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2010 CUSA West Division Preview

Houston Cougars the Cream of the Crop

 

The 2010 Conference USA West division should see the Houston Cougars find their way to a title. Tulsa and SMU will contend but it's hard to imagine Houston taking a step backwards from last seasons 10-3 regular season mark. Let's take a look at the CUSA West division for 2010.

 

Houston Cougars - With 8 starters back on offense and 6 on defense this team is not only a top contender in Conference USA, they are a contender for a BCS game after going 10-4 last year. Coach Kevin Sumlin has QB Case Keenum back to power what is arguably the strongest offense in the NCAA.

QB Case Keenum passed for a massive 5671 yards and 41 TDs last year. Keenum is a legit Heisman contender this year and he could break the NCAA passing yardage record. He has three WRs returning this year that topped 1,000 yards each in 2009. The top two RBs return for Houston and they will have the strongest offensive line in Conference USA protecting them. The defense was poor last year and "should" do better with 6 starters back.

The schedule is extremely easy for the Cougars. Their toughest out of conference game will come on the road against an average Texas Tech team. They have a GREAT shot at going 13-0 (or close to it), but if they do they will likely miss out on playing for the BCS title because they didn't beat anyone. Long story short, Kevin Sumlin has their eyes on things bigger and better than C-USA. It's called the BCS and they have a heck of a shot of getting there. BCS or bust for Houston.

But there is still work to be done. This team would be scary if they had a defense. However, opposing teams were able to light it up on Houston almost as easily as Houston did to them. As long as you have teams putting up 45+ points on you, and as long as you lose bowl games to the likes of Air Force by 27 points, there's still work to be done. Sumlin has brought in some NFL coaching experience on the defensive side of the ball so expect improvements. Houston will be a team to watch in 2010.

Circle September 10th as that's the date Houston will host UTEP with a chance to avenge one of their few losses a year ago, a 58-41 setback at UTEP.



Tulsa Golden Hurricane - After a 5-7 finish in 2009 season it looks like Tulsa should be back on top of things. They bring back 9 starters on offense and 5 on defense. GJ Kinne has the potential as a junior to be one of the best QBs on Conference USA. Last year he passed for 2732 yards and 22 TDs while throwing 10 INTs. Starting RB Derrick Hall topped 1,000 yards at his junior college last year. Tulsa will have the most improved running game in college football thanks to Hall. He will aided by senior HB Charles Clay.

Tulsa opens the year on the road against East Carolina who has won back to back CUSA titles. This is a winnable game as ECU will be adjusting to a new coach and returns only 2 defensive starters. They have tough road games this year against Notre Dame, Houston, SMU, and Oklahoma State.

Tulsa lost 7 games a year ago but aside from getting blasted by Oklahoma and East Carolina, the other 5 losses were close games. Expect Tulsa to convert some of those close losses into wins this year. Tulsa as 5 chances for revenge this year, all but one were close games which they lost, including a 1 point loss to Houston. One of those revenge games is a chance to avenge a game that wasn't close......a 44-17 loss to East Carolina. That game happens to be their opener on September 5th. Circle it!



SMU Mustangs - What a miraculous turnaround the Mustangs have experienced under June Jones. He took this team from 1-11 in 2008 and guided them to an 8-5 season and a win in the Hawaii Bowl in 2009. They return 8 starters on offense and 7 on defense. Kyle Padron will be much improved at QB after starting his freshman year. Look for him to get more chances to throw the ball this year. The running game loses 1,000 yard rusher Shawnbrey McNeal, but freshmen Darryl Fields and Kevin Pope should be able to pick up the slack. Sophomore Zach Line will also be pivotal to the running game.

The SMU dance card from a year ago is loaded with narrow wins. The two times they really stepped up in class, against Houston and TCU, they were murdered. Could be a sign of an overachieving team. Time will tell, but we see SMU with roughly the same record in 2010 as a year ago.



UTEP Miners - Coach Mike Price has won 2 Rose Bowls in his career (both with Washington State), but even he can't work miracles with this team. UTEP was 4-8 last year.  Expect an improvement in the win total column. This team had a few very close losses a year ago and they did manage to beat Houston 58-41. So the talent is there to compete. We'd expect UTEP to hover around Bowl Eligibility. 6 or 7 wins.



Rice Owls - This team has been Bowl eligible twice this decade after missing from 1962 to 2006. They went 2-10 last year. The offense and defense return 9 starters each. The Owls have an outside chance at being Bowl eligible this year. But hey, they lost 73-14 to Houston. I'd say they have some work to do eh?



Tulane Green Wave - You know things are tough when Tulane may struggle to top last year's 3-9 season. 7 starters are back on offense and 4 return on defense. They will be a punching bag for teams like Houston, SMU, and UCF.
 

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