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2015 Conference USA Football: Who Will Be Bad?

Conference USA teams have had some historically bad seasons in recent years. Who is most likely to join the ranks of the awful in 2015? The preseason is known for optimism and everyone has visions of bowl eligibility. We throw a little shade on that parade.

Can Andrew McNulty get North Texas up and running in 2015?
Can Andrew McNulty get North Texas up and running in 2015?
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Only teams that have been playing football for decades are being looked at in this ugly relapse into football badness. Newcomers to FBS football were spared since they have an excuse: they are building from scratch.

Teams like Louisiana Tech, Southern Miss, Rice, and UTEP have been around forever so they are fair game. We look back at some of the historically bad seasons that Conference USA teams have been able to put together. Than we take a look at who may join them.

  1. In 2013, Southern Miss went 1-11 and the Golden Eagles were outscored 503 to 205.  USM gave up 225 yards rushing per game that year and the blame doesn't all go to the defense. The offense averaged 3.2 turnovers per game.
  2. In 2006, LA Tech went 3-10 and the Bulldogs were outscored 542-242. The Bulldogs also gave up 225 yards rushing that season, which appears to be a magic number. LA Tech turned the ball over 2.8 times per game in 2006.
  3. In 2011, MTSU went 2-10 and the Blue Raiders were outscored 441-267. MTSU had over 400 yards of offense per game, so offensive production wasn't a problem. Again, 229 rushing allowed did the Blue Raiders in.
  4. In 2009, Western Kentucky went 0-12 and the Hilltoppers were outscored 475 to 245. WKU gave up a whopping 244 yards rushing in 2012 and they were only able to muster 148 passing yards per game on offense.
  5. Marshall hasn't had an awful season since 1981 when they went 2-9 and were outscored 284 to 94. More recently, the Herd's most forgettable season was 2007 when they went 3-9 and were outscored 411-298. Marshall only gave up 191 rushing yards per game in 2007, but they were an equal opportunity defense. The Thundering Herd gave up 450 total yards per game that season and only forced 0.6 turnovers per game.
  6. In 2008, UNT went 1-11 and got outscored 571 to 240. Another team that did not break the 225 rushing yards allowed mark, but was still bad. UNT gave up JUST 207 yards rushing in 2008, but they gave up a massive 482 total yards per game. This equal opportunity defense was not helped by their offense. The Mean Green turned the ball over 2.8 times per game that season.
  7. In 2009, Rice went 2-9 and the Owls were outscored 517 to 219. Rice is another team to disprove the 225 rushing yards allowed theory. In 2009, Rice gave up 190 rushing yards per game. What made the Owls so bad? Try giving up 464 yards of total offense and only producing 109 rushing yards of your own on offense.
  8. In 2002, UTEP went 2-10 and the Miners were outscored 511 to 220. Ok, so the 225 theory is shot to pieces. UTEP gave up only 194 yards rushing in 2002, but they gave up 440 total yards. On offense, UTEP turned the ball over 3.1 times per game.

So who in Conference USA is going to be bad this season? Again, we will excuse the new guys and look to the eight teams that have been playing for decades. Southern Miss has been pretty awful lately, but they improved to 3-9 last season after going a combined 1-23 the previous two seasons.

Massey predicts USM to go 4-8 and they are only predicted to be outscored 363 to 259. A win over FCS member Austin Peay and over newcomer Charlotte would give Southern Miss fans two "easy" wins. A home win over North Texas might be what gets the Golden Eagles out of the basement.

Speaking of the Mean Green, Massey predicts UNT to go 3-9 while being outscored 387-293. If UNT falters against UTSA and SMU, they could be looking square down the barrel of a 1-11 disaster.  UNT returns 6 starters on offense and 6 on defense. However, they lose 4 of their top 6 tacklers from last year. On offense, UNT put up only 325 yards of offense and now they must replace 4 starters on the offensive line. The quarterback situation is still unknown, but at least they have a little experience. Andrew McNulty started 6 games and threw for 6 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. Dajon Williams was a little more efficient, completing 59.7% of his passes and throwing 7 touchdowns and just 4 interceptions. However, Williams was 11-14 against Nicholls State and threw 3 of his touchdown passes in that game - so his stats were padded a bit in that game.

If UNT can pick a quarterback and get a new offensive line to gel; they might be ok. However, an uncertain QB situation and a shaky offensive line can usually spell trouble. UNT is going to have to rely on it's defense in 2015 if they are going to avoid having a spectacularly bad season.