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C-USA Pre-Spring Preview - Early Rankings
Houston QB Case Keenum
Houston QB Case Keenum
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Feb 18, 2011


2011 Conference USA Pre-Spring Preview - Early Rankings For All The C-USA Teams

2011 Pre-Spring Preview   

Early Rankings - C-USA


Click for each team's pre-spring lookback and lookahead
East UAB | UCF | East Carolina | Marshall | Memphis | Southern Miss
West  Houston | Rice | SMU | Tulane | Tulsa | UTEP

2011 Conference USA Pre-Spring Preview
- Conference USA Pre-Spring Rankings
- Why Every Team Should Be Excited
- Why Every Team Should Be Grouchy
- What Every Team Needs To Work On 

East

1. Southern Miss

2010 CFN Final Ranking: T46.
2010 Record: 8-5
2010 CFN Preseason Rank: 73
CFN 2010 Preseason Prediction: 7-5
2009 Final Ranking: 58
2008 Final Ranking: 51

At the very least, USM will be on the short list of early Conference USA favorites with QB Austin Davis leading a loaded offense with nine starters returning. That doesn't even count WR DeAndre Brown, who left early for the NFL. The defense might be the best in the league if two new defensive tackles can be found and if the secondary can be retooled a bit.

2. UCF

2010 CFN Final Ranking: 32
2010 Record: 11-3
2010 CFN Preseason Rank: 85
CFN 2010 Preseason Prediction: 8-5
2009 Final Ranking: 53
2008 Final Ranking: 98
2008 Final Score: 3.18

The defending Conference USA champs should be good, but they lose too much off the defense, including end Bruce Miller, to repeat. Josh Robinson will be one of the nation's top corners, and the offense gets eight starters back with QB Jeff Godfrey and RB Latavius Murray forming a dangerous backfield. Helping the cause will be the return of 2009 star back, Brynn Harvey, after missing all of last year hurt.

3. East Carolina

2010 CFN Final Ranking: 62
2010 Record: 6-7
2010 CFN Preseason Rank: 99
CFN 2010 Preseason Prediction: 6-6
2009 Final Ranking: 29
2008 Final Ranking: 34

Ruffin McNeill’s defense was a disaster, but it gets back seven starters after what was clearly supposed to be a rebuilding year. Dominique Davis is one of the nation's most dynamic quarterbacks, and while he loses WR Dwayne Harris, he gets almost everyone held back. the offensive line, though, will be a problem early on with four starters needing to be replaced.

4. Marshall

2010 CFN Final Ranking: 87
2010 Record: 5-7
2010 CFN Preseason Rank: 95
CFN 2010 Preseason Prediction: 7-5
2009 Final Ranking: 57
2008 Final Ranking: 77 

Doc Holliday might be hoping for a stronger offense, but he needs to find a quarterback to replace Brian Anderson and needs to come up with a few new targets. The defense, however, should be phenomenal with pass rushing terror Vinny Curry returning on one end to make up for the loss of Marion Harvey from the linebacking corps. The entire secondary returns intact.

5. UAB 

2010 CFN Final Ranking: 83
2010 Record: 4-8
2010 CFN Preseason Rank: 113
CFN 2010 Preseason Prediction: 4-8
2009 Final Ranking: 80
2008 Final Ranking: 100

The Blazers weren't as bad as the 4-8 record might appear, and they should be in the mix for a bowl game with 17 starters returning. The defense has the potential to be fantastic led by a good-looking young linebacking corps. QB Bryan Ellis and RB Pat Shed should rock working behind a line with four starters returning, but the receiving corps will need some work.

6. Memphis

2010 CFN Final Ranking: 115
2010 Record: 1-11
2010 CFN Preseason Rank: 115
CFN 2010 Preseason Prediction: 1-11
2009 Final Ranking: 108
2008 Final Ranking: 78

Can Larry Porter get a little more luck in his second season? The offense will still be a work in progress, but QB Ryan Williams isn't a true freshman anymore. The problem is an offensive line that loses three starters, but the defense should be a bit better with eight starters returning. The D started two true freshmen last year and seven underclassmen.

