To mark the end of the 2013 C-USA football season, Miner Rush brings you the final Power Rankings of the season and our Rush Awards honoring the top individual performers of the season.
With a new look, new teams, and new rivals, the 2013 C-USA season had a lot of questions going into the season. Tulsa was suppose to run away with the conference, they finished 3-9, nobody expected North Texas and Tulane to sit up top the west division at points of the season.
Most knew the east would come down to Marshall and East Carolina who both had solid seasons, Rice had high hopes and lived up to it from the competitive Texas A&M loss, en-route to the conference crown.
C-USA was suppose to be top heavy this season with so many question mark teams coming in, and early on in the season the question was could the conference have enough bowl eligible teams to fill their allotment.
Teams like Middle Tennessee, UTSA, and FAU made late season charges to give C-USA 8 bowl eligible teams, though 6 will go bowling.
Lets take a look at how we rank the C-USA and who are the best of the best in 2013.
14. Southern Miss. Golden Eagles (1-11, 1-7) Pre-Season Rank: #9
The Golden Eagles snapped their losing streak by putting up 62 points to end the season against UAB with a win. Quarterback Nick Mullens really improved as the season went on, but will need some help as does the rest of the roster. He threw for five touchdowns against UAB, which was a school record, and the Golden Eagles had their first 100 yard rusher of the season. How long will this program be down is the question going forward.
13. FIU Golden Panthers (1-11, 1-7) Pre-Season Rank: #14
The Golden Panthers finished no better than 115th in rushing, passing and scoring offense in the FBS. The depth on both sides of the ball is evident. Ron Turner has a huge task at hand heading into the off-season. They finished right were we thought, this could be an every season type of ranking for the next couple of years for FIU.
12. UAB Blazers (2-10, 1-7) Pre-Season Rank: #8
The Blazers were one the of most inconsistent and harder teams to figure out this season. Austin Brown played well at times last year and struggled this year, losing his job in the process and sharing time with Johnathan Perry at quarterback. Darrin Reaves is a really good back and a nice piece to build around on offense. Freshman Jordan Howard had a really nice year and will provide and nice one-two punch next season with Reaves. The big play killed the Blazers all year on defense, so the key in the off-season is to revamp the defense.
11. UTEP Miners (2-10, 1-7) Pre-Season Rank: #6
Injuries, depth and just flat out bad football were the themes of the 2013 season for the Miners. Sean Kugler came in and laid the law down by ridding of 27 players from the Mike Price era which caused huge depth holes throughout the depth chart. Kugler held his red-shirt freshman close and will look to bring in JUCO help for next year on defense, with majority of an offense returning next year that was averaging 31 points a game in the first six games before Jameill Showers went out with an injury. There are some decent pieces in defensive end Roy Robertson and safety Devin Cockrell to build around, though other than those two there are questions everywhere on defense. Thought UTEP would compete this season, its back to drawing the board as the 2013 season was all to similar of the 1990's era of UTEP football.
10. Tulsa Golden Hurricane (3-9, 2-6) Pre-Season Rank: #1
High expectations, low production, and only 3-wins is where the Golden Hurricane fell to this season. Trey Watts had a solid senior season, but the transition on defense and depth turnover hurt the defense. Dane Evans looks the be quarterback of the future and Keevan Lucas could be his number one target at receiver next season. Tulsa still has the size and some talent to build around, they could be back next year as a contender.
9. Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (4-8, 3-5) Pre-Season Rank: #5
Coming in not much was known after a new coach in Skip Holtz, and new scheme after being the top offense in the country in 2012. The identity on offense was to pound the ground, though the defense had trouble stopping the run. The Bulldogs strung together two wins against bottom barrel members FIU and So Miss., but got blown out by Rice in a game that could have sparked a huge turnaround in Ruston. Skip Holtz will have this program rolling, and with Kenneth Dixon and Tevin King returning, I would have high hopes for next year if I was a Bulldog fan.
8. Florida Atlantic Owls (6-6, 4-4) Pre-Season Rank: #13
After a tough early schedule, the Owls rallied for four straight wins to end the year and finished with six wins. Quarterback Jacquez Johnson carried the load, leading the Owls in rushing. Physical, fast, and a well coached defense helped carry them to 32 sacks as a team. After the Carl Pelini drug drama, the program is in the midst of a coaching search. The program could have faltered after that news, though the team came together and could certainly start a turnaround heading into the future.
7. Tulane Green Wave (7-5, 5-3) Pre-Season Rank: #11
Curtis Johnson deserves a lot of credit for a 5-win turnaround and a bowl appearance in the programs final year as a C-USA member. The influx of the two LSU transfers upfront on defense paid huge dividends as the Green Wave hung their hat on defense and won seven games. Moving into a brand new on campus stadium, while joining the American Conference is something to be excited about, along with this years bowl appearance. The Green Wave are headed in the right direction and we wish them luck in their new conference.
6. UTSA Roadrunners (7-5, 6-2) Pre-Season Rank: #12
The Roadrunners kicked in the door and have arrived as a contender in the west. Larry Coker has done a masterful job at the helm, but to me they have some of the best assistants in the conference no one really knows about. The question going forward is who will take over at for Eric Soza at quarterback for next year, as most of the ball carriers and offensive weapons return, along with some nice pieces on defense. Central Texas is a hot bed for division one players, and with their recent success, UTSA could own the San Antonio area, and even start turning heads in the Austin and Houston areas, as it is a nice pitch to play in San Antonio a city who has really embraced the team, and to play in the Alamodome for The Larry Coker. It is really un-fair they are not going to a bowl game.
5. Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (8-4, 6-2) Pre-Season Rank: #7
After losing 34-7 to North Texas back in October, the Blue Raiders won their last five and will meet Navy in the Bell Helicopters Armed Forces Bowl. The Raiders scored 40 points in four of the five wins down the stretch of the season, as Logan Kilgore really improved over the latter part of the season, throwing a touchdown pass in every game of the win streak. Safety Kevin Byard lead a stingy defense that was tied at the top of the conference in turnover margin at +12.
The Mean Green were another surprising team who held a piece of first place in the west, but fell to UTSA late in the season and will now play UNLV in the Heart of Dallas Bowl. Another stingy defense unit, as they were +10 in turnover margin and third in the conference in rushing defense. The Mean Green will have a new signal caller next year as Derek Thompson
will graduate, they also lose running back Brandin Byrd
who ran for 1023 yards. Defensive back Marcus Trice
also graduates, will be interesting to see if next year is a reload or rebuilding year in Denton.
Despite taking it on the chin against Marshall in the final week of the season, East Carolina is still a very solid team. Shane Carden
brought back the old C-USA passing numbers with 32 touchdowns, and should go over 4,00 yards passing against Ohio in the Beef O'Brady Bowl. The Pirates were tops in the league in stopping the run, and had 21 takeaways on defense. East Carolina will leave the C-USA and enter the American Athletic Conference, and will continue to be a solid program under Ruffin McNeil as they have a real nice recruiting class coming in 2014.
The struggles on the road were real this season as the Herd finished 3-3 on the road. Rakeem Cato
should come back to refine his skill, as he showed he could possibly be a productive quarterback at the next level, but still needs one more year to solidify that. Tommy Shuler
should return at receiver, though Gator Hoskins
will graduate, as he was a integral part in generating points this season. Marshall is a solid program and will continue to run the table in the east, especially now that ECU is gone.
The Rice Owls
broke a 56 year conference championship drought, and will represent the C-USA as the champ against Mississippi State in the Liberty Bowl. Charles Ross
had four rushing games of 150 yards or more this season. The Owls are ranked 16th nationally overall in rushing yards as a team. David Baliff has done a great job at Rice, and has the program on the right track, though they lose a lot of production heading into next year. They had tons of experience returning and lived up to and beyond their pre-season expectations. Congrats champs.
MVP: Charles Ross, Rice
Offensive MVP: Shane Carden, ECU
Defensive MVP: Kevin Byard, Middle Tennessee
Special Teams: Carl Salazar, Tulane
Freshman of the Year: Aaron Jones, UTEP
Coach of The Year: David Baliff, Rice
Miner Rush All C-USA Teams
First Team Offense
Quarterback: Shane Carden, ECU
Running Backs: Charles Ross, Tulsa, 1252 yards rushing, 14 TD's
Trey Watts, Tulsa, 1329 yards rushing 11 TD's, 46 rec 395 receiving yards
Receivers: Justin Hardy, ECU, 105 rec 1218 yards 8 TD's
Tommy Shuler, Marshall, 97 rec, 1097 yards, 9 TD's
Tight End: Gator Hoskins, Marshall, 44 rec, 717 yards, 13 TD's
Offensive Line: Adhem, Elsawi, ECU, Scott Inskeep, UTSA, Nate Richards, Rice, Will Simmons, ECU, Chris Jasperse, Marshall
Firs Team Defense:
Defensive Line: Assad Mabry, UTSA, Cory Henry, FAU, Aaron Bellazin, North Texas, Julius Warmsley, Tulane,
Linebackers: Shawn Jackson, Tulsa, T.T. Barber, Middle Tennessee State, Derrel Johnson, ECU
Defensive Backs: Marcus Trice, North Texas, Lorenzo Doss, Tulane, Kevin Byard, Middle Tennessee, D'Joun Smith, FAU
First Team Specialists: Cario Santos, Tulane, Brelan Chancellor, North Texas
Second Team Offense
Quarterback: Rakeem Cato, Marshall
Running Backs: Vintavious Cooper, ECU, Brandin Byrd, North Texas
Receivers: Ryan Grant, Tulane, JaMarcus Nelson, UAB
Tight End: Eric Tomlinson, UTEP
Offensive Line: Matt Shepperd, LA Tech, Ike Harris, ECU, Josh Walker, Middle Tennessee, Cody Harris, UTSA, Mason Y'Barbo, North Texas
Second Team Specialists
Chris Boswell, Rice, Autrey Golden, UTEP
Second Team Defense
Defensive Line: Royce LaFrance, Tulane, I.K. Enempali, LA Tech, Codie Brooks, UTSA, Derrick Alexander, Tulsa
Linebackers: Steven Kurfehs, UTSA, Montese Overton, ECU, Leighton, Gasque, Middle Tenneesse
Defensive Backs: Derrick Strozier, Tulane, Bryce Callahan, Rice, Tristan Wade, UTSA, Mike Mudoh, Tulsa
Kenneth Dixon, RB, LA Tech
Garrett Scott, OL, Marshall
Turner Peterson, TE, Rice
Michael Kutzler, LB, Rice
Orleans Darkwa, RB, Tulane
Darius Johnson, OL, Middle Tennessee
Bennett Okotcha, DB, UTSA
Alex Bazzie, DL, Marshall
Paul Porras, DB, Rice
Devin Cockrell, DB, UTEP
Jordan Leslie, WR, UTEP
Eric Soza, QB, UTSA
Lairamie Lee, DB, North Texas
Jerel Watkins,OL, UTEP
Jaquez Johnson, QB, FAU
William Dukes, WR, FAU