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2012 CUSA
College Football
Season Preview


Please note: Our conference reports analyze what the Congrove Computer Rankings preseason forecast predicts. Team power ratings change weekly during the season to reflect the actual results of the games. For projecting results, 3 points are added to the home team.

During the 2011 season, from beginning to end, including bowl games:
Overall, 3 teams gained 10 or more "power points". Houston led the gainers at 13.61, followed by Vanderbilt at 12.22.
In CUSA, Houston gained the most at 13.61.
Overall, 19 teams gained 5.00 - 9.99 points.
Overall, 33 teams gained less than 5 points.
Overall, 44 teams fell less than 5 points.
Overall, 17 teams fell 5.00-9.99 points.
Overall, 4 teams fell 10 power points or more. Troy fell the most at 11.68, followed by FAU at 10.80.
In CUSA, Tulane fell the most at 9.60
Overall, the average change of teams in 2011 was a loss of 0.17 points.
In CUSA, the average change of teams in 2011 was a loss of 0.49 points.

2012 Conference Preview
2012 PROJECTED ORDER OF FINISH
CUSA East
  Team Over-All
W-L
Conf.
W-L
Nat'l
Rank
Power
Rating
Sched.
Rank
1. Southern Miss 10-2 8-0 30 73.58 58
2. Marshall 8-4 6-2 43 70.49 72
3. UCF 6-6 5-3 65 69.62 81
4. East Carolina 6-6 4-4 73 64.69 99
5. UAB 2-10 1-7 112 0.20 71
6 Memphis 1-11 0-8 122 44.66 110
*-Tie-breaker: None
CUSA West
  Team Over-All
W-L
Conf.
W-L
Nat'l
Rank
Power
Rating
Sched.
Rank
1. *-Houston 11-1 7-1 17 73.40 92
2. *-Tulsa 10-2 7-1 29 73.77 87
3. SMU 5-7 4-4 77 68.91 66
4. Tulane 4-8 3-5 95 52.55 89
5. UTEP 4-8 2-6 92 60.01 47
6. Rice 2-10 1-7 108 54.65 83
*-Tie-breaker: Houston beats Tulsa

Championship: Dec. 1 on ABC or ESPN
Southern Miss VS. Houston
*-Title game is hosted by division-winner with best conference win percentage.
Predicted site: Hattiesburg, MS

Conference Champ
Southern Miss
Title Game Result: Southern Miss over Houston by 3.18

Also See:
Preseason All-CUSA Team

Preview

The Congrove Computer Rankings correctly forecasted the winner of 82.1% of all games played in 2011 by Conference USA teams.

The computer's 2011 Conference USA preseason forecast predicted Tulsa would defeat Southern Miss for the championship, but Southern Miss won the title instead with a 49-28 upset at then-unbeaten Houston. Tulsa finished a game out of the west division lead after being demolished 48-16 at home by the Cougars in the final regular season game.

Southern Miss promptly lost head coach Larry Fedora after winning its first conference title since 2003. The Eagles announced Ellis Johnson as their new head coach on December 20 after the Tar Heels introduced Fedora as their new head coach on December 8. Fedora became North Carolina's first permanent head coach since Butch Davis was fired on July 27, 2011. Fedora stayed and coached USM to a 24-17 Hawaii Bowl win over Nevada to give him a final record of 34-19 in his 4 seasons at the Hattiesburg school.

Houston promoted Tony Levine from special teams coach and assistant head coach on December 21. Levine had been named interim head coach on December 10 when Kevin Sumlin left to take what had been Mike Sherman's job at Texas A&M. Levine's first game as head coach produced a 30-14 win over Penn State in the TicketCity Bowl at Cotton Bowl Stadium on January 2. Sumlin was 35-17 in 4 seasons at Houston where his team also lost in the 2009 CUSA championship game.

In spite of the changes at the top for both teams, Houston and Southern Miss are once again expected to play for the conference title. The computer expects the Golden Eagles to host this year's championship game matchup and eke-out a 4.18-point win.

