Conference USA 2013 Preseason Top 5
The 2013 version of Conference USA, the 2012 version of Conference USA, and the 2014 Version of Conference USA will all be different. With the ever-changing landscape of college football still in motion, Conference USA will find itself in motion for one more year. The new conference welcomes a collection of teams from Sun Belt and WAC with only one of those six that will make an immediate impact, the rest will have to wait. Now in it’s 19th season, Conference USA is proving to be a conference where teams can take the next step in developing it’s football program. One of the newcomers that has caught our eye is the University of Texas San Antonio. In 2012 we predicted that UTSA would have a winning record, they proved us right. This year we’re not going to make the same prediction but we love what is happening with this program in San Antonio. Larry Coker might be the most disrespected coach with a National Championship in the recent history of college football. Coach Coker has found a new life with the Roadrunners in San Antonio, with a program that had never played a down of football the Roadrunners have posted a 12-10 record in two years. Now, it’s big boy football time for UTSA and waiting for them this year, they will have home games against Oklahoma St, Houston, and Rice. This will be an interesting test and pay attention to the Sep 7th game against the Cowboys, it’s going to tell us more then most people realize about future of Roadrunner Football. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s finally get to the Rivals Rundown of Conference USA 2013 Preseason Top 5. Here’s the Rundown…
1. Rice 9-3 (West Division Champion)
When pinning two programs head to head, normally we take the home team, in the case of Rice vs Tulsa, we are taking Rice which leaves us picking them as one of the surprise teams of college football for 2013. Last year RIce won six of it’s last 7 games finishing it off with a bowl victory against Air Force. The season and the finish was an important hurdle for a program trying to build a winning mentality with it’s players. Head Coach David Bailiff is going into his 7th year at Rice with his most experienced team on both offense and defense. We love the fact that they have 18 returning starters with 10 of those being seniors. The schedule will start off with it’s toughest team on the road at Texas A&M, from there they get 3 home games until their conference fate could be decided with a road game against Tulsa. No matter what will happen in the match ups with A&M and Tulsa, Rice has an extremely winnable schedule and we are looking for them to take the West Division and the overall Championship for Conference USA. We know our TV will be ready for that A&M game to see where Rice stacks up!
2. Tulsa 9-3
Tulsa is becoming a safe pick, that’s why the majority of preseason publications have them winning the West Division and winning the entire conference. We see problems with Tulsa and think this will be a little bit of a down year, unless there defense adopts early. The strength for Tulsa this year is found with their offense, they return a senior QB and their top WR’s to a solid which should show improvement on offensive production vs 2012. That production will make up for some of the losses on defense but not all. Tulsa lost all but two starters on a defense that by the end of the year ranked 25th overall in production. We see a drop in defense and tough games, against equal or superior offenses in Bowling Green, East Carolina, Oklahoma, and Rice. Not to mention tough match-ups with Iowa State and Marshall. We are calling for Tulsa to match the 9-3 regular season mark of 2012 but a loss to Rice will place them on the sidelines for the C-USA Championship.
3. East Carolina 8-4 (East Division Champions)
We have a problem at our number three pick on the C-USA Rundown, the problem is that we honestly think East Carolina is the third best team… We know that doesn’t sound like a problem, the problem is that Marshall could end up with a better record because of their schedule. East Carolina has a schedule that features away games against North Carolina and N.C. State while Marshall has Miami of Ohio and University of Ohio in the same non-conference two games. Both teams play Virginia Tech as an equalizer. So, for our Rundown we are going with the Pirates but by the slimmest of margins. East Carolina features 8 returning starters on both sides of the ball which should show solid improvements. The defense will have to adjust to a new coaching staff but have two very winnable games to start the schedule and get everyone on the same page. The offense showed it’s explosiveness in the last 6 regular season games winning 5 of 6 before stumbling in it’s bowl game. The match-up against Virginia Tech at home could spell for a special season if East Carolina can pull the major upset. Look for the Pirates to equal their win total from 2012 in the regular season and play for a conference title.
4. Marshall Thundering Herd 8-4
We mentioned the schedule in our preview for East Carolina and we mentioned the win total. We mentioned that we like the Pirates to win the conference but look for the Thundering Herd to be in the race until the final of the regular season on Nov. 30th against the Pirates in Huntington. Marshall is looking to finally return to it’s past glory and could easily trade a prediction for a 10 win season. They return leaders on both sides of the ball and coach Doc Holiday has put together an offense that ranked in the top 10 last season for scoring and number one overall for passing yards per game. If the Herd perform they could be 8-1 entering their finally three games of the season which features Tulsa and East Carolina. Again, we feel that East Carolina is the better team but the schedule could be the thing the propels Marshall to the top and playing for a title.
5. Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders 8-4
The new kid on the block gets no love as the Blue Raiders enter Conference USA from the Sun Belt playing a new slate of opponents and tough road games out of conference with North Carolina and BYU. They do get both Marshall and East Carolina at home which well help them in their toughest conference match-ups. The questions that leave them out of the talk of winning the division come on both sides of the ball where they must become more efficient against some better offenses then what they faced last season. We like the future of Middle Tennessee and expect a successful season ending in a much deserved bowl birth!