Monday, August 13, 2007

2007 Conference USA Preview

Conference USA is the gateway conference from the mid-mid-major conferences (MAC, Sun Belt) to the mid-majors (WAC, Mountain West) and even the BCS. Cincinnati, South Florida, and Louisville went from Conference USA to the Big East, while TCU stepped laterally into the stronger Mountain West. None of the current programs, however, look like they are going to step up anytime soon.

Order of Finish

C-USA East

  1. Southern Miss Golden Eagles 10-2 (8-0)
  2. Marshall Thundering Herd 7-5 (5-3)
  3. UCF Knights 6-6 (5-3)
  4. East Carolina Pirates 4-8 (4-4)
  5. Memphis Tigers 4-8 (3-5)
  6. UAB Blazers 3-9 (2-6)

C-USA West

1. Houston Cougars 9-3 (7-1)

2. Tulsa Golden Hurricane 9-3 (6-2)

3. Rice Owls 6-6 (4-4)

4. SMU Mustangs 3-9 (2-6)

5. UTEP Miners 5-7 (2-6)

6. Tulane Green Wave 1-11 (0-8)

Conference Championship

Southern Miss over Houston

Can you imagine, Brett Favre over Andre Ware in the C-USA championship? Unfortunately, no player near the caliber of these two is playing in the C-USA today, so we can only dream. Still, that should be a pretty entertaining Wednesday night football game.

Bowl Bound Teams

The C-USA champion gets an automatic bid into the prestigious Autozone Liberty Bowl, so book a trip for the Golden Eagles to Philadelphia. Houston should be able to handle Kent State in the GMAC Bowl, while Tulsa will find itself in the Bowl. Marshall will probably go to the Texas Bowl, while either UCF or Rice will find themselves in the New Orleans Bowl vs. Troy.

Players to Watch

  1. Damion Fletcher, RB, Southern Miss, SO
  2. Kevin Smith, RB, UCF, JR
  3. Justin Willis, QB, SMU, SO
  4. Jarett Dillard, WR, Rice, JR
  5. Albert McClellan, DE, Marshall, JR
(Media all-conference team)

Fletcher led the conference in rushing last year as a freshman, posting a 1388-yard, 11 TD season. Smith ran for 934 yards and 7 touchdowns in only 9 games, so watch out for him if he can stay healthy. Willis had a fantastic freshman year, throwing for 2047 yards with a 26-6 TD-INT ratio. Dillard hauled in 91 catches for 1247 yards, 21 one of those catches for TDs. McClellan is coming off an 11 ½ sack season.

Best Chance for an Upset

Tulsa over BYU, September 15. I don’t really have any justification for this pick. It just kind of seems like an upset that would happen, no?

World Beaters (Toughest Schedule)

Southern Miss. After opening with Tennessee-Martin at home, the Golden Eagles travel to Tennessee, and then have a date at Boise State and their blue field on September 27. Arkansas State comes to Hattiesburg for the season finale, and while they are from the Sun Belt, they are one of the top 3 teams.

Sucka Ducks (Weakest Schedule)

Memphis. The Tigers host Ole Miss to open the season, then travel to the scary, scary confines at Arkansas State, before returning home for a monster test vs. Jacksonville State. Middle Tennessee then comes to town later in the year, meaning the Tigers scheduled a Division I-AA school and two Sun Belt schools, which is excusable only if you are in the Sun Belt.

Best Mascot

Marshall Thundering Herd. In a tight race (every team but Memphis, Rice, and Houston has interesting names), the Thundering Herd prevail. Even though no one really know what kind of animal makes up the herd, everyone knows that you don’t want to fuck with one when it is thundering.

Which program is the next to take the Louisville-South Florida-Cincinnati-TCU (to an extent) leap up?

Probably Southern Miss. They have a five-year record of 39-25, including one conference championship. They haven’t had a losing season in 13 years, and have gone to a bowl game in 9 of the last 10 years. They’ve had the same coach, Jeff Bower, for 16 years, which is a good sign of program stability. Plus, they produced Brett Favre, one of the top 5 quarterbacks ever. Marshall is another candidate, if only because they have constantly been an upward moving program, from Division I-AA’s Southern Conference to the MAC to the C-USA. I’m sure Marshall envisioned dominating the C-USA the way they did the MAC (where the Thundering Herd rattled off 5 conference titles in their first six years in the league), and thus leveraging themselves into an offer from (most likely) the Big East. Unfortunately, the program has really leveled off, in recruiting as well as in on-the-field performance. Gone are the days of Chad Pennington to Randy Moss, and there is no sign that they are returning anytime soon.

No comments:

Post a Comment