Louisiana Tech has been picked to repeat as the West Division champion while WKU has been selected to win the 2015 East Division title in a preseason vote conducted by a panel of media members that cover Conference USA schools.
Louisiana Tech reached the C-USA title game in its second year under head coach Skip Holtz and brings back six starters on offense and defense as it seeks a return trip. Senior tailback Kenneth Dixon, the nation’s leading active rusher (3,410 yards) who scored 28 total touchdowns last year (22 rushing) leads an offense that welcomes a new signal-caller in Florida senior transfer Jeff Driskell as well as three returning starters at wide receiver. The defense boasts a talented secondary that has seen junior safety Xavier Woods and senior cornerback Adarius Barnes each named to preseason award watch lists, while safety Kentrell Brice led the team in tackles with 86.
While the media selected the projected order of finish, the league’s 13 head coaches selected the preseason all-conference teams. Louisiana Tech had four student-athletes selected including defensive tackle Vernon Butler, running back Kenneth Dixon, receiver Trent Taylor and safety Xavier Woods the league office announced Tuesday.
WKU closed out last season with five consecutive victories, including a win in the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl. In 2014, the Hilltoppers became the first FBS Team to have a 4,500 yard passer and 1,500 yard rusher as senior quarterback Brandon Doughty threw for 4,830 and senior running back Leon Allen rushed for 1,542. Both players are back and Doughty, the 2014 C-USA MVP and Sammy Baugh Award winner, will also have four of his top six targets back in the fold. Nine starters, led by senior linebacker Nick Holt (111 tackles) are back to lead an experienced WKU defense.
Rice, coming off three consecutive bowl games and led by senior quarterback Driphus Jackson (24 TDs in 2014), was selected second, followed by senior running back Aaron Jones (1,321 rushing yards and 14 TDs) and his UTEP Miners. Closing out the media picks in the West Division are Southern Miss, North Texas and UTSA, respectively.
Defending C-USA Champion Marshall, led by senior running back Devon Johnson (sixth in FBS with 1,767 yards and 17 rushing TDs) was picked second in the East, followed by Middle Tennessee and senior safety Kevin Byard, the nation’s active leader in interceptions with 15. Rounding out the media picks in the East are Florida Atlantic, FIU, Old Dominion and newcomer Charlotte.
The 11th annual Conference USA Football Championship Game, pitting the champions of the East and West Divisions, will be held Saturday, Dec. 5. The 2015 C-USA Football season kicks off Thursday, Sept. 3.
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C-USA MEDIA MEMBERS PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
1. Louisiana Tech
4. Southern Miss
5. North Texas
3. Middle Tennessee
4. Florida Atlantic
6. Old Dominion
— Louisiana Tech Sports Information