Happy Labor Day, folks.
This is week one, which followed week zero (stupid). There are a lot of questions being answered right now, and questions being asked anew. The “narrative” of a season is being written and we will hold back on drawing complete conclusions but we will pass judgements week-to-week.
CUSA as we know it is ending. This is the first season after the departures of Marshall, ODU, Southern Miss, and the last before we see Charlotte, UTSA, UAB, North Texas, Rice and FAU leave for the AAC. This is a transitionary year if there ever was one, but don’t forget that you can still win some things, folks. The trophies and memories are not ephemeral.
Week 1 results:
9 OU 45 - UTEP 13
24 Houston 35 - UTSA 34(3OT)
14 USC 66 - Rice 14
James Madison 44 - MTSU 7
Ohio 41 - FAU 38
SMU 48 - UNT 10
WKU 49 - Hawai’i 17 Friday
W&M 41 - Charlotte 24 Thursday
FIU 38 - Bryant 37(OT) UAB 59 - Alabama A&M 0 Mizzou 52 - Louisiana Tech 24
UTEP is now 0-2, and the excitement of last year is pretty well gone, I think. CR did not believe in the Miners and that seems like a well-founded position to take. OU was always going to be a tough matchup which put more pressure on the NT home game to be the start. New Mexico State will come to El Paso next weekend, in a preview of the new CUSA that will be.
Houston came to San Antonio and coach Holgerson played some mind games, talking about the “piped in crowd noise.” That is putting some respect on the defending league champs’ name. UTSA showed up, showed out, and played an epic game that is about as close to a win without being a real thing. The top-25 ranked Coogs are a good squad and losing to them after leading for much of the game is a credit to the program. UTSA showed up when it mattered, but came up just short. CR said that last year UTSA had the magic and in ‘21 that probably ends up being a UTSA win. The question about this team is if they show up for the games that are not hyped, and if there is any magic left for those miracle wins.
Rice had no chance, and this was just an exhibition. The Owls have completely lost whatever momentum was there in the last few seasons, and is back to being afterthoughts.
MTSU got absolutely handled on the road against newly “promoted” James Madison, now of the Sun Belt conference. MTSU used to be a solid Sun Belt team, and has transitioned to a erstwhile okay CUSA member, but has spent a lot of time being terrible. This program is in a familiar cycle and I am absolutely positive they will jump up and beat someone with an out-of-nowhere win on the way to another forgettable season.
I will admit I did not see much of this FAU vs Ohio game. One of the more taxing beats is covering a large league in non-conference play. Eleven three-hour games in a short window is tough. Excuses aside, this one was a little epic in the same vein of the Houston v UTSA game. FAU showed some toughness, getting back into the game from 17 points down twice, and fell short late. There was effort, frustration, and excitement. Also, there was a loss.
SMU walked up and down the field vs UNT and had a solid showing up the highway in Denton. North Texas’ newly solid defense looked poor, as SMU targeted UNT’s number one corner and got 3 scores from it. North Texas moved the ball well early but turned the ball over, got a field goal blocked, and stalled out the rest of the way. NT was clearly less talented but did not even play to their potential, something of a repeated note under Seth Littrell.
WKU is solid. They got a win over Austin Peay in week 0, which asked some questions about both sides of the ball. They followed that one by beating a more talented Hawai’i squad on the road. WKU are not as powerful offensively as they were last season, but they might not need to be. UTSA and UAB are good, but getting into the championship game is still a possibility and Tyson Helton has shown himself to be a practical coach who gets wins.
Charlotte WUT. They had a lead late, squandered it and the wheels fell off. William & Mary won going a way 41-24. We are in shock but also we should’t be.
FIU escaped vs Bryant — who is Bryant?, you ask. I ask as well. Very UTEP vibes.
UAB handled an opponent that was less than good. This is not a knock, because this is the kind of scoreline you expect. Whereas WKU only won 38-17 or whatever vs their own FCS squad, UAB took no prisoners and dominated going away. This is what you expect from the top of the league. It is also a good sign that they were focused.
Tech actually performed well in spots vs Mizzou. CR was in Columbia for this one, and saw Tech’s defense show some stoutness. The offense led by Downing was mediocre but hit some big plays on Mizzou’s defense. If you think the Tiger defense is good will dictate how you interpret those events. I have questions about the punt and kick game for the Dawgs and that will cost them a game at this rate. It was poor. MIzzou pulled away in the third and fourth and I was walking along a highway because the shuttle didn’t come.
Next week’s games:
Saturday, September 10:
The most interesting game is probably UTSA at West Point. Army is always a fun trip, and an unusual opponent. MTSU at Colorado State might be fun. Colorado Springs is not that cool a destination but Colorado is. Make a weekend of it. If you are out west maybe you go to the UTEP game for Note Latina and see a rivalry game.