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Conference USA Roundtable: Catching up on the latest news

Talking about the new coaching hires in C-USA, postseason awards, and bowl games.

NCAA Football: North Texas at Florida Atlantic Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

A lot has happened since the end of the regular season. Conference USA’s best bloggers in the world dish on the latest coaching hires, C-USA’s postseason awards, and wonder what should we expect from C-USA during the 2017 bowl season. Thanks as always to Alex Nicolas from Miner Rush for joining us.

Conference USA did a great job with the postseason awards. True or false.

Cyrus Smith: True. For the first time in a while, I don’t have any real complaints with the awards given out. I would have voted Mike White for First-Team QB instead of Mason Fine, but they both had incredible seasons so I can’t fuss about it too much.

Jared Kalmus: True. I have my complaints, sure, but picking all-conference teams is hard! I think they nailed the player of the year awards and that’s what’s most important. I don’t want to nitpick and there weren’t any truly egregious snubs.

Adam Woodyard: True. Nailed it. UDD had official picks for these and C-USA listened to us, so that’s pretty fun (kidding). Would’ve loved to see all-time UNT scoring leader Trevor Moore, but that’s kind of a homer pick.

Alex Nicolas: True. Glad to see Bill Clark recognized for what he did with the UAB Blazers. For once I don’t think anyone can make a valid claim that C-USA messed up this year.

Joe Londergan: True. I would say they did pretty well. Bill Clark truly deserved Coach of the Year in my opinion. Devin Singletary was easily the MVP. I did think it was interesting that Mason Fine got first team over Mike White as well, but I get it considering UNT’s overall performance.

UTEP hired Dana Dimel as their head coach. Thoughts?

Cyrus: I thought Dana Dimel was Dana Bible. Then I googled him and realized Dimel was not the former North Carolina State offensive coordinator, but rather the head coach before the Art Briles era at Houston. It was a surprise to learn that Dimel was the offensive coordinator at Kansas State, a team not exactly known for putting points on the board. It’s not a good sign when your next head coach was a Power Five coordinator that the masses had to Google.

Jared: Don’t think this hire is going to sell too many season tickets in El Paso. Sure, Dimel will likely be an improvement over Kugler but I see this hire having a very low ceiling. Expect UTEP to go JUCO heavy like Kansas State did. It’s hard to build a championship team with that direction but the Miners just need to find a way to get competitive first.

Adam: My thoughts are he’s a lifetime 30-39 head coach, and left Houston a decade and a half ago because he couldn’t cut it at that level. A curious hire by the new AD, he’s probably just the best they could get for the money, and really anything’s better after this year’s debacle.

Alex: UTEP needed to inject some excitement into a fan base that needed a December jolt of confidence, and it didn’t happen. Dimel has some positives, but the negatives outweigh those on paper. My extended thoughts on the hire are here…

Joe: Meh. He’s got some good ties to the JUCO system, which I think will help UTEP. But overall I think they could have done better. Graham Harrell would have been my guy. I expect UTEP to be better with Dimel, but not by much.

Rice hired Mike Bloomgren as their head coach. Thoughts?

Cyrus: A better hire than UTEP as I can kind of see what they are going for, but if he’s going to trot out a pro-style offense with a roster built to run the spread he’s going to need some time. Fortunately, Rice has displayed patience before with their head coaches. Feel like they could have done better though.

Jared: It makes a lot of sense, that’s for sure. From what I gather Bloomgren is a very intelligent guy and a life-long learner. He’ll fit in very well in Rice Village from a culture stand point. Rice has always recruited better along the offensive and defensive lines than anywhere else so this offense could actually work out well for the Owls. Bloomgren always had some fun wrinkles in his offenses at Stanford so I’m looking forward to him bringing that creative flair to C-USA.

Adam: This is a great hire, he did great at Stanford and I’m really curious to see how he stacks up against the rest of the talent in C-USA West. He actually has some talent on the roster when he comes in, too (unlike UTEP).

Alex: I think this is actually a solid hire. Way better than UTEP’s. I’m interested in the offensive scheme/identity they will run, but I like Bloomgren and what he could do for the Owls.

Joe: I like it. He did a lot of the recruiting at Stanford with good results. He coached 12 NFL draft picks there and had 11 All-Americans. Plus, Rice has academic standards really similar to that of Stanford’s. So if you’re already coming from somewhere where you know how to get recruiting results with that hurdle in the way, that’s a good sign.

