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Conference USA Mailbag: Rankings Edition

Ranking stadiums, bands, sandwiches, and potential Sun Belt showdowns.

U.S. Postal Service work through the busiest day of the year

@NicolasAlex915 - Who bolts for the bigger check and/or the first SEC opening of 2017? Frank Wilson or Lane Kiffin?

UDD: Expect both guys to receive higher profile job offers fairly quickly but I think Wilson will be a little bit more patient in waiting for the right program/offer to come along. He’s built his career up more slowly while Kiffin has been hyper-aggressive, jumping at opportunities that weren’t the best fit in hindsight. I think Kiffin leaves for a lower-rung P5 program in a year or two while Wilson will leave San Antonio in two or three years for an LSU or Ole Miss type of job.

@JoelTheTailor - If all teams were ranked based on their helmets, who would be the worst and why is it Western?

East West Shrine Game Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images

UDD: Ha. Speak for yourself, I like the chrome domes! To be honest, there’s not one particular helmet that I just hate, although I’m not sure how to feel about the FAU helmet shown here. Either that, or any WKU helmet that ISN’T the chrome dome.

@RedParallax - What's the general prognosis for Marshall in 2017? (Marshall fans have no idea wtf is going on, either)

UDD: They can’t be any worse right? Our staff has a gut feeling that there’s some serious discord happening behind the scenes in Huntington but it’s hard to picture the Herd being any worse on the field next year. They have so much talent on the roster and Holliday is a great coach. I’ll predict Marshall ends the season with four or five wins as the rumor mill starts spinning regarding Holliday’s potential departure.

@The97Revolution - Teams ranked based on Stadium?

  1. FAU - FAU Stadium
  2. UTEP - Sun Bowl
  3. Southern Miss - Roberts Stadium
  4. UTSA - Alamodome
  5. North Texas - Apogee Stadium
  6. WKU - LT Smith Stadium
  7. Marshall - Joan C. Edwards Stadium
  8. La Tech - “The Joe” Joe Aillet Stadium
  9. Middle Tennessee - Floyd Stadium
  10. Charlotte - Jerry Richardson Stadium
  11. Rice - Rice Stadium
  12. FIU - FIU Stadium
  13. UAB - Legion Field
Marshall v Florida Atlantic
Football in paradise.
Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images

@JakePendergist - If 'Belt/CUSA had a "showdown challenge" series for football who would you like to see play against one another & why?

UDD: Hoo boy. Time to ruffle some feathers. I guess there’s a few ways you could look at it. I’ll come up with a list here, but you could certainly change this up.

UTEP-NMSU (already play, and a rivalry)

UTSA-Texas State (rivalry, already going to be playing anyway)

La Tech-Arkansas State (two best western teams)

North Texas-ULM (I-20, and Tech is already taken)

Southern Miss-ULL (proximity and history)

Rice-Idaho (someone’s got to get the short straw)

UAB-USA (in-state)

MTSU-Troy (old rivalry)

Charlotte-App State (already hate each other, might as well play)

WKU-Georgia Southern (best C-USA East team and best SBC eastern team besides App)

FAU-Georgia State (proximity, will be playing soon too)

ODU-Coastal Carolina (process of elimination; could also use FIU)

Marshall and FIU left out sadly. A few of these could be shuffled around though.

@49er_rick - Does Charlotte make it to a bowl in their 2nd year of eligibility?

UDD: Very tough call as I would place their O/U on wins at 5.5. A lot of Charlotte’s success in 2017 hinges on their ability to replace talent on the defensive line so we’ll have to see what the replacement pieces look like following their development over the summer and fall camp. I like Haasan Klugh so much that I’m willing to make the bold bet that Charlotte steals a game from Old Dominion or FIU on the road to reach six wins and their first bowl game.

@bermudezmedia - What happens to CUSA TV now that the conference is moving to Twitter-stream?