After the 12 CUSA teams entered the 2011 season with just one head coaching change, the 2012 season will see 3 other new faces in addition to those at Houston and Southern Miss:

Memphis introduced TCU co-offensive coordinator Justin Fuente as its new head, replacing Larry Porter who was fired November 27. Porter was 3-21 overall and 1-15 in CUSA in two seasons at Memphis. His team finished last in the Congrove Computer Rankings of all 120 teams in 2010 and was ranked 118th on the day of his dismissal. Fuente joined the TCU staff in 2007 as running backs coach after six seasons at Illinois State.

Tulane named Curtis Johnson the successor to Bob Toledo who resigned on October 18th after a 2-5 start dropped his record to 15-40 in 4-plus years with the Green Wave. Offensive line coach Mark Hutson was interim head coach for the rest of the season and went 0-5. Johnson has been the wide receivers coach with the NFL's New Orleans Saints since 2006. The University of Idaho alumnus is a native of New Orleans.

UAB hired Arkansas offensive coordinator Garrick McGee to replace Neil Callaway who was 18-42 in 5 seasons at UAB and never reached .500 in a single season. The Blazers lost their 2011 season finale 38-35 at previously winless FAU. UAB hasn't had a winning season since 2004 (7-5) and has never topped the 7-win mark since joining the ranks of the FBS in 1996.

UAB and Memphis are expected to compete for last-place in the east while Tulane is projected to improve to 4-8 (from 2-11) in the west. All three teams have been perennial losers over the last six years with just 19 total wins for the Green Wave, 20 for the Tigers and 21 for the Blazers.

Tulane is projected to beat Ole Miss for the first time 1988, albeit by just 0.68 points. Before the current 10-game losing streak to the Rebels began, the Green Wave had won 29 of the 60 games played.

Last season, Tulsa had the only new hire when former Golden Hurricane quarterback Bill Blankenship replaced Todd Graham. Graham went to Pitt but left after the 2011 season to take the reins at Arizona State. Tulsa still managed to challenge for the west division title and is once again expected to come up just short with a 2.63-point regular season loss at Houston.

Houston's only forecasted loss is a narrow 0.09-point upset at Marshall in the next-to-last game of the season. No other team in the west division is projected to finish their 2012 campaign with a .500 record. The computer puts SMU at 5-7, followed by Tulane and UTEP at 4-8 with Rice (2-10) bringing up the rear.

SMU's non-conference slate features a trio of Big 12 teams in Baylor, Texas A&M and TCU. The Mustangs do get Houston, Southern Miss and Tulsa at home where they are the preseason underdog in each by less than 2 points.

UTEP opens at home against Oklahoma and travels to Wisconsin three weeks later.

In the east, Marshall is viewed as the closest challenger to Southern Miss. The Thundering Herd is given an 8-4 forecast that includes a 6-2 conference projection for their best marks since 2003 when they turned in those same records.

Meanwhile, Southern Miss has a 3-game stretch from September 29 to October 13 in which it is favored by less than a point against Louisville, Boise State and UCF, the first two of which will be hosted in Hattiesburg. The Golden Eagles are also just a 1.66-point favorite at SMU and a surprising 3.66-point loser at Western Kentucky.

Many sources have been pumping up UCF, but the computer sees the Golden Knights challenging East Carolina for a 3rd-place finish and limping home with at 6-6 overall and 5-3 in Conference USA play.

ECU has to visit South Carolina, Southern Miss and North Carolina in succession after opening with FCS stalwart Appalachian State.

Conference USA's 2012 season was unaffected by the latest round of realignment, but 2013 will be a completely different story. The league loses Houston, Memphis, SMU and UCF to the Big East next season. Their replacements are scheduled to be Sun Belt members FIU and North Texas, along with WAC members Louisiana Tech and Texas-San Antonio.

UNC-Charlotte and Old Dominion are scheduled to be added in football in 2015.