Conference USA Expansion: 2022 Football Records for New Teams

College football realignment this summer reminded me of a middle school cafeteria – no loyalty, just jockeying for the prime lunch spot. Oklahoma and Texas are leaving for the SEC, prompting the Big 12 to invite three schools from the American Athletic Conference – Houston, Cincinnati, and UCF. The AAC turned around and grabbed six schools from Conference USA – Charlotte, Florida Atlantic, North Texas, Rice, UAB, and UTSA. Luckily, C-USA was already scheduled to add Liberty, New Mexico State, Jacksonville State, and Sam Houston State to the conference next season.

Conference USA Expansion

C-USA lost the fight to keep Marshall, Old Dominion, and Southern Mississippi, who all bolted for the Sun Belt Conference. The five remaining schools, Western Kentucky, Florida International, Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee, and UTEP, will be joined by FBS schools Liberty and New Mexico State, as well as FCS programs Jacksonville State and Sam Houston State.

2023 Conference USA Football Teams

Florida International

The Panthers dropped their second game of the season to Texas State 41-12 on Saturday night in San Marcos. Quarterback Grayson James threw for 196 yards on 30-of-47 passing with two interceptions. Kicker Chase Gabriel made two field goals, one from 38-yards and another from 49-yards, while E.J. Wilson ran in the Panthers’ lone touchdown on a six-yard rush mid-fourth quarter. The two-point conversion attempt failed. Texas State outgained FIU 241 yards to 62 on the ground.

Jacksonville State

Rich Rodriguez’s Jacksonville State squad secured its first road win of the season, a 34-3 victory over Murray State at Roy Stewart Stadium on Saturday. The Gamecocks are now 3-0 to start the season for the first time since 2013 as they head into an intriguing matchup with Tulsa this weekend. Quarterback Anwar Lewis finished with 184 yards and three touchdowns. Running back Ron Wiggins had a career-long 83-yard late in the game – it was the redshirt sophomore’s third career rushing touchdown coming on the Gamecocks’ longest run from scrimmage this year. It tied for second-longest ever in JSU’s Division 1 history.

Liberty

The Flames found their second win of the season Saturday in the form of a 21-14 victory over UAB. Remember all the Blazers hype? LOL. Liberty fought back from a 7-0 deficit in the first quarter, scoring three rushing touchdowns for a 21-7 lead early in the fourth quarter. After scoring a minute into the game, UAB didn’t see the endzone again until three minutes left in the fourth quarter. A testament to the Flames’ defense? They forced four fumbles and recorded 64 tackles. Fun fact: all five touchdowns in the game were rushing ones.

Louisiana Tech

In more fun non-conference action, La Tech defeated Stephen F. Austin 51-17 at home this weekend. It was the first home win in the Sonny Cumbie era, and the Bulldogs’ 31-point lead at the half was the most significant margin since September 26, 2020, against Houston Baptist. Three quarterbacks saw time for the Bulldogs, who finished with 515 yards of offense. The passing game was complimented by running back Marquis Crosby, who finished with 198 yards on 16 carries and two touchdowns.

Middle Tennessee 

The problem with this game is that the Blue Raiders may have defeated Colorado State 34-19 in Fort Collins this weekend, but they let the Rams hang around and attempt to mount far too many comebacks. CSU scored three touchdowns in 12 minutes, looking like they might make it back. But MTSU’s defense, led by Teldrick Ross, said ‘no sir’ and shut it all down. Ross finished with a team-leading 15 tackles.

New Mexico State

In the 99th edition of the Battle of I-10, UTEP pulled off the 20-13 win over New Mexico State at the Sun Bowl Saturday night. The Miners scored two touchdowns in two minutes early in the second quarter to establish dominance. But the Aggies battled back in the second half. New Mexico State made it to UTEP’s 13-yard line with just minutes left in the game, and the comeback looked imminent. But a fumble by Diego Pavia recovered by Miner linebacker Cal Wallerstedt would lock the W up for UTEP.

Sam Houston State

The Northern Arizona Lumberjacks defeated the Sam Houston State Bearkats 10-3 this weekend. Northern Arizona had Sam Houston State’s number, allowing just 142 yards through the final eight drives of the game. It was the Lumberjacks’ best defensive effort since the 2006 season. Holding the Bearkats to just a first-quarter field goal, the three points are the lowest since a 20-3 victory in Flagstaff against Idaho State in 2011 and the fewest points allowed on the road since a 54-3 win against Northern Colorado in Greeley since 2006.

UTEP

Fun fact about UTEP’s 20-13 win over New Mexico State: QB Gavin Hardison threw his 26th career TD pass to ranked ninth (tied with Ryan Metz) on the program’s all-time list.

Western Kentucky

Bye week.