Having finished our sojourn through the BCS conferences, we now turn our attention to the little guys. We'll begin with Conference USA. Here is the link to last year's Conference USA post.
First here are the 2012 Conference USA standings.
And here are the 2012 Conference USA SDPI standings. The standings are sorted by division by total SDPI with ranking for each
category (out of 12 teams) in parentheses.
Don Williams would have been proud because for the first time 2005, the champion of Conference USA was living on Tulsa time. The Golden Hurricane served to bookend this era of Conference USA football, winning the first ever Conference USA Championship Game in 2005, and winning the last of this current iteration of Conference USA football. The league will look a little different in 2013, as Central Florida, Houston, Memphis, and SMU head to the Big East (or American Athletic Conference) and Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee State, North Texas, and Texas-San Antonio join the league, giving it a robust fourteen members.
So Who Was Better Than Their Record Showed?
Marshall moved the ball with ruthless efficiency against their league brethren, but had a difficult time stopping opponents, and their resulting games, while entertaining, ended in defeat too often for a postseason invite. A 2-4 record in one-score games, as well as a non-conference schedule that featured three bowl teams also conspired to keep the Thundering Herd home for the holidays.
So Who Was Worse Than Their Record Showed?
There wasn't a great deal of disconnect between the actual standings and the SDPI ratings, but Rice is probably the answer here. The Owls were wholly unimpressive on both sides of the ball and three of their four league wins came against Southern Miss, Tulane, and UTEP, a trio than combined for a 4-20 league record.
Best Offense: Marshall 1.88
The Herd gained over 600 yards in three league games and topped the 500-yard barrier five times.
Worst Offense: Memphis -1.47
The Tigers appeared to get things together as the season wore on. In their first four league games during which they went just 1-3, Memphis averaged 272 yards per game. In their final four league games during which they went 3-1, Memphis averaged 382 yards per game.
Best Defense: Memphis 1.56
Like the offense, the defense improved in the second half of conference play. The Tigers allowed 357 yards per game through their first four, but just 306 per game over their last four games.
Worst Defense: Tulane -1.65
The defense was bad, very bad, but at least things got better. In their first conference games, the Green Wave allowed 651 yards to Tulsa. They would not allow that many yards to another team all season.
June Jones has done an admirable job since taking the reigns of the Pony Express at SMU prior to the 2008 season. His charges have played in four consecutive bowl games, after missing out on the postseason for nearly a quarter century, have finished with a winning league record for four straight years, and even won their division in 2010. Not only that, but the Mustangs will be putting on their big boy pants (sort of) and moving on to the American Athletic Conference in 2013. But perhaps the most impressive thing June Jones has done at SMU has been to craft a distinct homefield advantage. Over the past four season, SMU has lost just a single time to a league foe at home. In that same span, they have gone just 7-9 on the road in conference play.