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2014 Preseason Conference USA Power Rankings

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It's about that time, Power Rankings time, here is our preseason C-USA Power Rankings and Rush Awards.

Brett Davis-US PRESSWIRE

If you claim to know about the 2014 C-USA football season in and out during this opening week, your full of it.

With so many transitions, transgressions, and defections, this newer look C-USA for the second straight year has more unknowns than contenders.

The clear cut favorite in my mind obviously is Marshall, though outside of UTSA, Middle Tennessee, and maybe Rice and North Texas, C-USA has a lot of figuring out to do in order to determine who is for real, and who is not.

Marshall of course returns all-world quarterback Rakeem Cato, and a favorable schedule have many people thinking Marshall could make headway into the new College Football Playoff with a 13-0 season.

Tommy Shuler will be Cato's number one target again, Shuler has a chance at NCAA history if he has another 100 catch season, which would mark his third consecutive.  And having Middle Tennessee, Rice, and FAU at home are huge as well.

Three of Marshall's four losses from a year ago will have to play in Huntington where the Herd have won eight straight, it appears its Marshall then everybody else in the grand scheme of C-USA, especially in the east.

UTSA has an interesting situation: so much returning, proven experience outside of the quarterback spot, but for the first time in program history there are high expectations from a hungry fan base.

With the tools returning along the defensive front, (Codie Brooks, Ashaad Mabry, Cody Rogers and few others), a tackling machine in the secondary in Tristan Wade, the Runners lack of experience at quarterback is a non-issue to me with the way they stymied certain teams using that nasty defensive front as an anchor last season.

The bigger issue for me about UTSA is the strength of their pre-conference schedule and how they handle keeping up with high flying offense's Houston and Oklahoma State on the road, and also Arizona at home will really gauge if the UTSA hype is real.  Or will that tough early schedule break them down and if it does is there truly enough depth for them to contend a top the west in year two.

Middle Tennessee returns just three starters on offense, though returns two of the best defensive players in the league which still makes the stingy Blue Raider defense a serious threat and possibly one of the best in C-USA again.

Linebacker T.T. Barber and safety Kevin Byard return along with six other returing starters for the Blue Raiders who were fifth in the nation in takeaways last season.  There will be some unknowns along the defensive front and secondary, but can Middle Tennessee use defense to replace the offensive minded ECU Pirates as giants in the east along with Marshall?

Western Kentucky could be a sleeper team out of the east, although its just to early for me to start crowing teams who have a lot to prove once conference play starts but have the on paper accolades and program growth to show some fight i.e. La. Tech, FAU.

This leads into the C-USA West and other questions I have around the league in week one.....

Can Rice fight through the transitions of a new offensive coordinator and tough early schedule to repeat as champs?

Was North Texas's run just a one year wonder, or will this team built heavily along the offensive line reload or rebuild?

Who outside of UTSA, Rice, and North Texas will be improved teams in the C-USA west?

Will Western Kentucky transcend from a Sun Belt contender the past couple of seasons to C-USA contender this season?

Is the East truly, madly, deeply  Marshall's to lose or will someone step up and contend?

So many questions, but plenty of weeks ahead to answer those, here are the preseason rankings.

1. Marshall Thundering Herd 2013 Record: 10-4, 7-1 C-USA

This Week: @Miami (OH), Saturday

Returning Letterman:  59

Returning Starters:

Offense: 6

Defense: 8

2. Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders 2013 Record: 8-5, 6-2 C-USA

This Week: vs Savannah State, Saturday

 

Returning Letterman: 49

Returning Starters:

Offense: 5

Defense: 8

3. Rice Owls 2013 Record: 10-4, 7-1 C-USA

This Week: @ Notre Dame, Saturday

Returning Letterman: 43

Returning Starters:

Offense: 6

Defense: 5

4. UTSA Roadrunners 2013 Record: 7-5, 6-2 C-USA

This Week: @ Houston, Friday

Returning Letterman: 54

Returning Starters:

Offense: 9

Defense: 10

5. North Texas Mean Green 2013 Record: 9-4, 6-2 C-USA

This Week: @ Texas, Saturday

Returning Letterman: 37

Returning Starters:

