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August 23, 2004
Tulane WR Roydell Williams will help break in a new QB.
As C-USA prepares for a new season, one could only wonder how good this conference could have been if members Louisville, Cincinnati, South Florida, and TCU would have remained and not “jumped ship” to the Big East and Mountain West Conferences respectively. Ironically enough, the 2004 season may prove to be the best yet for C-USA as the league is deep with talent and has what I consider to be four teams with a legitimate chance to not only crack the Top 25 but also a chance (all be it slim) to be the first non-BCS team to play in a coveted BCS bowl game. Regardless, C-USA should display some explosive offenses in 2004 as the league’s version of “shock and awe” begins on September 2nd when TCU takes on Northwestern at home. Below is the predicted order of finish and record:

1. (Tie) Southern Mississippi 8-3

The Golden Eagles have grown accustomed to winning C-USA titles (four in eight years), but this year will be different from most as I believe the offense will actually be the catalyst for the championship run. The offense returns nine starters, including 6’7” 330 pound All-Conference tackle Jeremy Parquet. Quarterback Dustin Almond promises to cause more damage to opposing defenses utilizing a seasoned receiver corps and bruising runner Anthony Harris. The defense has a solid interior line and an All-American linebacker in Michael Boley. However, key losses of All-World linebacker Rod Davis, defensive backs Greg Brooks, Alex Ray and Etric Pruitt, as well as defensive ends Terrell Paul and Ronald Jones to graduation, would leave any defensive coordinator a bit shaken. The bright side is that rFr. defensive end Robert Henderson has drawn comparisons to former Southern Miss great Adalius Thomas, now playing on Sundays with the Baltimore Ravens. Freshman All-American kicker Darren McCaleb along with returners Marvin Young and John Eubanks, also a solid starting cornerback, provide truly electrifying special teams. Key game: Southern Miss at Memphis Nov. 12th

1. (Tie) Louisville 9-2

Since there is not currently a championship game in C-USA and league geniuses decided that a second year without the rivalry game between Louisville and Southern Miss was a good thing, both Southern Miss and Louisville will share the crown this year. Louisville should easily be 5-0 heading into the match-up with Miami (FL), but following the game in Miami, they will have tough games on the road at Memphis and Houston as well as a tough home bout with TCU. Returning quarterback Stefan LeFors will connect often with speedsters Broderick Clark and J.R. Russell. That is unless All-Everything signee Brian Brohm takes over the job. Powerful backs Eric Shelton and Lionel Gates will keep defenses honest in 2004. If the Cardinals want to leave C-USA on a good note, they better solidify their defense which allowed everyone and their mother to score toward the end of 2003. Louisville returning starters Robert McCune (LB) and William Gay (CB) will provide some much needed stability. Key game: TCU at Louisville Nov. 9th

3. Memphis 8-3

Memphis was one of the better offenses in the country last year as they were able to score on just about everyone and often (except Southern Miss). They have all eleven starters back on offense, including senior leader and quarterback Danny Wimprine and All-Conference junior tailback DeAngelo Williams. If defensive coordinator Joe Lee Dunn can continue to make strides with the defense, this team could finish the year not only as C-USA champs but also as members of’s Fab 15. Back to reality a bit, Memphis has only one starter, DL Albert Means, returning in the front six (usually front seven, but Dunn plays a 3-3-5 defense), and he technically wasn’t a starter as he was academically ineligible last season. However, he will be their anchor for this defense, literally, at 6’4” 335. Key game: Louisville at Memphis Nov. 3rd

4. TCU 9-2

The Horned Frogs could possibly boast the deepest backfield in the country with quarterbacks Brandon Hassell and Tye Gunn and tailbacks Lonta Hobbs and Robert Merrill. All-Conference left tackle Anthony Alabi leads a veteran offensive line that should open huge holes for the talented backfield. The receiver corps, led by the speedy Reggie Harrell, is experienced and up to the task. The defense has several holes to fill but will be led by linebacker Martin Patterson and All-Conference safety Marvin Godbolt. TCU’s kicking game will possibly suffer as All-American place-kicker Nick Browne graduated. A favorable schedule will most likely renew TCU’s hopes of cracking the BCS code. However, Southern Miss still stands in their way for not only the C-USA title but the larger prize as well. Key game: Southern Miss at TCU Nov. 20th

5. UAB 7-4

The Blazers will return eight starters on an offense led by talented quarterback Darrell Hackney. The only concern on offense for Watson Brown will be replacing three offensive linemen from last year, which was impeded during the spring as injuries prevented the forming of a cohesive starting line. As talented as the offense is this year, the true potential of how far this team can go will rest on the shoulders of their defensive unit, which returns ten starters including All-Conference senior linebacker Zac Woodfin. The early portion of their schedule may prevent this team from reaching their true potential as tough road games at Florida State and Mississippi State, as well as tough home games with Memphis and TCU, make up four of their first six games. If the Blazers can manage to split these four games, their projected record of 7-4 should be even better, and the match-up on Nov. 27th at Southern Miss becomes a possible title game. Key game: TCU at UAB Oct. 16th