West 

1. Tulsa

2010 CFN Final Ranking: 28
2010 Record: 10-3
2010 CFN Preseason Rank: 84
CFN 2010 Preseason Prediction: 6-6
2009 Final Ranking: 54
2008 Final Ranking: 17

Head coach Todd Graham might be gone to Pitt, but new head man Bill Blankenship will get about 13 seconds of grace period. The Golden Hurricane were close to a truly special year in 2010, and the 2011 team returns as loaded as any non-AQ team in America with eight starters back, and with QB G.J. Kinne returning, while the defense returns eight starters including six players on the front seven. The nation's No. 5 offense should be even better, while the 111th defense can't and won't be worse.

2. SMU

2010 CFN Final Ranking: 61
2010 Record: 7-7
2010 CFN Preseason Rank: 87
CFN 2010 Preseason Prediction: 5-7
2009 Final Ranking: 61
2008 Final Ranking: 114

Longtime SMU fans, this might be the year you've waited decades for. Being back among the living is one thing, but winning the Conference USA title, and being good enough to hang with anyone on the schedule, is another. QB Kyle Padron leads a loaded offense that gets ten starters back, only losing star WR Aldrick Robinson. The defense gets back eight starters, and while the linebacking corps takes a hit, the front seven should be sound.
 
3. Houston

2010 CFN Final Ranking: 81
2010 Record: 5-7
2010 CFN Preseason Rank: 57
CFN 2010 Preseason Prediction: 9-3
2009 Final Ranking: 18
2008 Final Ranking: 41

Welcome back, Case Keenum. After getting a sixth year of eligibility, Keenum should make the Cougar offense sing again even with a few key losses including WR James Cleveland. The defense gets seven starters back, but three starters are gone from the secondary. In Conference USA, the defensive backs have to be tight; expect some wild shootouts.

4. Rice

2010 CFN Final Ranking: 94
2010 Record: 4-8   
2010 CFN Preseason Rank: 111
CFN 2010 Preseason Prediction: 4-8
2009 Final Ranking: 118
2008 Final Ranking: 31

Head coach David Bailiff loses offensive coordinator David Beaty to Kansas, but the Owl offense should be terrific no matter who's coaching it with ten starters returning. WR Patrick Randolph is the only missing piece, while the defense has the potential to be better with the entire secondary returning. Finding new DEs will be Job One.

5. Tulane

2010 CFN Final Ranking: 95
2010 Record: 4-8
2010 CFN Preseason Rank: 119
CFN 2010 Preseason Prediction: 1-11
2009 Final Ranking: 111
2008 Final Ranking: 112

The offense was miserable last season, but Bob Toledo is a good offensive coach and he gets eight starters to work with including quarterback Ryan Griffin and running back Orleans Darkwa. The defense might not be a rock, but it'll be full of veterans with nine starters returning including the entire linebacking corps.

6. UTEP

2010 CFN Final Ranking: 84
2010 Record: 6-7
2010 CFN Preseason Rank: 80
CFN 2010 Preseason Prediction: 6-6
2009 Final Ranking: 103
2008 Final Ranking: 89

The problems at the end of last year should continue with just two starters returning. The offense will get all the focus early on, because you can't compete in Conference USA if you can't bomb away, but the defense could be decent early on with eight starters returning. The secondary could be a strength.

Click for each team's pre-spring lookback and lookahead
East UAB | UCF | East Carolina | Marshall | Memphis | Southern Miss
West  Houston | Rice | SMU | Tulane | Tulsa | UTEP

2011 Conference USA Pre-Spring Preview
- Conference USA Pre-Spring Rankings
- Why Every Team Should Be Excited
- Why Every Team Should Be Grouchy
- What Every Team Needs To Work On