Memphis, UTEP and UAB have generally been down in football for what seems like forever. It appears that those losing ways may be coming to an end.
A change may be on the horizon for Memphis, UTEP and UAB. These three teams have been card-carrying members of the downtrodden club for a very long time now. Preseason prognosticators had picked each of these teams to be at or near the bottom of their conferences. Based on the first two weeks of the season, however, it appears that a change may be on the horizon. Even though each one of these teams lost, they each gave a Power 5 member a real battle, something that might not have happened in years past.
Memphis gave highly-ranked, Power 5, UCLA all they could handle in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena on Saturday night before losing 42-35. The Tigers were in the game right until the end and scored 14 points in the fourth quarter. They had 469 yards of total offense. I’m not suggesting the Mississippi River is going to flow backwards, but Memphis looks like they are a much improved team and could be a factor in the American Athletic Conference. Head Coach Justin Fuente, a former quarterback at Oklahoma, leads a Big 8/Big 12 flavored staff with Darrell Dickey, former Kansas State quarterback as offensive coordinator and Oklahoman, Barry Odom, who played linebacker at Missouri as defensive coordinator. Memphis is 1-1 and, after an off week, faces Middle Tennessee State on September 20th in the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis.
Like Memphis, UTEP gave their Power 5 opponent all they could handle. Saturday night in the Sun Bowl in El Paso, UTEP took Texas Tech right down to the wire and had a chance to win the game at the end before losing 30-26. There is a new look and feel for UTEP under the tutelage of head man Sean Kugler. The emphasis is on a hard-nosed, power rushing game. UTEP had 277 yards rushing. Aaron Jones had 147 of those and two touchdowns on 23 carries. Jeremiah Laufasa, a wrecking ball at 6’1″, 215, had 47 yards and one touchdown on 6 carries. That was the best looking UTEP performance I have seen in a long time. It looks like the Miners could do some damage in Conference USA. UTEP is 1-1 and hosts New Mexico State on Saturday.
UAB kept right up with Power 5, SEC member, Mississippi State before losing 47-34 in Starkville at Davis Wade Stadium. The Blazers put up 548 yards of total offense to the Bulldogs 516. UAB used two quarterbacks and put up 435 yards passing. First year head coach Bill Clark looks to have UAB pointed in the right direction. They also look like they could be a force to be reckoned with in Conference USA. UAB is 1-1 and welcomes FCS member Alabama A&M to Legion Field in Birmingham on Saturday.