Media that covers Conference USA has made their preseason football predictions for order of finish in both the East Division and West Division. The predictions will keep expectations high on new University of Southern Mississippi coach Jay Hopson.
The Golden Eagles made one of the best turnarounds in college football, winning the West Division and earning their third appearance in the conference championship game last season. USM finished 9-5 before losing then head coach Todd Monken to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Monken will be offensive coordinator for the Buccaneers this season.
Hopson takes over after a highly successful tenure as head coach at Alcorn State University. He led the Braves to back-to-back SWAC Championships in his last two seasons in Lorman.
The media picked Southern Miss to top the West division for a second straight year, with Louisiana Tech University picked to finish second. Rice University was picked third, followed by the University of Texas at El Paso for fourth. The University of Texas at San Antonio was picked fifth and the University of North Texas was picked to finish last.
In the East Division, the media selected Middle Tennessee State University as the team to beat. Western Kentucky University, last year’s East winner, was picked to finish second, and Marshall University was picked third. Rounding out the rest of the East is Florida Atlantic University at No. 4, Florida International University at No. 5 and University of North Carolina at Charlotte was picked last.
The league coaches selected preseason awards and preseason All-USA team.
Southern Miss quarterback Nick Mullens was named preseason Offensive Player of the Year. Mullens returns for his senior season and will try to improve on last season when he threw for 300 or more yards in 10 games.
The coaches named Mullens to the preseason All-C-USA offense. Joining him is Southern Miss running back Ito Smith. The junior running back led the Golden Eagles in rushing last season and was a big play threat.
Senior center Cameron Tom was also named to the preseason All-C-USA team. He leads an offensive line that improved greatly over the last two seasons.
On defense, the Golden Eagles placed three players on the preseason All-C-USA defensive team. USM had a player named on each level of defense from the line to the secondary.
Those players named to the defensive team were senior defensive Dylan Bradley, senior linebacker D’Nerius Antoine and junior defensive back Picasso Nelson Jr.
C-USA media days are on Monday, July 24, and Tuesday, July 25, in Dallas. USM head coach Hopson will be on hand, along with Mullens and senior linebacker C.J. Perry.