What’s the biggest takeaway in Conference USA sending a record nine teams to bowls?

Cyrus: While it’s great to see more than half the conference go bowling, the matchups are underwhelming. When the two best teams in your conference get stuck playing .500 teams from other G5 conferences you have a problem. C-USA has to find a way to improve their bowl selection going forward.

Jared: We’re getting back on track here, folks. C-USA is still way behind the AAC but they’re starting to close the gap with the MWC and building a lead ahead of the Sun Belt and MAC for the first time in years. The conference is more competitive than ever but they need a team to take that next step and become a weekly mainstay in the Top 25 to give the conference some real credibility.

Adam: Biggest takeaway for me is that there’s just raw talent here. There were non-conference wins, and there were thrilling conference match-ups from top to bottom, with the exception of two teams. The MAC and Sun Belt can’t claim this, which shows how much talent C-USA has to showcase, and how they’re gaining on the AAC and Mountain West.

Alex: I think it speaks volumes to recent coaching changes that have improved the total landscape and competitive balance. C-USA deserves a small uptick in national respect due to the coaching changes that have raised the level of play across the conference which lead to 10 teams being bowl eligible this season.

Joe: This league is weird...but I like it this way. It makes it more exciting. There’s drama all the way down to selection day. I don’t think we’re going to see particularly amazing games out of some of the teams that crawled into bowl eligibility. But FIU being in legit contention for a division title for most of the year was definitely made C-USA interesting to watch this year.

Which bowl game are you looking forward to the most?

Cyrus: I think the Frisco Bowl will be telling from a growth standpoint. Louisiana Tech really underachieved this season but a few of their playmakers on offense will return next season. Against a woeful SMU defense that’s in transition now that Chad Morris is off to become Arkansas’ new head coach, Tech should score points and could win this game. Also, former La Tech head coach Sonny Dykes is SMU’s new head coach and Dykes decided to coach the Mustangs in the bowl game. Very intriguing.

Jared: I’m really looking forward to the New Orleans Bowl as always. UNT vs Troy is a great match up as far as on-field play goes and it pits the C-USA runner up with the Sun Belt champ. My runner up will be MTSU vs Arkansas State. If the Blue Raiders win that one then it proves the depth of the conference.

Adam: Of all the C-USA bowls, I’ve gotta say FAU vs Akron in the Boca Raton Bowl. As much as I hated seeing my team lose in the title game, this Owls team is fun to watch, so to watch them again as a spectator, and obliterate a veteran coach in Terry Bowden and a MAC team, will be one I can’t miss.

Alex: Frisco Bowl. SMU-LA Tech is a very sexy G5 matchup. That’s must watch TV for me.

Joe: I think that Marshall vs Colorado State game in the New Mexico Bowl is flying under the radar a little bit. Marshall’s offense is strong, while inconsistent. Colorado State’s D could be described the same way. Should be a good one.

What would signify a successful 2017 bowl season for C-USA?

Cyrus: C-USA has the best bowl record out of FBS conferences as they are 11-6 in bowl games during the College Football Playoff era (stat courtesy of Hustle Belt’s Steve Helwick). That’s pretty cool. I know bowls are glorified exhibitions but C-USA has been pretty good at winning them, and if the conference’s profile is to continue to rise, they need to continue to win them. Six teams are underdogs according to Vegas but in each game the line is seven points or less. A 6-3 bowl record should be considered a success with the caveat that FAU and North Texas win their games.

Jared: Just break even, honestly. C-USA already “won” bowl season by getting nine teams into bowl games. It’s a huge boon to both the conference’s exposure, and profile, as well as its pocketbook.

Adam: I’d like to see us win more games than we lose, but realistically, as long as FAU and UNT can cruise, that’s a win. The pressure is certainly on USM, however, to beat Florida State.

Alex: Would love to see a sweep of the MWC, AAC, and Sun Belt matchups. That’s a very high expectation, but it will prove that the 2017 season was not a fluke, and it will show the future is bright as a whole for C-USA.

Joe: I think it’s a combination of things. Plenty of eyes are going to be on FAU, North Texas, and Southern Miss (mostly because USM plays Florida State). If those teams shine when they’re in the spotlight, that’s great publicity for the league. But overall, if the league gets more wins than losses, then I’ll take it.