Conference USA Preview

Now that The Greatest Tournament of All Time has reached its epic conclusion and 2001 Miami has been crowned “Greatest College Football Team of All Time”, it’s time to get the preseason predictions for 2009 kicked off. I’ll start by posting my conference previews, and follow that up with my preseason Top 50 rankings. First up: Conference USA.Projected Records & Standings

East Division
1. EAST CAROLINA      10-2  (7-1)
2. SOUTHERN MISS 7-5 (5-3)
3. MEMPHIS 6-6 (4-4)
4. MARSHALL 6-6 (4-4)
5. CENTRAL FLORIDA 4-8 (2-6)
6. UAB 3-9 (2-6)
West Division
1. HOUSTON             9-3  (7-1)
2. UTEP 7-5 (5-3)
3. TULSA 7-5 (5-3)
4. RICE 5-7 (4-4)
5. TULANE 4-8 (2-6)
6. SMU 2-10 (1-7)
East Champion: EAST CAROLINA
When QB Patrick Pinkney was granted a sixth year medical redshirt it was the icing on the cake for Skip Holtz’s Pirates. ECU already had by far the best offensive and defensive lines in the conference, so to retain a veteran quarterback with the multitude of skills Pinkney has makes this an easy pick. Southern Miss is a popular choice to win the East Division, but ECU is the more veteran team. After sharpening their teeth in upsets of Virginia Tech and West Virginia a year ago, the Pirates might be on the verge of a Boise State-type breakout season.

West Champion: HOUSTON
Coach Kevin Sumlin made sure the Cougars didn’t skip a beat after Art Briles bolted for Baylor. The return of QB Case Keenum – this year’s version of Chase Clement – means Houston will probably score a billion points again. With Tulsa apparently taking a small step back, the door is wide open for Sumlin’s Cougs to claim the West crown.

Question the Hype: SMU
June Jones won at Hawaii, but to assume his “offense” would automatically light up the scoreboard in Dallas is absurd. The Mustangs have a long way to go to get back to respectability – they haven’t been to a bowl game since 1984 – and I don’t believe June Jones and his scheme can perform a miracle in only the second year of his tenure.

Could Surprise: MEMPHIS
Memphis is a team to look out for because of the talent on the offensive side of the ball. Not only do they return C-USA’s leading rusher (Curtis Steele) and tallest receiving corps (6’-8” Carlos Singleton and 6’-4” Duke Calhoun), the Tigers also benefit from the addition of Wisconsin transfer RB Lance Smith. QB Arkelon Hall has plenty of weapons at his disposal, so if he can improve his consistency this is a team that could compete for the East Division championship.

Faulk Trophy Candidates:
CB-Brandon Brinkley, Houston
WR-DeAndre Brown, Southern Miss
FS-Van Eskridge, East Carolina
RB-Damion Fletcher, Southern Miss
WR/KR-Damaris Johnson, Tulsa
QB-Case Keenum, Houston
RB/KR-Darius Marshall, Marshall
DE-Albert McClellan, Marshall
QB-Patrick Pinkney, East Carolina
WR-Carlos Singleton, Memphis
TE-Cody Slate, Marshall
QB-Trevor Vittatoe, UTEP
QB-Joe Webb, UAB
DE-C.J. Wilson, East Carolina

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