Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Buy, Pass, Sell: Conference USA Edition

Conference USA is a conference that is more in flux than just about any other conference in the country. Six new schools enter the conference this season, with a clump of schools leaving for other avenues. East Carolina and Tulsa, the two power players this league had left, will depart for the AAC next season, so expect much more coming and going. For now, we will take a look to see what's worth buying, passing on, or selling in this mix up of a blender created mash up.


East Carolina: Despite the Pirates ranking 106th in pass defense last season, I am buying in this season. Four linemen return, and the trio of playmakers (QB Shane Carden, RB Vintavious Cooper, and WR Justin Hardy) all come back as well. There is more than enough offense to keep up the tempo while new DC Rick Smith reworks the flailing defense. The schedule sets up the Pirates to have a nice run, and upsets over Virginia Tech and North Carolina are both possible.

Middle Tennessee: I have probably lost my mind, but I will buy in to Middle Tennessee for the 2013 season. Yes, I know that Rick Stockstill is on my Hot Seat list, but the man has a 43-44 record in 8 seasons, and more off-field issues than I can count in the last half of that. All of that considered, The offense is loaded, and despite a secondary that gives up big plays like candy given out on Halloween, the front seven could cover enough ground to create pressure that could protect the DBs. Look out for Logan Kilgore to have his best season yet.

Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane has averaged 9 wins over the last five seasons. There is absolutely no reason to figure that this trend will fail to continue with Cody Green and company. Tulsa should win the conference in their final go as a member of this conference before joining the AAC in 2014.

Rice: I can see an increase from 7 to 9 wins this season for Rice, but the bad news for the Owls is that they will be in the same division as Tulsa. Tyler McHargue is due for a big season, and Rice is headed to another bowl game. If they fail to get there, David Bailiff could be shown the door, as his record sits at 30-44 heading into his 7th season.


Marshall: Rakeem Cato is one of the better QBs in the conference, and is probably the best. Despite having a QB who passed for 4201 yards, the defense gave up the goose on their end by giving up 43.1 points per game. The defense is the reason that I will pass this season, but the offense will be too good to sell on. Chuck Heater comes in at DC to fix the defense and help this club get over the hump. I do see an increase in wins from 5 last season to 6 this year.

UAB: I should be selling on the Blazers, but I am choosing to take a pass instead for the time being. Garrick McGee is building fast, and UAB could move from 3 to 6 wins in 2013. Austin Brown is a talented young QB, and this team is improving fast. I could see a bowl bid in 2014, so I will likely be buying next year, barring a complete collapse in development this season.

Louisiana Tech: The Bulldogs lose a huge load of talent and their head coach. Skip Holtz comes in after getting canned at South Florida. This program still has some talent, and Holtz has had success in the league at East Carolina, so Tech should not be down for long.


Southern Mississippi: Even though I believe that the Eagles jump from 0 wins to 5 this season, I am still selling due to the entirety of complete change that will take place in 2013. Everything changes due to the administration moving on to a new coach after the previous coach had been in Hattiesburg for exactly one season. Until things settle down, I am selling.

Florida Atlantic: The Owls really are not in position to move up to CUSA from the Sun Belt. Hell, they were hardly equipped to go up against the Sun Belt last season. FAU is lacking the talent and the ability to go big this season, and it's going to take some time. They may actually be worse this season than last.

Florida International: Former Illinois coach Ron Turner takes over, but this will still be a mess of a program for a bit. I see a drop from 3 wins down to 1, and this could be repetitive for a while. FIU is in way over their heads in CUSA play.

UTEP: The Miners may actually be better by attrition with a new coach (Sean Kugler) and a new overall group of players at the skill positions. UTEP hasn't been to a bowl in forever, and the losing may continue, but things can only get better. I may be buying in 2014.

North Texas: The Eagles are stuck on the win total of 4 games per year. I see that continuing once again. No movement upward means that I sell.

Tulane: The Green Wave may actually drop in wins, which would be hard to do. Curtis Johnson and crew are not nearly to the point of showing any real development heading into year two, so I will sell hard here.

Texas-San Antonio: Larry Coker is a great coach with a great QB in Eric Soza. There is nowhere to go but up for this fledgling program, but they are climbing the ladder much too quickly. The Roadrunners need some time to develop, so I will sell for now. I like this program, and look forward to a time when I can buy in.

Coming up next: Buy, Pass, Sell MAC Edition

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