Offense: 5

Defense: 4

6. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers 2013 Record: 8-4, 4-3 Sun Belt

This Week: vs Bowling Green, Friday

Returning Letterman: 46

Returning Starters:

Offense: 9

Defense: 4

7. Florida Atlantic Owls 2013 Record: 6-6, 4-4 C-USA

This Week: @ Nebraska, Saturday

Returning Letterman: 40

Returning Starters:

Offense: 6

Defense: 6

8. Louisiana Tech Bulldogs 2013 Record: 4-8, 3-5 C-USA

This Week: @ Oklahoma, Saturday

Returning Letterman: 36

Returning Starters:

Offense: 5

Defense: 7

9. Old Dominion Monarchs 2013 Record: 8-4

This Week: vs Hampton, Saturday

Returning Letterman: 43

Returning Starters:

Offense: 6

Defense: 10

10. UTEP Miners 2013 Record: 2-10, 1-7 C-USA

This Week: @ New Mexico, Saturday

Returning Letterman: 43

Returning Starters:

Offense: 8

Defense: 7

11. UAB Blazers 2013 Record: 2-10, 1-7 C-USA

This Week: vs Troy, Saturday

Returning Letterman: 47

Returning Starters:

Offense: 8

Defense: 8

12. Southern Miss. Golden Eagles 2013 Record: 1-11, 1-7 C-USA

This Week: @ Mississippi State, Saturday

Returning Letterman: 56

Returning Starters:

Offense: 7

Defense: 7

13. Florida International Panthers 2013 Record: 1-11, 1-7 C-USA

This Week: vs Bethune-Cookman, Saturday

Returning Letterman: 54

Returning Starters:

Offense: 9

Defense: 7

 

MinerRush All C-USA Teams

First Team Offense

Player Position
Rakeem Cato-Marshall QB
Kenneth Dixon-La. Tech RB
Aaron Jones-UTEP RB
Eric Tomlinson-UTEP TE
Jamarcus Nelson-UAB WR
Tommy Shuler-Marshall WR
Scott Inskeep-UTSA OL
Cyril Lemon-North Texas OL
Mason Y' Barbo-North Texas OL
Clint Van Horn-Marshall OL
Isaiah Anderson-Middle Tennessee OL

 

First Team Defense

Player Position
Ashaad Mabry-UTSA DL
Christian Covington-Rice DL
Ra' Shawde Myers-Marshall DL
James Rouse-Marshall DL
T.T. Barber-Middle Tennessee LB
James Radcliffe-Rice LB
Andrae Kirk-FAU LB
Bryce Callahan-Rice DB
Tristan Wade-UTSA DB
Kevin Byard-Middle Tennesee DB
D'Joun Smith-FAU

DB

 

Specialists

Player Position
Sean Ianno-UTSA K
Autrey Golden-UTEP KR

 

Second Team Offense

Player Position
Jaquez Johnson-FAU QB
Jordan Parker-Middle Tennessee RB
Jordan Howard-UAB RB
Mitchell Henry-Western Kentucky TE
Jordan Taylor-Rice WR
Larry Pinkard-Old Dominion WR
Chris Jasperse-Marshall OL
Sebastian Jonhson-Marshall OL
Darius Johnson-Middle Tennessee OL
Kaydon Kirby-North Texas OL
Jerel Watkins-UTEP OL

 

Second Team Defense

Player Position
Codie Brooks-UTSA DL
Richard Burge-UTSA DL
Jiajuan Fennell-Middle Tennessee DL
Brandin Bryant-FAU DL
Derek Akunne-North Texas LB
Terrick Wright-Southern Miss. LB
Drew Douglas-UTSA LB
Lairamie Lee-North Texas DB
Adaius Barnes-La. Tech DB
Thomas McDonald-La. Tech DB
Cam Thomas-Western Kentucky DB

 

Rush Awards

MVP-Rakeem Cato-Marshall

Offensive MVP-Tommy Shuler-Marshall

Defensive MVP: T.T. Barber-Middle Tennessee