2013 Pre-Preseason C-USA East Rankings
Marshall QB Rakeem Cato
Marshall QB Rakeem Cato
Posted Jan 28, 2013

The too early look at how good the Conference USA East teams should be in 2013.

CFN 2013 First Look Rankings

C-USA East

2012 CFN Final Season Rankings
The Top 10 | Rankings 11-29 | Rankings 30-48 | Rankings 49-67
- Rankings 68-86Rankings 87-105The Bottom 19

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- Based On Opinion ... CFN 2012 FINAL Rankings, Top  25

- 2013 CFN Pre-Preseason Conference USA West Rankings

1. East Carolina (8-5)

It was a decent bounceback year after a rough 2011, but one loss to UCF kept the Pirates out of the Conference USA championship. This year's team has the talent and the ability to get to the title game – helped by losing UCF out of the East – with 15 starters returning including eight on an offense that threw the ball well but struggled a bit for the ground game. Quarterback Shane Carden returns along with leading rusher Vintavious Cooper and all the key receivers. The defense loses end Michael Brooks off the front three, but the lost pieces are replaceable and top pass rusher Derrell Johnson is back on the outside. Corner is the one concern losing both Jacobi Jenkins and Leonard Paulk.

2. Marshall (5-7)

The Herd might have lost out on a bowl game with a tough gaffe against UAB and a heartbreaking overtime thriller to East Carolina, but this was still among the nation's most explosive and fun teams. Quarterback Rakeem Cato and receiver Tommy Shuler are back from the nation's leading passing attack, and they should put on a show. The line could stand to be better, but four starters are back to generate a push for a running game that gets Kevin Grooms, Remi Watson and Steward Butler back to share the load. The defense has to be better after finishing last in Conference USA in scoring D and near the bottom in every other category. The entire front four returns led by pass rushers Jeremiah Taylor on the outside and Brandon Sparrow in the middle, but leading tackler, safety Dominick LeGrande, is gone along with fellow safety Okechukwu Okoroha.

3. Southern Miss (0-12)

After a strangely disastrous season, Todd Monken takes over the reins for a team that should've been in contention for the Conference USA title, but instead finished 0-12. The Golden Eagles have to replace just about everyone on the offensive front and need to find more playmakers for a passing game that finished 117th in the nation in efficiency. Quarterbacks Arsenio Favor and Anthony Alford return, but leading rusher Desmond Johnson is gone as is top targets Tracy Lampley, Quentin Pierce and Darius Barnes. The defense that's used to being such a dominant force welcomes back nine starters, but do it all end Jamie Collins is a massive loss. Tackle Khyri Thornton is a good anchor to build around.

4. Middle Tennessee (8-4)

8-4 wasn't enough to get to a bowl game, with the 45-0 clunker against Arkansas State to close out the regular season not helping the cause. The offense ran well thanks to an offensive front that finished second in the nation in sacks allowed, and now it should be truly fantastic with four starters back, only losing center Micah James. Quarterback Logan Kilgore is an efficient, effective veteran who should do even more with Kyle Griswould and Christian Collis returning. Jordan Parker and Drayton Calhoun form a nice 1-2 rushing punch. The defense that had so many problems getting into the backfield returns nine starters, but it has to get more out of end Shubert Bastien with Omar McLendon gone on the other side. Leading tackler Craig Allen is back to lead an excellent linebacking corps and all four starters – three of them underclassmen last season – return to the secondary.

5.UAB (3-9)

Can the Blazers pick up where they left off late in the year? A clunker against Memphis aside, the offense started to work thanks to a good passing game and the emergence of then-redshirt freshman quarterback Austin Brown. Eight starters are back on offense, but the line that had so many problems needs to be far, far stronger with four starters back. Leading rusher Darrin Reaves and top receiver Jackie Williams are back. The defense did a good job of getting into the backfield, but the star of the show and the nation's leading tackler, linebacker Marvin Burdette, is finished along with two starters in the secondary. The entire defensive line is back but needs to be night-and-day better against the run.

6.Old Dominion (11-2)

The Monarchs could be an interesting surprise in their new conference and new class. ODU lost in the FCS playoffs, but still finished the season No. 1 in the nation in total offense, scoring offense and passing offense – and all the parts are back. Taylor Heinicke isn't exactly Johnny Manziel, but he's not far off after leading the FCS in total offense and finishing second in passing efficiency. In all, nine starters are back, but leading receiver Nick Mayers has to be replaced. The defense was a problem against the run, but the pass rush was incredible. Leading sacker and tackler Craig Wilkins is the main man missing, making Caleb Taylor the new star of a veteran D that gets back eight starters including the entire secondary.

7. Florida International (3-9)

You wouldn't have been shocked if you were told last year at this time that Mario Cristobal wouldn't be the head coach in 2013 – you would've assumed he took a bigger and better job. Instead, he's gone after a miserable 3-9 season and in comes Ron Turner to try firing up a lousy offense. The Golden Panthers' biggest problem was the O line, so for good and bad all five starters have to be replaced. Quarterback Jake Medlock needs more time to work to get the ball to Willis Wright and a decent young corps of receivers. Kedrick Rhodes should be among the Conference USA's best backs if he gets room to move. The defense was solid against the run but struggled way too much against the pass. Seven starters are gone on D including top tackling safety Jonathan Cyprien and the team's best pass rusher, Tourek Williams. Richard Leonard is one of the nation's best returners.

8. Florida Atlantic (3-9)

Carl Pelini came up with a few decent changes in his first year at the helm, but there's still a long way to go before the Owls become merely average. The offense was the worst in the Sun Belt in yards and points, while the defense was at the bottom in sacks and run defense. Eight starters return on defense, but leading tackler Brent Harstad and linebacker David Hinds are gone. Randell Johnson and Cory Hendry have to provide more of a pass rush, but the secondary should be a positive. Quarterback Stephen Curtis will get the first shot to jumpstart the woeful offense, while the combination of Jonathan Wallace and Damian Fortner will handle the running game behind a rebuilding O line.

- 2013 CFN Pre-Preseason Conference USA West Rankings