Mean Green Alone Atop C-USA West
Showdown In Ruston Looms For Division Control
DENTON - One week after Mean Green fans had to be talked off ledges and kept away from sharp objects following the loss in Boca Raton, North Texas bounced back to retake sole possession of first place in Conference USA's West Division.
Saturday's 45-38 win over Old Dominion and Southern Miss' 30-12 loss to UAB combined to lift North Texas into a position to seize complete control of the division. The Mean Green's path to the West title is clear: a win this week at Louisiana Tech will earn North Texas a tie-break advantage over all of its pursuers and the opportunity to clinch the crown at homecoming the following week.
But to reach that point, the Mean Green will have to dethrone the defending division champ and pre-season favorite in Ruston, where Louisiana Tech is 16-4 in the last four years. A loss to the Bulldogs wouldn't end UNT's divisional chances, but it would drop the Mean Green into a four- or five-team tie for first place.
Louisiana Tech is one of four teams with two league losses that are a game back of North Texas, so the Bulldogs must beat North Texas to keep their C-USA championship hopes alive. In fact, the Bulldogs need the win to pump up their bowl prospects. Eight teams in C-USA are at or on the cusp of bowl eligibility, and Louisiana Tech plays three of those schools in its final four games, including both division leaders in back-to-back weeks. The Bulldogs must win two of those last four to be bowl eligible, so expect Louisiana Tech to play with some urgency this week.
Meanwhile, for all the talk of the relative strength or weakness of C-USA, the conference is closing on having nine bowl-eligible teams this year.
The standings and key games the rest of the way in the West Division (all times central):
North Texas at Louisiana Tech (2:30)
UTSA at FIU (6:00)
Florida Atlantic at Louisiana Tech (2:30)
UTEP at North Texas (4:00) UAB at UTSA (6:00)
Marshall at UTSA (6:00)
Southern Miss at Marshall (1:30)
UTSA at Louisiana Tech (tba)
C-USA championship game