UDD: Well, if you recall, C-USA TV broadcasts were the responsibility of the school hosting the game. I anticipate the “Twitter-stream” being constructed in the same fashion; the host school being responsible for the actual broadcast itself. If that is in fact the case, then C-USA TV will be obsolete, at least for football that is. Plus, if Twitter is streaming every game, the service would have no chance to compete, especially if it’s still charging viewers. If all this holds true, then watching via Twitter will essentially mean the same broadcast that C-USA TV provided (the host school’s broadcast) without the viewers being charged a premium to tune in.

@RobbyZPrice - Conference rankings by most annoying fight song. (Tie between UTSA or USM)

UDD: Personally I like USM’s fight song, but I’ll give you the top 5 most annoying in my book.

  1. UTSA: I do agree with you on that, not a huge fan. Any fight song that is looped over and over again is really annoying.
  2. WKU: This is another fight song that is looped way too much every time it’s played.
  3. UTEP: I swear I don’t have a problem with the Texas schools, just think their fight songs are annoying. UTEP’s fight song just sounds like they couldn’t make up their mind, so they put a bunch of stuff together.
  4. FAU: Though as a musician, I really enjoy listening to this fight song, it drags on and on with all the chants and bridges.
  5. MTSU: Though I personally like this fight song, I can see why others would find it annoying. I swear it’s not just “Take Me Out To The Ball Game.”

@JWhidden3 - Who's the greatest philosopher of our time, and why is it Lane Kiffin?

UDD: Between Coach Kiffin and DJ Khaled there’s no denying that South Florida generates the sharpest minds in America. We’ll let Lane speak for himself here:

@DrewDRJ - You could say ODU and Marshall were surprises last season (over and under achievers). Who is the surprise team this year?

UDD: Charlotte will be a surprise if you didn’t take notice last year. One-point losses against FIU and Rice kept them out of bowl contention but had quality wins against albeit less-than-great Southern Miss and Marshall teams. They became much more competitive through the second half of the year. Hassan Klugh is a young but raw quarterback that will only get better, and their defense will be one of the better in the division.

@CUSAbbs - How do you think UAB's attendance will hold up long term being in a division with four Texas schools?

UDD: If you win, they will come. They were previously in a division with Virginia and West Virginia, so how different is Texas? They should have a good crowd for the return, and if they win, the crowd will stick around.

@JeremiahMcCurry - No CUSA teams averaged 30k last year. Trend or aberration?

UDD: Call it an aberration. The two teams that have the potential to average that many are Marshall and Southern Miss, and both had down seasons. Should they start winning again, the crowds will return.

@agrottkau - How hot is David Bailiff's hot seat at Rice/how many wins does he need to stay another season?

UDD: The thing is, he’s been there for a while and just four years ago he won Rice a conference title. The year after he at least won a bowl game. Rice had taken a nosedive since leading to these questions. Because of all he’s done for Rice I would think they’d want to part with him as gracefully as possible, so I don’t think he gets fired mid-season under any scenario. But if he doesn’t win at least five games this year, I would say it’s time to pull the plug.

Rice v Charlotte Photo by Mike Comer/Getty Images

@austinmpriest - Will STADIUM TV-Stream raise/lower/push visibility? Will CUSA receive $ from the deal? Is it the future of G5 TV or just a secondary option?

UDD: The only certainty here is that it will raise visibility for the conference. We don’t have viewership data for games that were carried on cusa.tv last year but I’m willing to bet the number of viewers was in the hundreds. It’s a safe bet that Twitter will draw significantly more eyeballs than that since people will be able to simply stumble upon the games on an application they’re already spending a significant portion of their day on. Back when I was an avid Periscope user I was floored by how many viewers from across the world would end up watching my random stream of whatever football game I was watching. This deal is going to have a large reach for sure.

The financials of the deal are a bit more cloudly, thinks in large part due to the merger of the American Sports Network and Campus Insiders. The legal intricacies of the deal are probably going to be well above my pay grade to properly dissect but my guess is that the contracts C-USA had with the ASN will simply be merged with the contracts that Campus Insiders had when they were independent. Bottom line is that if C-USA does in fact gain more revenue it’s probably going to be an insignificant amount as STADIUM won’t be bidding against any other networks.

