Let us recap what happened at media days for the non-AQ conferences. Today we feature Conference USA.
Preseason favorite: Conference USA does not select preseason favorites.
Preseason Players of the Year: But it does select preseason players of the year and a preseason first team. Houston QB Case Keenum was selected the Offensive Player of the Year; UCF DE Bruce Miller the Defensive Player of the Year; Houston return specialist Tyron Carrier the Special Teams Player of the Year. Here is the full first team.
Seen and heard: A year after holding its media days via video conferencing, the league went back to a more traditional summit in Memphis.
Commissioner Britton Banowsky made headlines when he said his league was considering going to a nine-game league schedule to help it field a BCS buster. Part of the reasoning is because so many C-USA teams play difficult nonconference schedules against BCS teams. Everybody but UTEP plays at least 2 schools from BCS conferences this year.
But on the flip side, many of the C-USA programs are cash-strapped, so those BCS games give them guaranteed money that help the entire athletic department.
"Our coaches are pleading for it," Banowsky said. "But it's a difficult dynamic because there's an economic factor associated with [it] and you have to balance it. You have to pay for your athletic programs and you to have a good season ticket for the fans. It's challenging. We have talked about moving to a nine-game conference schedule, which may help moderate it."
Sure, adding another league game and taking away a game against a BCS opponent could help a team go undefeated. But it could also serve to hinder strength of schedule and its standing in the computer rankings. Take Houston as an example. It did well in 2009 with its difficult nonconference schedule, beating Oklahoma St., Texas Tech and Mississippi St. But it tripped up in Conference USA play. So a nine-game league schedule certainly would not have helped last season.
News and notes: UAB has got to find a replacement for QB Joe Webb, and fast. David Isabelle, Bryan Ellis, Emmanuel Taylor, Jonathan Perry Joe Bento are all competing for the starting job. Coach Neil Callaway wants to narrow the list soon. But there is no question losing Webb hurts. He had a combined 8,545 rushing and passing yards in his career and 65 total TDs. “There’s no doubt we’ll miss Joe Webb,” Callaway said.
Tulsa had its first losing season in five years, going 5-7, last season. But hopes are high for a turnaround in 2010. QB G.J. Kinne is on several preseason watch lists, and the Golden Hurricane return nine starters on offense. Coach Todd Graham called last season “humbling” and is hoping for a quick return to its winning ways.
UCF coach George O’Leary and UTEP coach Mike Price are the longest-serving coaches in Conference USA. Both are entering their seventh seasons at their respective schools. Hopes are high for UCF this season, but for UTEP the key is going to be improving on defense.
"If you want to watch a lot of fireworks, come watch our games," Price said. "We can score a lot of points, but we can't stop anybody on the other side. It's fast-break basketball at its best. If we can do anything defensively, we'll be a much better team and have a much better record."
SMU coach June Jones said the Mustangs would throw the ball even more now that Kyle Padron has another year experience. His team is a hot pick this season for the way it came on in 2009. That is fine with him. "We have a better chance now of sustaining because we have kids who know that feeling. You don't have to describe how to win. You have a whole locker room of kids who have done it.
"And, I just know that what we do works. And the guys have to love to come to work. And these kids do right now."
Keenum did his best to deflect the Heisman talk. Houston is considered the favorite to win C-USA because he returns. "Preseason stuff is very cool and that's definitely an honor, but the ones that really matter are at the end of the season,” he said. “The season is a long season, you know 14 weeks is a long time. We need to play at a high level each week and we'll take it week by week."