Final Conference USA Power Rankings

Pony Stampede Managing Editor Billy Embody breaks down Conference USA and takes a look at how each team fared this weekend. Where does SMU stand? Come inside to find out!

1. Tulsa (9-3, 7-1; LW: 1): Even though Tulsa lost out on a perfect season in C-USA with a loss to SMU 35-27 on the road, Tulsa is still the best team in the conference and showed why in the second half. Tulsa was not able to establish a consistent running game against the Mustangs so it went to the pass, and Cody Green ended up having his best day passing with 413 yards and three touchdowns. Even though the Mustangs were held to just 305 total yards, Tulsa made too many mistakes in the first half and that allowed the Mustangs to build a 28-6 halftime lead that Tulsa just couldn't come back from. Tulsa will face UCF this weekend at home in the Conference USA Championship Game.

2. UCF (9-3, 7-1; LW: 2): UCF had a nice tune-up game for the conference championship game by defeating UAB 49-24. UCF ran an extremely balanced attack with 244 yards passing by Blake Bortles and 229 total rushing yards on the day, but the defense has to get better. Even though UCF shut down the run by limiting UAB to 89 yards rushing, it allowed 510 yards passing with two different quarterbacks in the game for UAB. After seeing Tulsa put up 413 yards passing, this has to be concerning for the Knights. What the Knights do have going for them is the running game with Latavius Murray, but also Quincy McDuffie, who ran for three scores. UCF heads to Tulsa to face the Golden Hurricane for the C-USA title game.

3. East Carolina (8-4, 7-1; LW: 3): East Carolina ruined Marshall's bowl eligibility hopes by beating the Thundering Herd 65-59 in 2OT. In a game that featured very little defense, ECU threw for 439 yards and was able to go the entire game without a turnover, which in the end was the difference as ECU scored 17 points off of the three Marshall turnovers including the game winning score in the second overtime after a Marshall fumble. East Carolina wraps up one of its better seasons in the last few years with a powerful offense and will be heading to a bowl game to be determined.

4. SMU (6-6, 5-3; LW: 6): SMU was able to pull off a big upset and get bowl eligible for the fourth straight season after holding off a Tulsa rally to win 35-27. If SMU had not dropped games to Rice and Tulane, the team would be headed to the conference championship game and that will wear on the players mind as they prepare for their bowl game. The Mustangs ground out 192 yards against Tulsa and took care of the football. The Mustangs are 14-0 over the last two seasons when scoring first and the Mustangs built a big lead after opening the scoring. The Mustangs await the decision on their bowl destination, but if the Mustangs expect to finish the season above .500 then they will have to defend the pass better than they have.

5. Rice (6-6, 4-4; LW: 5): Rice rode a big fourth quarter to a 33-24 victory over UTEP on the road to get to bowl eligibility. Rice had 154 yards and two touchdowns from Charles Ross and that had a lot to do with Rice holding the ball for 37:32 of the game compared to just 22:28 in time of possession during the game. Rice limited UTEP to 1-of-11 on third down conversions, which was the difference in the game because UTEP could not stay on the field. Rice awaits a bowl destination after their victory this weekend.

6. Marshall (5-7, 4-4; LW: 4): Marshall went into its game this weekend against East Carolina looking to head to a bowl game with a victory, but instead went home heartbroken after its 65-59 loss to the Pirates. Marshall has plenty to be proud of this season, leading the nation in passing yardage per game behind Rakeem Cato, who had 318 yards this past game but left with an injury late in the second half, which hurt Marshall's chances. Marshall's defense could not stop Shane Carden from ECU, who passed for 439 yards while completing 80 percent of his passes and added three passing touchdowns. In the end with Marshall's three turnovers, it was tough for the Thundering Herd to get the job done, but with Rakeem Cato coming back, the team has a bright future ahead.

7. Houston (5-7, 4-4; LW: 7): Houston capped off their season with a victory over Tulane on Senior Day 40-17. Houston got up early in the game, 17-0 before Tulane closed the gap to 17-7. Crawford Jones had an impressive day with over 350 yards passing, but he threw three interceptions in the game as both teams turned the ball over nine times combined. Houston racked up 591 total yards in one of their best offensive days of the season and the Cougars can build off of that going into next season. Freshman Ryan Jackson ran for 129 yards and two touchdowns and the Cougars have to be happy with their younger players

8. Memphis (4-8, 4-4; LW: 9): After allowing a first quarter field goal, Memphis exploded in the second and third quarters with six touchdowns en route to a 42-24 victory to finish off their season. Brandon Hayes and Jai Steib, who combined for 204 yards and four touchdowns, led Memphis. With Hayes, Steib and quarterback Jacob Karam coming back for their senior seasons, this could be a very dangerous three-some next year for a possible bowl berth. Memphis still has a lot to improve on including developing Karam more as a passer, but with three seniors running the show, the Tigers could be a darkhorse next season.

9. UTEP (3-9, 2-6; LW: 8): In Mike Price's final game as UTEP coach, the team could not muster anything in the second half after keeping it close for almost three quarters. Rice pulled away with two fourth quarter touchdowns including a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown that sealed the deal for the Miners. UTEP lost 33-24 to Rice at home even with 443 yards on offense and Rice's two turnovers. UTEP was able to capitalize on a Rice fumble by recovering it in the endzone, but aside from that the team was 1 of 11 on third down conversions and UTEP finishes the season losing three of their last four.

10. Tulane (2-10, 2-6; LW: 10): Tulane turned the ball over two out of its first four drives and never recovered as Houston built a 17-0 lead, but two interceptions thrown by Crawford Jones allowed Tulane to score to close the gap. Tulane ended up losing 40-17, but the Green Wave did get better as the season went along. Ryan Griffin had a good day with 346 yards passing on 66 attempts, but the four interceptions killed the Tulane offense. Tulane fumbled the ball twice in addition to the interceptions and could not get any type of comeback mounted in the game. Tulane has a lot of work to do and with Ryan Griffin graduating, the team will have some spots to fill soon.

11. UAB (3-9, 2-6; LW: 11): UAB was down 35-10 at the half and could not mount a comeback even with 599 total yards on offense. UAB did have success in the second half with their passing attack, but went just 2 of 5 on fourth down conversions and that never allowed UAB to capitalize on their big plays. UAB turned the ball over twice, but their suspect first half is what did them in against the East division champions, who bounced back after a tough loss to Tulsa.

12. Southern Miss (0-12, 0-8; LW: 12): Southern Miss never had a chance this week after their first quarter field goal. Memphis punished the Golden Eagles with a tough running game and going 8-of-11 on third down conversions. Southern Miss mustered just 288 yards on offense and while the team did not shoot themselves in the foot with plenty of turnovers, Southern Miss just could not sustain drives. Ellis Johnson has his work cut out for him this summer to get this ship righted, but he must improve the talent level first to develop a team that can be competitive.

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