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The Conference USA is the best non-BCS conference this year. Southern Miss, Houston, Tulsa, SMU, are very good teams.
|David Piland, Houston|
Houston's hardest non-conference game is UCLA. They play at SMU and hosts Tulsa - obviously, much easier. While they are not as good as they were last season with Case Keenum, being able to avoid Southern Miss in the regular season is huge. Not to mention avoiding UCF is big too. The Cougars will go undefeated this regular season, but once again, Southern Miss will spoil the Cougar's BCS and perfect season hopes in the CUSA title game. Still, it would not surprise me if Houston wins all of its games and is 13-0 going to a BCS bowl.
The rest of the CUSA is improved this year. SMU and Tulsa are capable of double digit wins. Don't overlook East Carolina either. Central Florida would be a top school in the conference, but scandal around the program, including a bowl ban this year, will hurt their chances. They will stumble like so many teams do in this situation.
UTEP and Marshall are very close to returning to the regular season, while UAB, Memphis, Tulane, and Rice remain in the cellar.
1. Southern Mississippi 10-2 (8-0)
2. East Carolina 8-4 (5-3)
3. Marshall 5-7 (4-4)
4. UAB 4-8 (3-5)
5. UCF 4-8 (2-6)
6. Memphis 3-9 (2-6)
1. Houston 12-0 (9-0)
2. Tulsa 9-3 (6-2)
2. SMU 8-4 (6-2)
4. UTEP 4-8 (3-5)
5. Rice 2-10 (1-7)
6. Tulane 1-11 (0-8)
Conference USA Championship: Southern Miss over Houston
Mountain West Conference
The MWC lost TCU, and will loose Boise State after this season. But, they were able to grab Nevada, Fresno State, and Hawaii from the WAC.
Boise State is not what they have been the past few years, but they will still dominate the conference this season. Nevada is back, but still not as good as Boise State. After those two, Fresno State, Air Force, San Diego State, and Wyoming should all be bowl eligable.
Hawaii could make a bowl, but most likely will just miss one. Colorado State, UNLV, and New Mexico will fill out the bottom. Still, if the MWC can get five teams into bowls, they deserve some respect.
1. Boise State 10-2 (8-0)
2. Nevada 9-3 (6-2)
T3. Air Force 8-4 (5-3)
T3. Fresno State 7-5 (5-3)
T5. San Diego State 7-5 (4-4)
T5. Wyoming 6-6 (4-4)
7. Hawaii 5-7 (3-5)
T8. UNLV 4-8 (2-6)
T8. Colorado State 2-10 (2-6)
10. New Mexico 3-10 (1-7)
The MAC is slowly becoming a better conference, and its top teams can make some noise each season. This year, might be the best yet.
Ohio runs a very good offense, and with an improved defense bringing eight starters back, they have a very good chance to finish with double digit wins.
Northern Illinois, Western Michigan, Miami (OH), Bowling Green, Eastern Michigan, Central Michigan, Kent State and Toledo figure to make some noise this season, and the MAC could have six, seven, or even eight teams bowl eligible. The conference is that good.
But, just like all MAC seasons, there will be some very bad teams. Those teams will be Buffalo, Akron, Ball State, and newcomer Massachusetts.
Still, it is shaping up that Northern Illinois and Ohio will run the MAC this year with the rest right on their heels.
1. Ohio 11-1 (7-1)
2. Miami, Oh 7-5 (6-2)
T3. Bowling Green 6-6 (4-4)
T3. Kent State 5-7 (4-4)
T5. Buffalo 2-10 (1-7)
T5. Akron 2-10 (1-7)
7. Umass 0-12 (0-8)
1. Northern Illinois 10-2 (7-1)
2. Western Michigan 8-4 6-2
T3. Toledo 7-5 (5-3)
T3. Central Michigan 6-6 (5-3)
5. Eastern Michigan 5-7 (4-4)
6. Ball State 3-9 (2-6)
MAC Championship: Ohio over Northern Illinois
|Tyler Tettleton, Ohio|
The Sun Belt looks poised for one of its best seasons in conference history. They could have five teams bowl eligible this season, and four of them with at least seven wins.
Florida International has a feisty defense that can compete with most schools in the nation. They are a favorite to win the Sun Belt, but almost anyone could. Troy, Louisiana-Lafayette, and Arkansas State are all in the mix, and all will be in a bowl game this December/January.
Western Kentucky should at least get to six wins, but that might not guarantee a bowl spot this year. The rest of the conference is close to contending too. Middle Tennessee State, Louisiana-Monroe, Florida Atlantic, and North Texas could make some noise and pull some upsets.
Newcomer South Alabama will struggle, but does have some easy non-conference games. They have a very bright future, but just are not there yet.
1. Florida International 8-4 (7-1)
T2. Louisiana-Lafayette 8-4 (6-2)
T2. Troy 7-5 (6-2)
4. Arkansas State 7-5 (5-3)
5. Western Kentucky 6-6 (4-4)
6. Louisiana-Monroe 4-8 (4-4)
T7. North Texas 4-8 (3-5)
T7. Florida Atlantic 4-8 (3-5)
9. Middle Tennessee State 4-8 (2-6)
10. South Alabama 2-11 (0-8)
|Winston Fraser, FIU|
The WAC took some heavy blows in the conference realignment, and it is looking like they will not sponsor football after this season. For now they are, but they are by far the worst conference in FBS college football.
Louisiana Tech and Utah State will both be in a battle to run away with the conference, and both will have no problem securing a bowl spot.
San Jose State, Idaho, and New Mexico State have a chance at the post season as well. The two new schools, Texas State and Texas-San Antonio (UTSA) will both struggle this year and are not eligible for a bowl game till next year.
It is important to note that UTSA's two projected wins are against NW Oklahoma State and Texas A & M-Commerce, who are part of the NAIA and D. II, respectively.
T1. Louisiana Tech 8-4 (5-1)
T1. Utah State 7-5 (5-1)
T3. San Jose State 6-6 (4-2)
T3. Idaho 5-7 (4-2)
5. New Mexico State 4-8 (2-4)
6. Texas State 1-11 (1-5)
7. UTSA 2-10 (0-6)
There are four FBS Independents schools. The one who will do the best this season is BYU. They are an improved team and are a darkhorse to sneak in and grab a BCS spot. More likely they will wind up in a smaller bowl, but they will win at least eight or nine games.
|Manti Te'o, Notre Dame|
Notre Dame is more experienced and improved coming in, but they play a brutal schedule that will drop them to 7-5. All it takes is an upset, but this team is not quite good enough to get to double digit wins quite yet.
Navy had a down year last year, but should be back in a bowl this season. Army will take a small step forward this season to get back to a bowl game.
Notre Dame 7-5