Study: Common factors in the last 5 Conference USA champions

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Monday July 03, 2017

How do you win Conference USA? Take a look at what the last five league champions have done against C-USA opponents.

- The most common stat is big plays on offense. All five teams finished in top 2 in plays of 30-plus yards in C-USA play.

- These teams get off the field. All five champions finished in the top 3 in 3rd down defense in C-USA games.

- All five teams were led by a veteran QB. Three had a senior QB, while 2016 WKU and 2012 Tulsa both had a former transfer QB in his fourth year.

2016 Western Kentucky: Mike White (JR)
2015 Western Kentucky: Brandon Doughty
2014 Marshall: Raheem Cato
2013 Rice: Taylor McHargue
2012 Tulsa: Cody Green (JR)

- All five finished in the top 4 in scoring D in league games. Four teams were top 3 (other than 2013 Rice).

- The talent is similar across the league. Not only have there been five different champions over the last six years, but these teams plays many high-scoring 1-possession conference games. Here were those games:

2016 WKU
55-52 loss at Louisiana Tech
44-43 (2OT) win at Middle Tennessee

2015 WKU
41-38 win vs. Louisiana Tech

2014 Marshall
23-18 win at UAB
67-66 loss (OT) vs. Western Kentucky
26-23 win vs. Louisiana Tech

2013 Rice
18-14 win vs. FAU
30-27 (OT) win at Tulsa
27-21 win at UTSA
37-34 (OT) win at UAB
17-13 win vs. Tulane

2012 Tulsa
49-42 win at UAB
45-38 win at Marshall
28-24 win vs. Rice
23-21 win vs. UCF
35-27 loss at SMU
33-27 (OT) win vs. UCF

What’s next for 2017? QB Mike White returns for WKU, but there’s a new staff under new head coach Mike Sanford. Other CUSA contenders LA Tech, Southern Miss and Old Dominion will have new QB’s. FAU’s 18 returning starters are the second-most nationally, with a new head coach in Lane Kiffin and new OC Kendal Briles. Marshall looks to rebound from last year’s 3-9 season after three straight double-digit win seasons.

CoachingSearch’s 2017 offseason studies

Chris Vannini is in his fifth year with and serves as its managing editor. He has previously written for the Detroit Free Press, The Oakland Press, The State News,, 247Sports and SB Nation.  A graduate of Michigan State University, Chris now lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  Be sure to follow @coachingsearch and send emails to