Ventures like STADIUM are the future not just for G5 football but for video entertainment as a whole. Cord cutting is picking up more and more steam and options like Twitter TV, Hulu TV, Youtube TV, etc. just make it easier for consumers to step away from their cable providers without missing out on the content they’re looking for. It’s great to see G5 conferences accepting the future and leading the way into a fully digital entertainment spectrum.

@austinmpriest - If each CUSA team nickname/mascot name was the name of a sandwich, who would have the tastiest sandwich? What would that sandwich comprise?

UDD: The Thundering Herd Bison Burger. A bison patty on a toasted bun with blue cheese, bacon, onion, tomato, and a slathering of hot sauce.

Big Red Hilltop Hot Burger. Standard double cheeseburger build fully loaded with Frank’s Red Hot Sauce dripping down the side, and soaked into the bottom patty from the drips accumulating on the plate.

Golden Eagle Burger. Buttered buns with an angus patty topped with quail, American cheese and a fried egg, “golden side up.”

@johnfnally - Top to bottom does CUSA improve this year?

UDD: I think so. The Florida twins both made splash hires that should see them start trending in the right direction. Both UTSA and UNT should continue to improve. It’s hard to think Marshall will be as bad as 2016 again, and Middle hopefully won’t lose their QB midway through the season. Charlotte I think is improving slow but steady. We’ll see how La Tech and WKU handle the turnover, but I don’t expect too big a drop from either.

@MigggNasty - What do you make of UNT scheduling Liberty? Shouldn't the team's focus on scheduling games that make headlines or improve conf recognition

UDD: The key to a successful schedule for a G5 program is all about balance. In my opinion a perfect G5 schedule contains four OOC games: an FCS tune up game, a regional G5 match up (think Memphis vs MTSU, etc.), a Power Five money game, and another winnable game against a G5 peer. UNT’s agreement to face Liberty fits that last requirement. It should be an easy bowl qualifying win that also allows UNT to play an FCS program for what should also be another relatively easy bowl qualifying win. UNT’s 2018 schedule is perfect in my opinion. They host SMU, host Incarnate Word, travel to Arkansas, and then travel to Liberty. While playing Liberty won’t raise many eyebrows, it’s smart scheduling that puts UNT in a good position to advance their program by reaching bowl games.

@ChrisMaye1 - Who wins more games in 17, Bill Clark or Lane Kiffin?

UDD: Lane Kiffin. While FAU didn’t look great in their spring game, betting on UAB is a huge gamble. The Blazers have some quality talent on their roster but their depth is a long ways away from matching that of their competition in Conference USA. A few injuries could make a big difference in UAB’s win/loss record. If UAB does end up with more wins than FAU it likely means that Lane Kiffin lost control of the program.

UAB Blazers v Arkansas Razorbacks Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

@WeAreBLUENITED - When will C-USA begin hosting the football title game at a neutral site?

UDD: Hopefully never. Now don’t get me wrong, if C-USA had SEC-level attendance, I’d be all for it. But if a host school can’t even sell out their stadium for the game, what kind of crowd would we see in a neutral site? After all, we’ve seen what the conference tourney has looked like over the past few years. Give me a stadium that at least has some kind of atmosphere over an empty NFL stadium any day.

@BenEvensen - What does DJ Law’s departure from UAB mean for the program moving forward?

UDD: Honestly not a whole lot. The UAB coaching staff (as well as anyone with a Netflix account) knew of Law’s academic struggles. I’m willing to bet folks in UAB’s camp never had a whole lot of faith Law would qualify with the NCAA Clearinghouse. Given how many scholarships UAB had to give, earning Law’s commitment was absolutely worth the risk for them. It gave the Blazers’ 2016 recruiting class a ton of momentum and brought UAB a good amount of free publicity. With the emergence of linebacker-turned-running-back Donnie Lee, the Blazers already have a C-USA caliber starting running back. Depth is still a concern but Law’s situation shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. UAB will have a contingency plan ready to roll.