CUSA Preseason Media Poll
Preseason All-CUSA Team
Last year's preseason forecast correctly picked Tulsa as the west champ while expected second-place finisher East Carolina took the east and the conference title. It nailed the exact records of East Carolina, Marshall, SMU and UTEP. It came within 1 loss of nailing Memphis, Southern Miss and Tulsa.
Both respective 2008 division winners jumped out to terrific starts. West division-winner, Tulsa rolled to an 8-0 start, but split its final six games. East Carolina, the division winner and conference champion, beat Virginia Tech and West Virginia en route to a 3-0 start before losing the next three games. The Pirates then righted the ship and went 6-2 down the stretch. East Carolina defeated Tulsa 27-24 in the CUSA championship game at Tulsa.
The 2009 computer forecast (about the computer) calls for those same teams to meet again for the league title, but with the Golden Hurricane claiming the conference crown.
Those two teams did not meet in the 2008 regular season, but will face-off this year on November 15 in Tulsa where the Golden Hurricane are favored by 9.28. If the computer's forecast is correct, they would meet again in Tulsa for the championship game three weeks later with the same result.
Since the conference began a two-division format in 2005, only five different schools have advanced to the championship game. Nonetheless, a different school has claimed each of the four contests - Tulsa in '05, Houston in '06, UCF in '07, and ECU last year.
The Golden Hurricane have appeared in the title game every season except 2006; UCF played in the '05 and '07 games; Houston and Southern Miss battled in the '06 game; and East Carolina advanced for the first time last season.
Tulsa's 11-1 forecast for this season sees Oklahoma as the only bump in the road. The Golden Hurricane travel to Norman on September 19 where they are 16.22-point underdogs to the Sooners. The narrowest margins in Tulsa's forecasted wins come in consecutive games on October 3 and 14 when it is favored by 5.07 points at Rice, and 3.82 points at home over Boise State.
Such lofty expectations could be viewed as unrealistic for a Tulsa team that loses record-setting QB David Johnson (7th round NFL Draft, Pittsburgh), career rushing leader Tarrion Adams (3,651 yards), and co-offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn (hired by Auburn). Together, they helped the Golden Hurricane average a nation's-best 569.86 yards per game, and score an average of 47.21 points. However, the schedule is set up for success.
Tulsa opens the season nearly 11 power points ahead of the expected second-place finisher, Houston, and are favored to beat the Cougars at home by 13.93 points. That game will be particularly interesting to watch as the home team has won the last two meetings by 40+ points. Last year, Houston whipped Tulsa 70-30 to avenge a 56-7 loss in 2007.
Rice, the projected 3rd-place finisher in the west, actually has the division's second-highest power rating. But the Owls have an unenviable road schedule and the computer projects narrow losses at East Carolina (+4.80) and Houston (+0.14). Rice gets Tulsa at home as 5.07-point underdogs.
The Owls will also have to adjust to life without the record-setting pass-catch combo of QB Chase Clement and WR Jarett Dillard. Dillard caught 60 TD passes in his career to smash the NCAA record by 10. Clement threw 51 TD passes to Dillard to set an NCAA career record for most touchdown passes by a duo.
UTEP appears to be a solid 4th-place pick, while SMU and Tulane trail the Miners by more than 11 power points.
East Carolina opens with more than a 10-point advantage on every team in the east division, except for Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles are just 5.82 points behind the Pirates, but must travel to East Carolina. The other four teams in the east - Marshall, Memphis, UAB and UCF - are within 3 power points of each other, but all of them trail the front-runners by more than 11 points.
The conference returns every head coach from the 2008 season after Houston, SMU and Southern Miss all brought in new leaders a year ago.