Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, July 5, 2014 at 7:00 PM
As if there wasn’t already a lot of great football being played in the state of Texas…the new power block of the West Division of Conference USA has an unmistakable Lone Star flavor. Last year’s champion Rice Owls will have their hands full in 2014 with surging North Texas and stunning Texas-San Antonio.
Yesterday we previewed the East Division, which could be dominated by the Marshall Thundering Herd. Today, let’s run the numbers (returning starter data obtained from the Athlon preseason annual) for the West…
2013 Record: 9-4
2013 Rankings: 63 on offense, 17 on defense
Returning Starters: 5 on offense, 4 on defense
Head Coach: Dan McCarney
Notebook: The Mean Green probably felt like uncrowned champions last year when they beat eventual divisional and league champ Rice 28-16…then went on to win the Heart of Dallas bowl 36-14 over UNLV. Coach McCarney has certainly created a mid-major power in very short order. That’s what happened when a quality coach has access to great high school athletes in a talent-rich state! There are some issues with a low number of returning starters and quarterback inexperience. You know what? None of the top four teams return their quarterbacks! Good chance for a run at the title for the Mean Green…though they would be clear underdogs to Marshall in the CUSA title tilt.
2013 Record: 10-4
2013 Rankings: 68 on offense, 30 on defense
Returning Starters: 6 on offense, 7 on defense
Head Coach: David Bailiff
Notebook: Rice has more returning starters than North Texas, but isn’t quite as able to recruit as well because the academic standards are so much higher. So, in pure football terms, North Texas is more likely to deal well with attrition than Rice is. Still, the talent is here to at least repeat as divisional champs in a rebuilding conference. And, the Owls will get to play at home in the 2014 meeting with UNT (October 25). An early heads up that sharp handicappers need to pay VERY close attention to all the new starting quarterbacks in this division.
2013 Record: 7-5
2013 Rankings: 56 on offense, 46 on defense
Returning Starters: 8 on offense, 9 on defense
Head Coach: Larry Coker
Notebook: You’ve got to like the looks of 17 returning starters in a rebuilding conference. The Roadrunners were snubbed come bowl time despite having a bowl-eligible record. They did beat North Texas in Denton in late November, which was surely a confidence builder for the program. Coach Coker is another man benefitting from having a new base in a talent-rich state. A definitely sleeper, if they don’t get too beat up physically by having to face Houston, Arizona, and Oklahoma State right out of the gate.
2013 Record: 4-8
2013 Rankings: 94 on offense, 69 on defense
Returning Starters: 6 on offense, 6 on defense
Head Coach: Skip Holtz
Notebook: An utter collapse last season due to coaching and quarterback changes. Skip Holtz has a history of success at this level, so you’d expect a bounce back in 2014. But, there’s another quarterback change this season…and last year’s team was worse than that 4-8 record would suggest. All four wins were over really bad teams. The Bulldogs lost to Rice, UNT, and UTSA by a combined 110-37, which means they’re WAY behind the top of the division.
2013 Record: 1-11
2013 Rankings: 114 on offense, 99 on defense
Returning Starters: 7 on offense, 7 on defense
Head Coach: Todd Monken
Notebook: Finally a team with a returning quarterback! The problem is…it’s on a 1-11 team that ranked #114 nationally on offense. Nick Mullens did show improvement late in the season, and has great growth potential because he’s only a sophomore. Maybe the Golden Eagles can at least advance up above “doormat” status this year. Amazing how far this program has fallen since deciding being an 8-4 type team every year wasn’t good enough. They’d love to have that now.
2013 Record: 2-10
2013 Rankings: 103 on offense, 107 on defense
Returning Starters: 8 on offense, 6 on defense
Head Coach: Sean Kugler
Notebook: The only other returning quarterback in the division is also from a bad team with a very poor offense. Jameil Showers was able to move the ball last year before getting injured midseason…so the offense was better than it looked in the final rankings when healthy. Perhaps some sleeper potential here for a head coach in his second season, and what may turned out to be a rejuvenated program. Keep an eye on these guys for potential pointspread value out of the gate.
Our summer series of college football conference previews will run on Wednesday-Thursday, and Saturday-Sunday all through July because so many conferences are split into two divisions. Important baseball series previews will run Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays to keep you up to speed with handicapping/betting angles through the pennant races. As much as we all love football, the only way to make money RIGHT NOW is in daily baseball!
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Here’s this week’s NOTEBOOK schedule…
Monday: MLB Rivalry Preview (either Baltimore/Washington or SF/Oakland)
Tuesday: MLB Series Preview…LA Dodgers at Detroit
Wednesday: College Football…Mid-American “East” Preview
Thursday: College Football…Mid-American “West” Preview
Friday: MLB Series Preview…(either St. Louis/Milwaukee, Detroit/KC, or NYY/Baltimore)
Saturday: College Football…Sun Belt Preview
Sunday: College Football…Independents Preview (including Notre Dame)
The engine isn’t going to slow down during this SIZZLING hot summer! Stick with the HOTTEST handicapper in the industry…proven winner JIM HURLEY!