UTSA still in Roadrunning for C-USA title spot
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Texas-San Antonio isn't interested in playing the spoiler role in Conference USA's West Division anymore. The Roadrunners are one of three teams still in the running to play for the league championship.
In the last two weeks, the Roadrunners (6-5, 5-2) have knocked Tulane down a peg and TKO'd North Texas, 10-7 and 21-13 respectively. With a four-game winning streak, they face Louisiana Tech (4-7, 3-4) at the Alamodome.
As a school transitioning to the FBS, UTSA may not play in a bowl game, but it has a shot to win the West. A win over the Bulldogs and a Tulane win over Rice send the Roadrunners to Marshall or East Carolina for the Dec. 7 title game.
Back in October, UTSA was pelted 34-10 at Marshall and beaten 27-21 by Rice in a game that wasn't that close. UTSA scored late and failed to recover the onside kick.
At 2-5, it looked like a long first season in Conference USA. Four games later, the picture looks very different - and remember, this is the program's third year at any level.
"For this university and these guys, I just can't say enough what it would mean," said coach Larry Coker. "It's been an impossible dream really from where we started. It's been a no-excuses program. It's been unbelievable what [athletic director Lynn Hickey's] done."
If Rice (8-3, 6-1) beats Tulane at home (7-4, 5-2), that settles the West. The Owls kept control of their destiny last week by beating Alabama-Birmingham (2-9, 1-6) 37-34 in overtime, in one of those spooky games at Legion Field.
With only a 28-16 loss to North Texas (7-4, 5-2) blemishing its league mark, Rice has stuck to its formula. Lead by Charles Ross (1,063 yards, 12 TDs) and quarterback Taylor McHargue (451 yards, 5 TDs), the Owls lead C-USA in rushing and have been the No. 3 offense behind East Carolina and Marshall.
Tulane received the cure that ails everybody in the form of Texas-El Paso (2-9, 1-6), and the Green Wave pummeled the Miners 45-3. Before that, the Wave was tossed overboard by Florida Atlantic (34-17) and UTSA.
Tulane wins the West by beating Rice and Louisiana Tech beating UTSA. North Texas (7-4, 5-2) loses all tiebreakers, so the Mean Green is eliminated. NT plays at Tulsa (3-8, 2-5).
Should East Carolina defeat Marshall, it almost certainly will host the championship game. If Marshall wins, it likely travel to a 7-1 Rice.
With Rice lacking head-to-head matchups with ECU and Marshall, the BCS standings will determine the host. According to CBS Sportsline, ECU is 31st, Rice 55th and Marshall 65th.
Marshall's best scenario: Beat ECU and have Tulane beat Rice. With that, the Herd would host either UTSA or Tulane in the championship game.
News on the Liberty Bowl front: That bowl has swapped selection order with the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham, and is guaranteed an SEC team. That happened after the Liberty did not get an SEC team last year.
That means the Liberty will pick either the C-USA champion or a team from the American Athletic Conference. If it's the latter, it's the second time in three years C-USA didn't receive its traditional place in Memphis, despite declarations by the league that it would.
A key piece of the puzzle is whether Mississippi State became bowl eligible late Thursday night by beating Mississippi.
Back in the East Division, FAU (5-6, 3-4) is favored to become bowl eligible by winning Shula Bowl XII against Florida International (1-10, 1-6). But will the Owls receive one of the 70 bids?
It doesn't look good. Sixty-nine teams have attained eligibility, with 10 or so teams still in the running. FAU's fan base will not wield much influence, especially with the Atlantic Coast Conference and Pac-12 expected to have surplus teams.
As for UTSA, the only way a transitional team can land in a bowl is if the number of eligible teams falls short of the magic 70. Won't happen.
There are two games in the FBS pitting teams with a combined 2-20 record: Idaho at New Mexico State and Southern Mississippi (0-11, 0-7) at UAB. The Golden Eagles are trying to end their nation-worst losing streak at 23, and leave the ranks of the winless (Georgia State, Miami of Ohio, Hawaii, Georgia State).
Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.