Five things you should know about Conference USA
1. Central Florida's off-field problems: What happened to coach George O'Leary and the defending Conference USA champs shouldn't be wished on anyone. The fallout from the tragic death of player Ereck Plancher is just beginning.
There has been criticism from outside the program. O'Leary refused to talk to an Orlando Sentinel reporter at the conference media days. Plancher's family has said it will file a wrongful death suit.
How will any of this impact the Knights? It remains to be seen but Central Florida is favored by many to win the East Division again.
2. New coaches: The league got a boost in name recognition when Southern Miss hired Larry Fedora, Houston got Oklahoma's Kevin Sumlin and SMU was lucky enough to sign June Jones. Combine those talents with Mike Price (UTEP), Bob Toledo (Tulane), Skip Holtz (East Carolina) and O'Leary and you've got a Library of Congress full of football knowledge.
3. It's possible to make Warriors out of the Ponies: SMU didn't hire Jones for his blitz schemes. The Mustangs haven't been to a bowl since the rocks cooled but the hiring of the former Hawaii coach is meant to at least get people excited about the program again. Balls will be flying. We'll see if SMU takes off.
4. There is a dark horse Orange Bowl candidate: In this age of offense-first, why not Tulsa? Crazy-go-nuts coach Todd Graham is one of the leading purveyors of the spread option. He needs to find a replacement for quarterback Paul Smith but the schedule sets up for the Golden Hurricane to possible go 11-1.
5. There is hope for everyone: There have been seven Conference USA champions in the last six seasons. How is that possible? TCU and Cincinnati shared the 2002 crown followed by Southern Miss (2003), Louisville (2004), Tulsa (2005), Houston (2006) and Central Florida (2007).