marks Zappe’s sixth game this season with over 400-yards passing, which leads the FBS, and is three more than any other player in the country (Will Rogers, Mississippi State).
Zappe now sits tied for second in C-USA history for single-season passing touchdowns, with 48 (in just 11 games). He also moved into seventh in C-USA history in single-season passing yardage, with 4,640 thus far.
WR Jerreth Sterns hauled in 12 catches for 143 yards and a score, moving him into second in C-USA history in single-season receptions with 123 in 11 appearances, and he now has amassed 1,511 yards receiving, which now ranks sixth in C-USA history for single-season receiving yards.
ALI PACES MARSHALL IN BIG ROAD WIN
Marshall RB Rasheen Ali added to his rushing touchdown total with three more on Saturday in Marshall’s big 49-28 road win at Charlotte. Ali, who now has 20 rushing scores, entered play tied for the national lead on Saturday. He also has 22 total touchdowns on the season, which leads the FBS. His 20 rushing scores this season through 11 games ranks ninth-most in C-USA history. Ali finished with 23 carries for 203 yards and the three scores in the win, which kept Marshall in the race for the East Division title. The Thundering Herd can clinch the division and a spot in the 2021 Ryan Conference USA Championship Game with a win over WKU next Saturday at home in Huntington.
MONARCHS KEEP BOWL HOPES ALIVE
Old Dominion won its fourth consecutive game, defeating Middle Tennessee 24-17 in Murfreesboro on Saturday, keeping its bowl hopes alive. The win for the Monarchs sets up a big one next week between a pair of 5-6 teams looking to reach bowl eligibility. ODU hosts Charlotte in Norfolk at 1 p.m. CT on ESPN+. WR Ali Jennings caught four passes for 146 yards in Saturday’s win for Old Dominion.
MEAN GREEN WIN FOURTH STRAIGHT
North Texas picked up its fourth consecutive win to keep its bowl hopes alive, knocking off FIU 49-7 in Miami on Saturday night. The Mean Green outgained the Panthers 611-245 and ran for 378 yards in the win on a rainy night at FIU. UNT had a pair of 100-yard rushers in RB DeAndre Torrey (18 carries for 109 yards and two touchdowns) and RB Ikaika Ragsdale (19 carries for 102 yards and a score), while QB Austin Aune totaled three touchdowns (two passing and one rushing). UNT, now 5-6, looks to achieve bowl eligibility next weekend when the Mean Green welcome 11-0 No. 22 UTSA to Denton.
COWING LIFTS MINERS TO WIN NO. 7
UTEP won its final home game of 2021, 38-28 over Rice on Saturday, to improve to 7-4 on the season. WR Jacob Cowing caught 11 passes for 170 yards and a touchdown in the win, as the Miners’ incredible turnaround season continued – improving its win total from 2017-20 (five wins) to seven in 2021.
SOUTHERN MISS PICKS UP FIRST FBS WIN SINCE 2020
Southern Miss picked up its first FBS win under new head coach Will Hall Friday night, knocking off Louisiana Tech 35-19 on the road. It marked the program’s first FBS victory since the regular season finale in 2020, a 45-31 win at home over Florida Atlantic on Dec. 10. Friday’s victory was also Southern Miss’ first on the road since Oct. 3, 2020, when the Golden Eagles beat North Texas 41-31 in Denton.
ZAPPE CONTINUES TO CHUCK IT
WKU QB Bailey Zappe, who leads the nation in passing yards per game (421.8), was fantastic again last week for the HIlltoppers as they picked up their sixth straight win, knocking off Florida Atlantic 52-17 in WKU’s home finale. Zappe completed 39-49 passes for 460 yards and six touchdowns with two interceptions. Zappe has completed 71.6% of his passes (381-532), which is seventh nationally, for 4,640 yards with 48 touchdowns (leads the FBS) and just nine interceptions. He also has three rushing touchdowns on the season. Zappe has surpassed the 365-yard passing mark in 10 of 11 games this year for WKU.
STAY HOT, STERNS!
WKU WR Jerreth Sterns is among the FBS leaders in several categories entering Week 13. The former Houston Baptist wideout is second nationally in receiving yards per game (137.3) and in receptions per game (11.2). Sterns has a program-record 123 receptions (leads the FBS) for 1,511 yards (leads the FBS) and 12 touchdowns (fourth in the FBS) in 11 games in 2021.
He hauled in 12 passes for 143 yards last week in a win over Florida Atlantic. Sterns has seven games with 10 or more catches, and eight games with at least 100 yards receiving.
Sterns is now second in C-USA history for receptions in a single season, and sixth in single-season receiving yards, through just 11 appearances.