How the West Will Be Won

 

Forget about the SEC West. There may not be a better division race then what will transpire in CUSA’s West division this year. There are 4 teams with legitimate shots at claiming the title. Every team has question marks, tough home games, and tough road games. I broke down my thoughts into three parts. Part I I take a look at the measurables of each team. Part II is a look at the conference games for each contender. Finally Part III I take a look at a few stats. Oh it’s going to be a fun race to cover, but first let’s look at our contenders for the division crown.

Contender # 1 – UTSA

UTSA has been a trendy pick for winning the West and possibly even challenging Marshall for the conference championship. The reason why they’ve been popular amongst the sports prognosticators is their entire team is pretty much returning. That would include starters and back-ups. They did lose their all time great QB Eric Soza.

Contender #2 – Rice

The job that David Bailiff has done at Rice has been outstanding. His team has been in the mix for conference titles the past couple of years. They too are replacing a QB, but I like QB Driphus Jackson in the Rice spread rushing attack. Christian Covington is going to be a beast up the middle for the Rice DL.

Contender #3 – UNT

UNT is replacing a ton of production and leadership. A normal outsider would wonder why I consider them a legit contender. The reason is simple and his name is Dan McCarney. He has worked magic at UNT transforming the program back into contender. Coach McCarney and his staff have done a wonderful job filling in young talent behind last year’s salty veterans.

Contender #4 – Louisiana Tech

Louisiana Tech was supposed to be a contender last year, but QB Scotty Young never materialized into what Skip Holtz thought he would be. This year they have what looks to be 2 viable QB options in Ryan Higgins and Iowa transfer Cody Sokol. Plus they have Kenneth Dixon returning and a pretty good back seven on defense.

 


 

 PART I – THE MEASURABLES

 

Okay now that you’ve met the contenders let’s look at the tale of the tape between the 4 schools. This is how I would rank the measurables between the four contenders.

 

MEASURABLES UNT RICE UTSA LA TECH
QB 3 1 4 2
RB 2 3 4 1
WR 4 3 2 1
OL 1 3 2 4
DL 4 2 1 3
LB 2 3 4 1
DB 2 4 3 1
ST 3 4 2 1
COACHES 1 4 2 3
SENIOR STRS 4 3 1 2
LTR % RETURN 3 2 1 4
% YARDS RETURN 4 3 1 2
% TKL 4 3 1 2
OL STARTS 2 2 1 4

 

Just by judging the teams on paper this is how I rank them:

  1. UTSA
  2. Louisiana Tech
  3. UNT
  4. Rice

 


 

PART II- THE SCHEDULE

 

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 11

Louisiana Tech at North Texas

Winner – UNT

                                                          STANDINGS
TEAM W L
UNT 1 0
UTSA 0 0
RICE 0 0
LA. TECH 0 1

 

 

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 20

Old Dominion at Rice

Winner –Rice

                                                          STANDINGS
TEAM W L
UNT 1 0
UTSA 0 0
RICE 1 0
LA. TECH 0 1

 

 

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 27

UTSA at Florida Atlantic

Winner – UTSA

Rice at Southern Miss

Winner – Rice

                                                          STANDINGS
TEAM W L
UNT 1 0
UTSA 1 0
RICE 2 0
LA. TECH 0 1

 

 

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 4

UTEP at Louisiana Tech

Winner – La. Tech

                                                          STANDINGS
TEAM W L
UNT 1 0
UTSA 1 0
RICE 2 0
LA. TECH 1 1

 

 

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 11

FIU at UTSA

Winner – UTSA

North Texas at UAB

Winner – UNT

                                                          STANDINGS
TEAM W L
UNT 2 0
UTSA 2 0
RICE 2 0
LA. TECH 1 1

 

 

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 18

UTSA at Louisiana Tech

Winner – La. Tech

Southern Miss at North Texas

Winner – UNT

                                                           STANDINGS
TEAM W L
UNT 3 0
UTSA 2 1
RICE 2 0
LA. TECH 2 1

 

 

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 25

Louisiana Tech at Southern Miss

Winner – La. Tech

 

North Texas at Rice

Winner – Rice

 UTEP at UTSA

Winner – UTSA

                                                          STANDINGS
TEAM W L
UNT 3 1
UTSA 3 1
RICE 3 0
LA. TECH 3 1

 

 

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 1

Rice at FIU

Winner – Rice

WKU at Louisiana Tech

Winner – La. Tech

                                                          STANDINGS
TEAM W L
UNT 3 1
UTSA 3 1
RICE 4 0
LA. TECH 4 1

 

