Conference USA football represented themselves well in the 2018 postseason, finishing 4-2, the best record in the Group of 5.
Rice football wasn’t in the postseason in 2018, but the Owls saw several of Conference USA’s bowl teams firsthand last season. Middle Tennessee, North Texas, UAB, Marshall, FIU and Louisiana Tech represented CUSA in bowl games, finishing 4-2. Rice played four of those squad and will play the other two in 2019.
Conference USA finished with a 66.7 winning percentage in bowl games, the best record of any conference in the nation. Here’s how each CUSA squad’s bowl appearance turned out:
New Mexico Bowl (Dec. 15) – Utah State 52, North Texas 13
North Texas won sixth of their first seven games and three of their final six. One of those four losses was a blowout at the hands of an extremely talented Utah State team which was receiving votes in the most recent AP Poll. Even without head coach Matt Wells, who moved on to Texas Tech, the Aggies proved to be too much for the Mean Green.
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl (Dec. 15) – App State 45, Middle Tenn. 13
App State, too, was without its head coach. Scott Satterfield is the new head man at Louisville, but that didn’t seem to matter much in the New Orleans Bowl. Mountaineers’ wide receiver Malik Williams threw two touchdown passes. If that doesn’t sum up how bad of a day at the office it was for MTSU, I’m not sure what will.
Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl (Dec. 18) – UAB 37, NIU 13
UAB’s storybook ceiling finished with a blowout win over a strong Northern Illinois team. The Blazers finished with a program-best eight wins in 2017 and improved on that in 2018, winning 11 games. Entering the offseason head coach Bill Clark received several Coach of the Year recognitions and a raise, which makes him the highest paid coach in the conference.
Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl (Dec. 20) – Marshall 38, USF 20
Marshall dropped the hammer on one of the most bizarre seasons in college football history. South Florida started the year 7-0 with wins over two Power 5 teams (Illinois and Georgia Tech). The Bulls lost their last six games and never came close to beating Marshall.
Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl (Dec. 21) – FIU 35, Toledo 32
FIU won a back-and-forth shootout in what was the most exciting CUSA bowl game. After a Christian Alexander touchdown pass to Sterling Palmer gave the Panthers a 14-10 lead the two teams traded six more scores. Both teams scored in the final 45 seconds, but FIU clung to a 3-point lead, emerging with their ninth win, the best mark in school history.
Sofi Hawai’i Bowl (Dec. 22) – Louisiana Tech 31, Hawai’i 14
Hawai’i kept things close until Louisiana Tech exploded for three touchdowns in the third quarter. Warriors’ quarterback Cole McDonald was benched for his struggles midway through the second quarter and Bulldogs’ quarterback J’Mar Smith and company put this game to bed before the fourth quarter rolled around and McDonald was put back into the game.
Here’s how the rest of the conferences and independent teams fared:
Big Ten: 5-4
Big 12: 4-3
Group of 5
Conference USA: 4-2
Mountain West: 3-2
Sun Belt: 3-2
*pending National Championship Game between Clemson and Alabama