Conference USA announced its 2014 Preseason Coaches’ Poll and Awards on Wednesday morning and WKU has been picked to finish fourth in the East Division. Marshall was selected as the East Division favorite while North Texas was picked to win the West Division.
The Hilltoppers received 57 points in the poll, voted on by C-USA’s 13 head coaches, which trailed Florida Atlantic’s 60 points, Middle Tennessee’s 73 points and Marshall’s 91 points. WKU was picked ahead of Old Dominion (33 points), UAB (31 points) and FIU (19 points). Marshall, the defending East Division champions, was unanimously chosen as the preseason division favorite.
WKU exceeded its preseason predicted order of finish in two of its last three seasons in the Sun Belt Conference, finishing third in 2013 after being picked fourth in the preseason poll and placing second in 2011 after being picked seventh by league coaches.
North Texas (66 points) narrowly edged Rice (65 points) as the Preseason West Division favorite while UTSA (62 points), Louisiana Tech (38 points), Southern Miss (24 points) and UTEP (18 points) followed in the predicted order of finish.
The 10th annual Conference USA Football Championship game, pitting the East and West Division champions, will be held Saturday, Dec. 6.
Marshall senior quarterback Rakeem Cato was tabbed the preseason Offensive Player of the Year, Marshall senior defensive lineman James Rouse was named the Defensive Player of the Year and UAB senior punter Hunter Mullins earned Special Teams Player of the Year honors.
Twenty-eight players were selected to the Preseason All-Conference USA First-Team by league coaches. Marshall led the way with seven selections while UTSA landed five on the preseason all-league team. Rice and UTEP both had three players honored on the preseason squad.
WKU was one of four programs not to have a player selected to the preseason all-conference team, as selected by league coaches.
PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
EAST DIVISION Pts
1. Marshall 91
2. Middle Tennessee 73
3. Florida Atlantic 60
4. WKU 57
5. Old Dominion 33
6. UAB 31
7. FIU 19
WEST DIVISION Pts
1. North Texas 66
2. Rice 65
3. UTSA 62
4. Louisiana Tech 38
5. Southern Miss 24
6. UTEP 18
Offensive Player of the Year
Rakeem Cato, Sr., QB, Marshall
Defensive Player of the Year
James Rouse, Sr., DL, Marshall
Special Teams Player of the Year
Hunter Mullins, Sr., P, UAB
First Team Offense
QB Rakeem Cato, Sr., Marshall
RB Kenneth Dixon, Jr., Louisiana Tech
RB Aaron Jones, So., UTEP
OL Scott Inskeep, Sr., UTSA
OL Chris Jasperse, Sr., Marshall
OL Cyril Lemon, Sr., North Texas
OL Clint Van Horn, Jr., Marshall
OL Mason Y’Barbo, Sr., North Texas
WR Jamarcus Nelson, Sr., UAB
WR Tommy Shuler, Sr., Marshall
WR Jordan Taylor., Sr., Rice
TE Eric Tomlinson, Sr., UTEP
First Team Defense
DL Vernon Butler, Jr., Louisiana Tech
DL Christian Covington, Jr., Rice
DL Ra’Shawde Myers, Sr., Marshall
DL James Rouse, Sr., Marshall
LB T.T. Barber, Sr., Middle Tennessee
LB Evan McKelvey, Sr., Marshall
LB Andrae Kirk, Jr., Florida Atlantic
DB Kevin Byard, Jr., Middle Tennessee
DB Bryce Callahan, Sr., Rice
DB D’Joun Smith, Sr., Florida Atlantic
DB Triston Wade, Sr., UTSA
First Team Special Teams
K Sean Ianno, Sr., UTSA
P Hunter Mullins, Sr., UAB
KR Autrey Golden, Jr., UTEP
PR Kenny Harrison, Sr., UTSA
LS Jesse Medrano, Sr., UTSA