Cleat Geeks

2017 College Football C-USA (West Division) Preview

Every College Football season, each team from each conference has a major question that circles around the preseason progress of their potential success. The C-USA is one of the non-power 5 conferences that is generally overlooked because of their status as a conference and how little of an impact they leave against higher established programs. In the 3 years of the College Football Playoffs, no team from a non-power 5 school has made the playoffs. Teams from the C-USA are at a slight disadvantage but they are not ruled out from the beginning. The last time a team from the West division won the conference was in 2013 when the Rice Owls beat the Marshall Thundering Herd. There will be more teams in play for the division title than the teams in the East for their respective title. Joining the West division in competition is a familiar face in the UAB Blazers who was disbanded by the University President after he believed the program wasn’t making revenue. After 6 months of financial rebuilt, the football team was brought back to life and permitted to play this season by the NCAA. Many believe the winner of the West will beat the East in the Conference Championship this season.

Here are the biggest questions that each team will be facing in the upcoming 2017 College Football season.

 

Related imageLouisiana Tech Bulldogs “How will the Bulldogs handle the passing game on both sides of the ball?”
9-5; 6-2 in C-USA in 2016

Last season, the Bulldogs were one of the gifted passing offenses in the nation with QB Ryan Higgins ranking 2nd in the nation in total passing yards (4617 yards). Two of their Wide Receivers in Trent Taylor (1803 yards) was 1st in Receiving yards and Carlos Henderson (1535 yards) was 5th in the nation. Now they are both gone with many other experienced players. On the other side of the ball, the Bulldogs only return 1 starting Defensive Back in a unit that was ranked 116th in the nation in passing yards allowed per game (274.7). The Bulldogs must ensure that these units play well in order to be a threat in the West.  The Bulldogs do return the 3rd leading sacker in the nation in DE Jaylon Ferguson (14.5), he will make an impact on defense.

North Texas Mean Green“Will North Texas continue to revamp their program?”
5-8; 3-5 in C-USA in 2016

In his first season as Head Coach, Seth Littrell turned a 1-11 squad into a bowl contending team (with a 5-7 record). The offense has promise with a sophomore Quarterback in Mason Fine with a year under his belt and a Running Back who almost rushed for 1,000 yards if he hadn’t been injured for two big games. The defense is likely to look past their developing season of adapting to the 3-3-5 defensive front. The Mean Green was 27th in the nation in passing yards allowed per game (200.2) but must get better at defending the rush being ranked 117th in rushing yards allowed (239.5).

Rice Owls“Is this season Coach Bailiff’s last chance at Rice?”
3-9; 2-6 in C-USA in 2016

Coach David Bailiff has had a good career with the Rice Owls, if he wants to continue as Head Coach, he’ll have the Owls win again this season. The Owls’ last winning season was 2014 with an 8-5 record and before that was the conference title in 2013. Now the program faces uncertainty as they are looking with little room to improve on last year’s 3-9 record. The Owls return 5 Offensive Line that had been battling through multiple injuries as well as a scattered defense that was ranked 114th in points allowed per game (37.3). Bailiff does have two years left on his contract, but he may not make to 2018 if Rice continues to lose.

Southern Miss Golden Eagles “Is this the year Southern Miss goes back to the golden years?”
7-6; 4-4 in C-USA in 2016

In the 2011 College Football season, the Golden Eagles accounted for their 18th consecutive winning season and a conference title. Southern Miss suffered through a 4-32 record through the following 3 years. After a short recovery, the Golden Eagles are ready to get back into the C-USA title race. They are predicted to finished 2nd in the West division. In order to finish out better, they must play more efficient against average opponents and not give away yards so carelessly. Despite being ranked 62nd in the nation in rushing yards per game, RB Ito Smith rushed for 1,459 yards and 17 touchdowns. The Eagles might have to rely on Smith more and not pass the ball first now that a new Quarterback is coming into place.

UAB Blazers “How will UAB respond after a two-year hiatus?”

2014 was the year that the UAB Blazers football team were supposedly dead in the water. After a 6 month financial rebuild, the program came back and was approved by the NCAA to compete in 2017. There were a lot of young players and coaches that stuck by the program to make sure they rebuilt properly. OLB Shaq Jones is the only returning starter from the 2014 College Football season, so his leadership will be a big virtue. Transfers will also help the Blazers win now especially with former Buffalo WR Collin Lisa and Middle Tennessee QB A.J. Erdely. There may not be much to celebrate for UAB in terms of winning games this season but they can celebrate the availability of a 2nd chance to play again.

UTEP Miners “Will the Miners be steadier on offense and defense in 2017?”
4-8; 2-6 in C-USA in 2016

Leadership is a virtue that is on UTEP’s side this upcoming season with the Offense having Quarterback Ryan Metz and returning 3 Offensive Line and the Defense returning ILB Alvin Jones. The Miners faced an incredibly tough schedule last year but still showed many signs of inconsistency. The Miners only made 5 field goals last season, mostly due to Offensive inefficiency. This will be a more difficult objective to accomplish without RB Aaron Jones, who was the 4th highest rusher in division 1. The Miners do return 3 of their 4 main starting Defensive Backs from last year that was ranked 41st in passing yards allowed per game (209).

UTSA Roadrunners“Are the Roadrunners the surprise team in the conference?”
6-7; 5-3 in C-USA in 2016

Not only are the Roadrunners looking for their 4th winning season in their 7-year program existence but they are looking to clinch the West divisional title and possibly the conference title. Of most of the teams in the conference, UTSA is certainly the more balanced team in terms of talent and experience. On defense, they return their Defensive Ends, their two-star Linebackers, and 3 of their 5 Defensive Backs in their 4-2-5 front. On offense, they return their entire interior Offensive Line, two Wide Receivers, and Quarterback Dalton Strum, who threw 20 touchdowns last year. That November 25th final game at the end of the season on against Louisiana Tech could decide the West.

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