The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

THE UPS AND DOWNS OF C-USA

THE DAILY CAMPUS 2007 CONFERENCE USA FOOTBALL PREVIEW

There may not be a more even conference in college football than Conference USA, especially in the West Division. The Mustangs are one of six teams competing to represent the west in the C-USA Championship.

At one point late last season SMU, Houston and Tulsa each had legitimate shots to win the division. SMU defeated Tulsa, but was unable to beat Houston, who also defeated Tulsa and gave Houston its berth in the championship game.

In the two seasons that the Mustangs have been members of C-USA the team selected to win the division in the preseason was not the team to play in the championship game. And both times SMU spoiled the favorite.

In 2005 the UTEP Miners were selected to win the west, but lost to the Mustangs in the final game of the season, making Tulsa champions. Last season Tulsa was the preseason favorite, but with losses to Houston and SMU, the Golden Hurricanes were unable to hold this position again.

Houston

The Cougars will be looking to repeat the season they had last year, but will be missing one key ingredient: veteran quarterback Kevin Kolb. Kolb had been a starter since 2003 when he lit up C-USA as a freshman.

But Houston will still be a dangerous opponent, especially in the running game with Antony Alridge. Alridge broke the C-USA record for yards per carry average by over two yards.

The biggest game of the season will be in Tulsa early in November. The Cougars will need an upset if they hope to have a chance at regaining the title.

Rice

With football savior Todd Graham no longer leading the way the Owls might experience a slight slip, but don’t expect it to last for long. The early season transition could be the toughest for Rice, especially with opponents including Baylor, Texas Tech and Texas before entering C-USA play against conference favorite Southern Miss.

Don’t expect the Owls to jump to greatness, but don’t be surprised by another bowl appearance either.

SMU

The Mustangs enter the season with everything to prove. This may be a make or break season for head coach Phil Bennett who is in his sixth season with SMU.

With the return of freshman phenom quarterback Justin Willis and other key members of the offense including Emmanuel Sanders and DeMyron Martin, expect the SMU offense to put up some big numbers. The question will be if the new SMU defense can keep the Mustangs in big games.

The Mustangs made progress last season with a 6-6 record and bowl eligibility, but it wasn’t enough to get SMU into a post-season game. This year that will be expected to change.

Tulane

The Green Wave endured a tough season last year (4-8, 2-6) and this season doesn’t look like it will be much better.

A new head coach could be just what the doctor ordered, however, and Bob Toledo will look to make a difference. The offense took a big hit in graduating seniors, losing parts of the offensive line, tight end and quarterback.

The schedule for Tulane doesn’t help its cause with non-conference games against Mississippi State and LSU. The only thing going for it is that those games are at home.

Tulsa

This season will also see the return of Todd Graham to the Tulsa sidelines. Before turning the Rice program around last season Graham was an assistant in Tulsa’s 2005 C-USA Championship team. The Golden Hurricanes are preseason favorites, and rightfully so.

Tulsa also meets their two toughest opponents, SMU and Houston at home, with pretty meaningless games surrounding them– UCF, Tulane and Army.

UTEP

After just missing out on the conference championship game in 2005, the Miners fell off the map last season. Their record fell from 5-3 to 3-5 in just one season.

If there is something that UTEP can take pride in it is the return of running back Marcus Thomas. But losses of Jordan Palmer and Johnnie Lee Higgins could be too much to overcome for the Miners this season.

Look for head coach Mike Price to use this season as learning experience for some of the young players. This will definitely be a rebuilding year.

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