This year it looks like the West will be the more powerful division in CUSA. Houston may well have a shot at running the table and SMU will be a factor with June Jones at the helm. Tulsa is a dark horse but can not be discounted. This conference, much like the other Non-BCS leagues, has trouble getting the respect in the world of D1 ball but this year may well be the year that BCS schools begin to fear scheduling some of the top tier schools in this conference. On to the predictions.
1. University of Houston: These Coogs may begin to get the respect that the Coogs of BYU have earned. Kevin Sumlin is a darn good coach and the QB is arguably one of the best in the nation. The non conference schedule is favorable with only Texas Tech and perhaps UCLA posing a problem. They do also meet with UCF and USM, two of the better teams in CUSA East.
2. SMU" The Mustangs are coached by June Jones who is as good as they come. Remember he turned the Hawaii program into a winner that could compete at the BCS level. Should the Cougars falter, SMU will be a the team that will take their number one slot in the West.
3. Tulsa: This team has had some success recently but fell off some last year. Kragthorpe and now Graham both produced winning teams here and these guys are a dark horse for the top slot. The non conference schedule is not too touch with dates against Bowling Green, Oklahoma State, Notre Dame and IAA Central Arkansas. In the fairly recent past, it would be conceivable that the Golden Hurricane would take them all, but probably not this year. While Coach Graham is a winner there are some character issues that are bothersome and character in a coach is vastly important.
4. UTEP: It is difficult to be a consistent winner in EL Paso. It is in the middle of nowhere and is considered somewhat of a bastard child in the state of Texas. Much the same as Memphis is considered the red headed stepchild by those in Tennessee. With that being said, Mike Price has done a pretty commendable job here. The QB had an off year in 09, but should still be considered a potent threat. Mike Price has had his character issues in the past, but has been paying penance at UTEP with no complaints and that speaks volumes.. The non conference schedule is not too tough with only the game with the Hogs being a sure loss. If Tulsa falters at all, UTEP will be nipping at their boot.
5. Rice: Across town from the University of Houston is Rice University. This little school is considered on par academically with the Ivy League minus all the baggage associated with those schools. It is a difficult place to win to be sure. Rice has some uncompromising educational standards that must be met. Coach Bailiff has done a fair job here but the jury is still out on whether he is the man for the job. The non conference schedule is brutal with perhaps a win over North Texas the only bright spot. That is not a sure bet as the Owls face the Mean Green the week after meeting the Longhorns.
6. Tulane: Someone has to be last and again it appears it will be Tulane. The Green Wave are well coached but Tulane is just a very very hard place to win. New Orleans(and the schools in the region) have perhaps not recovered from Hurricane Katrina and the academic standards are, much like Rice and to some extent Tulsa, pretty stringent. This school is probably on par academically with Duke and there is a lot in common. Tulane is not by any stretch of the imagination a football power, but it seems that it could conceivably become one in basketball. If Tulane plays better than expected then Rice will take their slot at the bottom of CUSA West.