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2006 C-USA Preview

Uncertainty Reigns at the Top of Conference USA

No frontrunner has stepped up to the plate as of yet, but Four teams separate from the rest of the pack to settle the 2006 C-USA title. UCF and Southern Miss reside in the East division while Tulsa and UTEP are in the West. Talent turnover for UAB and Memphis leave this race among the previous Four, but not much separates them from each other.

Tulsa, fresh off its first bowl Game since 1991, returns 17 starters and will be in place for another good season under Steve Kragthorpe. Junior Paul Smith leads the offense under center and was a big reason for all of last year’s success. He threw for 2,847 yards and 20 touchdowns, and an improvement on those numbers should be forthcoming. Tarrion Adams takes over as the number one back, replacing top rusher Uril Parrish. Also missing is All-American tight end Garrett Mills, so a lot will fall on wide out Idris Moss. Four offensive linemen return to the starting lineup, giving ample time for Smith to work.

UTEP will begin its third year under head coach Mike Price. His teaching abilities have rubbed off immensely on the team and the success has come quicker than expected. Jordan Palmer is back for his senior year and will be a top candidate for Conference player of the year. Returning starters Marcus Thomas at tailback and Johnnie Lee Higgins Jr. will be Palmer’s main weapons in the offense. The defensive unit returns all but one starter and will likely improve upon its fifth ranked C-USA total defense. The biggest concern for Price will be his team’s turnover issues. Palmer threw 19 interceptions in ’05, and on top of that, the team had -10 turnover differential.

Central Florida loses just two starters from last year’s offense and should again be a factor in the division and Conference title race. Senior quarterback Steven Moffett has an absolute cannon and he will be the leader to bring further success to the program. Starting the season on a positive note will be important. UCF lost both its first two and last two Games of the year, but sandwiched between that was an 8-1 run that built momentum for a bowl run. Southern Miss has the veteran players to get back to another bowl, but will have to replace its long time starter Dustin Almond at quarterback. With a young signal caller now taking the snaps, head coach Jeff Bower will need to rely on a running Game that finished 11th in the Conference and 95th in the nation last year.

The Houston Cougars should fly under the radar and not get much attention out front. Quarterback Kevin Kolb has started since day one and will be the reason for the team’s success or mediocrity. Kolb owns basically every school passing record and has all three receiving threats back with him in this spread run-n-gun offense. The defense will again lack consistency, so success in ’06 will basically come in the form of the offense outscoring opponents in every Game.

2006 Conference USA FOOTBALL Schedule

Thurs., August 31
Stephen F. Austin at Tulsa
Sat., September 2
East Carolina at Navy
Houston at Rice
Marshall at West Virginia
Memphis at Mississippi
SMU at Texas Tech
Southern Miss at Florida
UAB at Oklahoma
Villanova at UCF
UTEP at San Diego State

Sat., September 9
East Carolina at UAB
Tulane at Houston
Hofstra at Marshall
Chattanooga at Memphis
Rice at UCLA
SMU at North Texas
Southeastern La. at Southern Miss
Tulsa at BYU
UCF at Florida
Texas Tech at UTEP

Sat., September 16
Memphis at East Carolina
Houston at New Mexico State
Marshall at Kansas State
Texas at Rice
Sam Houston State at SMU
North Carolina State at Southern Miss
Tulane at Mississippi State
North Texas at Tulsa
UAB at Georgia
South Florida at UCF

Sat., September 23
West Virginia at East Carolina
Oklahoma State at Houston
Marshall at Tennessee
Rice at Florida State
Arkansas State at SMU
Tulane at LSU
Tulsa at Navy
Mississippi State at UAB
UTEP at New Mexico

Wed., September 26
Southern Miss at UCF

Sat., September 30
Houston at Miami
Tennessee at Memphis
Rice at Army
SMU at Tulane
Troy State at UAB
New Mexico State at UTEP

Tues., October 3
Southern Miss at Tulsa

Wed., October 4
UCF at Marshall

Sat., October 7
Virginia at East Carolina
UL Lafayette at Houston
Memphis at UAB
Rice at Tulane

Fri., October 13
Pittsburgh at UCF

Sat., October 14
Tulsa at East Carolina
Houston at Southern Miss
Marshall at SMU
Arkansas State at Memphis
UAB at Rice
Tulane at UTEP

Sat., October 21
SMU at East Carolina
UTEP at Houston
Marshall at UAB
Southern Miss at Virginia Tech
Tulsa at Memphis
Rice at UCF
Tulane at Auburn

Fri., October 27
UTEP at Tulsa

Sat., October 28
East Carolina at Southern Miss
UCF at Houston
Memphis at Marshall
Army at Tulane

Tues., October 31

Sat., November 4
East Carolina at UCF
Tulsa at Houston
Tulane at Marshall
Southern Miss at Memphis
Rice at UTEP

Fri., November 10

Sat., November 11
Marshall at East Carolina
Houston at SMU
UCF at Memphis
Rice at Tulsa
Southern Miss at Tulane

Sat., November 18
East Carolina at Rice
Houston at Memphis
UTEP at Marshall
Tulsa at SMU
UAB at Southern Miss
UCF at Tulane

Sat., November 25
East Carolina at North Carolina State
Marshall at Southern Miss
Memphis at UTEP
SMU at Rice
Tulane at Tulsa

Sat., December 2
C-USA Championship Game

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