Conference USA officials have confirmed today the divisions for the upcoming football season. It is no surprise that UTEP is staying in the conference or that it is getting progressively weaker as we go on. With that being said, there will be a lot of pressure on UTEP athletics with an "easier" conference. The divisions are broken up like so:
University of Alabama-Birmingham (UAB)
University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA)
The schedules have yet to be posted by any of the schools but we do know thanks to the official CUSA site, what schools UTEP will be playing this season. UTEP will host Florida International, Louisiana Tech, Tulsa and UTSA. The Miners will travel to Middle Tennessee, North Texas, Rice and Tulane. The Miners schedule will look something like this:
8/31/13 CUSA Opponent
9/7/13 vs. New Mexico Lobos
9/14/13 @. New Mexico State Aggies (Las Cruces, NM)
9/21/13 CUSA Opponent
9/28/13 @. Colorado State Rams (Ft. Collins, CO)
10/5/13 CUSA Opponent
10/12/13 CUSA Opponent
10/19/13 CUSA Opponent
10/26/13 CUSA Opponent
11/2/13 @. Texas A&M Aggies (College Station, TX)
11/9/13 CUSA Opponent
11/16/13 CUSA Opponent
11/23/13 CUSA Opponent
11/30/13 CUSA Opponent
12/7/13 CUSA Championship Game
Old Dominion University will start conference play in 2014 and will be bowl eligible in 2015. They will join the eastern division of CUSA. As you can see we put CUSA Opponent in every slot because the official schedule has yet to be posted. I would assume the Miners would get a bye sometime in the middle of the season as opposed to later on to prevent having a streak of 4 CUSA games in a row. Now that we know our opponents, we will take a look at how they fared last season in their respective conferences.
Florida International Panthers (3-9, 2-6 Sun Belt Conference T-9th)
FIU seems to be the type of opponent most teams want on their schedule for a "easy win", but I don't feel that's the case. The Panthers almost upset then ranked 20th Louisville early on in the season. FIU lost that game 28-21. The Panthers faced one CUSA team this season in UCF. They lost that game by a final of 33-20. FIU only scored 30 or more points 4 times this season (1-3). They ranked 56th in the nation in passing yards (238.4), 82nd in rushing yards (145.3), 84th in points for (25.0) and 91st in points against (31.7). Jake Medlock is the Panthers QB. The sophomore threw for 2127 yards on 263 attempts. He threw 13 TD and only 2 INT the whole season. Kedrick Rhodes is their junior running back. Last season he rushed for 714 yards on 167 carries for 4 touchdowns.
Florida Atlantic Owls (3-9, 2-6 Sun Belt Conference T-9th)
Unlike FIU, FAU had a harder schedule facing Georgia and Alabama back to back. They only saw three wins this season, the biggest victory being a 37-28 win over Western Kentucky. FAU scored over 30 points only three times this season (2-1) but other than that, this team lacks fire power. They ranked 60th in the nation in passing yards (237.6), 110th in rushing yards (112.3), 107th in points for (20.5) and 86th in points against (30.8) The stats are eerily similar to that of FIU and we can see why they weren't too strong when Gators roam around Florida. The Owls will be looking for a new starting QB since Graham Wilbert graduated. Junior Jonathan Wallace will be the way to go for the Owls since he could take some pressure off the new QB. Last season he rushed for 668 yards on 175 carries and had 6 touchdowns.
Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (9-3, 4-2 Western Athletic Conference 3rd)
Of the Miners new opponents, the Bulldogs have to be the scariest. This was a team that won 5 games straight before losing a very close game to Texas A&M by a final of 59-57. Minus the last two weeks of the season, Louisiana Tech was unbeatable. If you guys don't remember there was also the fiasco over bowl eligibility and denial of a bowl game for their players. It's plain and simple, take what you get and be grateful. They ranked 3rd in the nation in passing yards (350.8), 17th in rushing yards (227.2), 1st in points for (51.5) and 119th in points against (38.5). These boys have offense and they know what to do with it. The test for the Miner defense will be containing the Bulldogs new QB should they continue with the air raid scheme. Last season Senior QB Colby Cameron threw for 4147 yard, 31 TD and only 5 INT. Another beast was freshman Kenneth Dixon who rushed for 1194 yards on 200 carries and 27 TD.
Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (8-4, 6-2 Sun Belt Conference 3rd)
The Blue Raiders record is a very generous one. The toughest team that they played this season was #12 Mississippi State which they lost 45-3. Other than that, their schedule was padded with the weaker teams in the Sun Belt as well as a Memphis team who hasn't been good at football in a while. These guys can score points but I feel once they play tougher defenses, we will likely see those numbers drop from forties and thirties to twenties and tens. They ranked 78th in the nation in passing yards (216.1), 47th in rushing yards (176.7), 77th in points for (26.6) and 62nd in points against (28.0). Junior QB Logan Kilgore threw for 2571 yards on 335 attempts with 16 TD and 6 INT. Freshman RB Jordan Parker ran for 851 yards on 166 carries with 3 touchdowns on the season.
North Texas Mean Green (4-8, 3-5 Sun Belt Conference 7th)
North Texas is another one of those lower Division 1 schools who is on their way up. Like the old saying goes "things will always get worse before they get better". Their season was plagued with LSU and Kansas State. Apart from the soft Sun Belt schedule, North Texas had opportunities in almost all their games to win but came up short when it mattered. They ranked 74th in the nation in passing yards (219.1), 52nd in rushing yards (173.1), 105th in points for (20.9) and 61st in points against (27.8). Junior Derek Thompson was the only QB that threw a pass all season for the Mean Green. He threw for 2629 yards on 372 attempts while throwing 14 TD and INT. Junior Brandin Byrd rushed for 860 yards on 205 carries for 4 TD.
University of Texas at San Antonio Road Runners (8-4, 3-3 Western Athletic Conference 4th)
For a program that started not too long ago, UTSA has made some decent strides. They went on a 5 game win streak against D-2 schools and some lower D-1's (NMSU was one of those schools). They then went on a 4 game losing streak only to bounce back and win their last three games. Offensively, the Roadrunners aren't that bad and can certainly hold their own. They ranked 64th in the nation in passing yards (231.0), 63rd in rushing yards (159.3), 50th in points for (31.2) and 70th in points against (28.8). UTSA was led by junior QB Eric Soza. Eric threw for 2085 yards on 282 attempts while throwing 20 TD and only 3 INT. Sophomore David Glasco II rushed for 537 yards on 111 attempts and had 5 TD.
We here at Miner Rush are dedicated to the fans and as anymore information becomes available, we will bring it on to you.