 

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 8

Florida Atlantic at North Texas

Winner – UNT

Louisiana Tech at UAB

Winner – La. Tech

 UTSA at Rice

Winner – Rice

                                                          STANDINGS
TEAM W L
UNT 4 1
UTSA 3 2
RICE 5 0
LA. TECH 5 1

 

 

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 15

Rice at Marshall

Winner – Marshall

North Texas at UTEP

Winner – UNT

Southern Miss at UTSA

Winner – UTSA

                                                          STANDINGS
TEAM W L
UNT 5 1
UTSA 4 2
RICE 5 1
LA. TECH 5 1

 

 

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 21

UTEP at Rice

Winner – Rice

                                                          STANDINGS
TEAM W L
UNT 5 1
UTSA 4 1
RICE 6 1
LA. TECH 5 1

 

 

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 22

FIU at North Texas

Winner – UNT

Louisiana Tech at Old Dominion

Winner – La. Tech

UTSA at WKU

Winner – UTSA

                                                          STANDINGS
TEAM W L
UNT 6 1
UTSA 5 2
RICE 6 1
LA. TECH 6 1

 

 

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 29

Rice at Louisiana Tech

Winner – Rice

North Texas at UTSA

Winner – UTSA

                                                                      FINAL STANDINGS
TEAM W L
RICE 7 1
UTSA 6 2
UNT 6 2
LA. TECH 6 2

Looking through all the game for the contenders it’s amazing to believe that the race could come down to the final weekend. It’s not hard to see a four way tie happening and then we get to dust off the tie breakers. Honestly that would be a nightmare if we got to that scenario. Ultimately I think the games below are the ones that will decide this tightly contested race.

  1. Louisiana Tech at UNT
  2. UTSA at FAU
  3. UTSA at Louisiana Tech
  4. UNT at Rice
  5. Western Kentucky at Louisiana Tech
  6. Florida Atlantic at UNT
  7. UTSA at Rice
  8. Rice at Marshall
  9. UTSA at WKU
  10. Rice at Louisiana Tech
  11. North Texas at UTSA

You could argue that all these games could go either way. This takes me back to how I ranked these teams just based off of talent. UTSA maybe the most talented and deepest team, but they get 4 tough games on the road. I’m not saying that UTSA can’t win those games, because they can. Look at how Rice won the Wild West last year. The Owls had to go on the road at UNT, UTSA, and Tulsa. I throw in Tulsa, because we all expected them to be a very good team last year just like I expect these four contenders to be good teams this year.

 


 

PART III- HISTORY/ STATS

 

Being that I’m a big stats guy I thought I would go back and look at the statics for all the past CUSA West winners since 2005. I didn’t find anything earth shattering. These contenders don’t have to have a great defense if they have an explosive offense. In 07, 09, and 11 the West champ gave up over 400 yards per game. However, the champs were hitting on average 7.1 yards per play. That’s flat out explosive considering that only 4 teams last year were able to hit 7 yards per play. Okay, but what about the years where teams didn’t have explosive offenses? Well as you would expect those teams had pretty good defenses. 05 Tulsa, 13 Rice, 10 SMU all gave up around 350 yards per game. On offense those teams averaged about 30 ppg and 5.84 yards per play. Basically when you breakdown all the stats you will find that in order to win CUSA West one of these contenders will need an offense that is somewhat explosive and balanced and a decent defense that can hold opponents under 400 yards per game.

My Blue Print:

35 Points per Game

280 Yards per Game Passing

185 Yards per Game Rushing

6.4 Yards per Play

381 Yards per Game on Defense

Pass to Run Ratio 50 to 50

Of course there are other numbers I could throw at you, but I’m not going to go full nerd today. I’ll will save that for our breakdowns when the season starts.

To wrap things up I truly believe the West will be won, by the team with the best QB play and most explosive offense. We are in an age where football is trending to more plays and points. Teams focus on making defenses uncomfortable, by cutting down their chance to make adjustments.

It’s nice to see a team like UNT who prefers the old school approach of tough defense and physical run game. Teams like UNT are few and far between and becoming tougher to prepare for when you’re not use to seeing two TE sets. I do believe this year that UNT will work more out of spread formations, because they have more explosive talent on the outside. A lot of this though may depend on QB play and we still don’t know who that’s going to be for UNT.  It’s going to be one really fun season to watch the growth of this UNT team.