6. Houston 7-4

Talk about firepower…..this team hung 55 points on TCU and 45 points on Louisville last year. Freshman sensation Kevin Kolb returns for his sophomore season and hopes to improve on his gaudy 3,131 passing yards and 25 touchdowns (with only six interceptions). Six other starters are back that should assist Kolb in his quest for better numbers. However, the offense will have to replace All-Conference receiver Brandon Middleton and three offensive linemen, although all reports indicate that the line looked good in spring drills. The defense returns nine starters from a squad that gave up 440 yards a game. I don’t know if that is a good thing or not, but a year of experience may allow defensive end John Clay and company to be more effective and get Kolb more opportunities. A tough schedule includes non-conference games with Oklahoma and Miami (FL), as well as back-to-back-to-back games at Memphis, Southern Miss, and TCU following the Miami game. Key game: Houston at Memphis Oct. 2nd

7. Cincinnati 6-5

The Bearcats were 22 points away from being 10-2 last year, but that was enough to end the tenure for departed head coach Rick Minter and usher in the era of Mark Dantonio. He will have a lot to work with as the always scrappy and talented Gino Guidugli returns at quarterback to lead an offense that returns all but two starters. Tailback Richard Hall also returns to provide balance for Dantonio. The defense will have a different style this year as new coordinator Pat Narduzzi plans to utilize the skills of a talented senior linebacker corps of Jason Russell, Jamar Enzor, and Tyjuan Haglar. Cincinnati will be tested early with games at Ohio State and Syracuse, as well as tested late with a murderous row of games against Memphis, TCU, Southern Miss, and Louisville. Key game: Cincinnati at Southern Miss Nov. 6th

8. South Florida 6-5

It’s good to see South Florida playing eleven games this year...too bad only 10 of them are Division 1A. That may come back to haunt them as they have a brutal early season three week run with consecutive games at South Carolina and TCU and a home matchup with Southern Miss. However, the Bulls return their entire offensive line and senior quarterback Ronnie Banks, if he is not ousted by capable sophomore Pat Julmiste. The Bulls must find a go-to receiver to balance the offense though. South Florida must also replace five key starters in the linebacker corps and secondary. The defensive line will be the strength of the Bulls defense and will be led by senior Lee Roy Selmon, Jr. Should the Bulls be able to navigate the early stretch of their schedule unscathed, then the home game against Memphis on Nov. 27th should be intriguing. Key game: Southern Miss at South Florida Oct. 2nd

9. Tulane 4-7

It is hard to recover from the loss of what could be arguably your best quarterback/tailback combo in school history, as seniors J.P. Losman and Mewelde Moore have left the building. Spring drills did not settle the dispute as to which newcomer will man the helm at quarterback, but I believe sophomore Nick Cannon will be the starter when the dust settles. All-conference wide receiver Roydell Williams will be the main threat for the Green Wave this season. The defense returns eight starters led by solid performer Anthony Cannon at linebacker. To talk about the schedule would be meaningless, as Florida A&M, Navy, and Army will be three of Tulane’s four projected wins. Key game: Tulane at Houston Oct. 30th

10. ECU 3-8

Head coach John Thompson is one of the finest coaches I have ever had the honor of meeting; however, even I have to be honest and say that this program is a year away from a run at the C-USA title. One of the reasons is that Thompson brought in new offensive coordinator Noah Brandise to implement the Florida passing attack. The only problem is that their best player on offense is returning tailback Art Brown, who missed last season with a knee injury. In fact, backup tailback Marvin Townes may have to split duties at wide receiver if this new offense is to even get off the ground this season. Thompson’s forte has always been defense, and this year’s squad will be led by gifted returning junior linebacker Chris Moore. Moore was the second leading tackler in the nation last year. Key game: ECU at South Florida Nov. 13th

11. Army 2-9

What can you say when the biggest noise in the off-season was the hiring of a retired coach, Bobby Ross? Now that they found their coach, they merely need to find a team. Zac Dahman did break the school record for completions, attempts, and yards in his sophomore season and heads into 2004 with an offense that returns 10 starters. Usually returning starters are an asset, but Army returns eight starters on a defense that allowed an average of 34 points per game. Key game: Army at Navy Dec. 4th

Preseason All-Conference USA Team

OL Jeremy Parquet Sr Southern Miss
OL Anthony Alabi Sr TCU
OL Kyle Takavitz Sr Cincinnati
OL Phil Hawkins Sr Houston
OL Alex Herron Sr South Florida
TE Cody McCarty Sr TCU
WR J.R. Russell Sr Louisville
WR Roydell Williams Sr Tulane
RB Lonta Hobbs Jr TCU
RB DeAngelo Williams Jr Memphis
QB Stefan LeFors Sr Louisville

DL Trent Cole Sr Cincinnati
DL Terrance Ford Jr. Southern Miss
DL Albert Means Sr Memphis
DL Lee Roy Selmon Jr. Sr South Florida
LB Michael Boley Sr Southern Miss
LB Zac Woodfin Sr UAB
LB Jamar Enzor Sr Cincinnati
DB Trevis Coley Jr Southern Miss
DB Carlos Hendricks Sr UAB
DB John Eubanks Jr Southern Miss
DB Marvin Godbolt Sr TCU

K Nick Hayes Sr UAB
P Luke Johnson Jr Southern Miss
KR John Eubanks Jr Southern Miss

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