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Unveiling Miner Rush's Inaugural Conference USA Power Rankings

I think most out there would agree that Houston and Central Florida enter 2010 as the favorites to win their respective divisions.  Those schools have made steady improvements and while they both have their weaknesses (see Houston's defense) I think they deserve to be 1-2 right now.  

I will say this, there is a very high level of parity in talent throughout the C-USA.  UTEP, Tulsa, Houston, and SMU all have comparable talent with above average offenses and less than stellar defenses.  Across the way, Southern Miss, East Carolina, and UCF all have comparable talent as well.  The West, again, will be known for prolific offenses and the East will have better defenses and running games.  Right now, before any games are played, here are Miner Rush's C-USA Power Rankings.

Agree?  Disagree?  Let me hear it.

 #12:  The Tulane Green Wave:

 Last year, Bob Toledo's bunch was one of the 2-3 worst teams in the nation.  Ryan Griffin is going to keep Tulane in some games this year, but right now, the Wave earn the dubious #12 spot. With their early season schedule, they might be here a while (Ole Miss, Houston, Rutgers).

Game 1:  Thursday vs. Southeastern Louisiana

 #11:  The Memphis Tigers

Lost in the Mail:  Cannon Smith, the son of FedEx's Fred Smith, is the starting quarterback for Memphis this year.  Can he deliver the Tigers a .500 record?  With the Tigers schedule (MSU, Louisville, Tennessee) I'm thinking it's going to be another long season in Memphis.

Game 1:  Saturday at Mississippi St. Bulldogs

 #10:  The UAB Blazers

All Talk?  David Isabelle won't be the reason the Blazers struggle in 2010.  I think it will be their defense. Coach Neil Calloway has been talking a lot about bowl games and winning seasons and to me it's starting to come off like he's trying to trick himself into believing he's built a winner.  

Game 1:  Thursday vs. Florida Atlantic Owls

 #9:  The Rice Owls

Tough Break:  I think Sam McGuffie is going to make Rice really fun to watch this season.  But, the Owls just lost Scott Solomon, their best defensive player, for the entire season.  The C-USA West has too many good offenses this year for Rice to make a real move.  It will be interesting to see who emerges as the Owls QB.

Game 1:  Saturday vs. The Texas Longhorns (ESPN, ESPN 3)

 #8:  The Marshall Thundering Herd

Tough Crowd:  A new coach with no head coaching experience is always a gamble.  That's not what concerns me the most about Marshall, it's their quarterback play.  Brian Anderson is steady but not stellar and Holliday scared away Clemson transfer Willy Korn.  Marshall opens up Thursday at the Horseshoe.

Game 1:  Thursday at Ohio St. Buckeyes

 #7:  The Tulsa Golden Hurricane

Not Defensive:  Tulsa is one of four teams that can potentially win the West Division.  G.J. Kinne is good, but is he any better than Case Keenum, Kyle Padron, or Trevor Vittatoe?  Tulsa checks in behind the other West squads because the Hurricane have the weakest offensive line of the bunch and because their 3-3-5 scheme can't hold up with the spread offenses of the C-USA West.

Game 1:  Sunday at East Carolina Pirates (ESPN 2 & ESPN 3)

 #6:  The UTEP Miners

Something to Prove:  The Miners check in at #6 because of the way they finished 2009.    UTEP has an underrated offense and if the defense improves, even marginally, I think the Miners are a legit threat in the West.

Game 1:  Saturday vs. Arkansas- Pine Bluff


 #5:  The Southern Miss. Golden Eagles

National Stage:  DeAndre Brown might be the most exciting player in all of the C-USA (I'll still take Donald Buckram).  Southern Miss has become the trendy pick to win it all.  We'll know how good they are on Thursday when they open up the college football season on ESPN.

Game 1:  Thursday at South Carolina Gamecocks (ESPN, ESPN 3)

 #4:  The East Carolina Pirates

Texas Tech East:  Last year's C-USA Champions take a bit of a dive entering 2010. Skip Holtz and quarterback Patrick Pinkney are gone.  The defense will be fine but who's the QB?  Will it be Boston College transfer Dominique Davis or Sophomore Brad Wornick?  One things for sure, with former Texas Tech coaches Ruffin McNeill and Lincoln Riley calling the shots, expect the Air Raid to give ECU a new look in 2010.  

Game 1:  Sunday vs. Tulsa

 #3:  The SMU Mustangs

What's the Over?:  I'm either going to be a genius or a fool, but I honestly think SMU will give Texas Tech a run for their money on Sunday at Jones Stadium in Lubbock.  I'd take Kyle Padron over Taylor Potts any day.  I'm not calling a win, but I think it will be a lot closer than people think.

Game 1:  Sunday at Texas Tech Red Raiders (ESPN, ESPN 3)

#2:  The Central Florida Knights

Major Question:  UCF has the leagues best defensive player in Bruce Miller.  But, among the league's championship contenders they probably have the biggest question mark at quarterback. Can Rob Calabrese get it done?

Game 1:  Saturday vs. South Dakota

 #1:  The Houston Cougars

The Favorite:  I have my doubts about the Cougars ability to win Conference USA because their defense might be the worst in the league.  So why am I giving the Cougars the nod?  Because just about everybody in the C-USA had a terrible defense last season.  Houston's offensive firepower puts them at #1.. for now.

Game 1:  Saturday vs. Texas State