Image: Rakeem Cato

CFT predicts: Conference USA

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I have a secret. I’m actually quite sad Conference USA as we know it today will be no more by 2013. Central Florida, Houston and SMU will all be departing for the Big East and taking their places will be FIU, Louisiana Tech, North Texas and UT-San Antonio (UNC-Charlotte and Old Dominion join in 2015).

Doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.

But 2012 should be another fun year for C-USA, though it may not have that one team making waves nationally like Houston did last season. Looking ahead to the 2012 season, here’s how Conference USA should shake out:

(Let it be known that I reserve the right to change my mind at any time without notice.)

East Division

1. Marshall (last season: 7-6; won Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl) 
The Thundering Herd overachieved in 2011 and came thisclose to securing the East title. Sophomore quarterback Rakeem Cato looks like the real deal, and even though I’ve never been a huge believer in Doc Holliday as a coach, there’s no denying his recruiting prowess.

2. East Carolina (last season: 5-7) 
One down year and East Carolina gets back near the  top of the East standings. The Pirates return most of their starters from a year ago, but the 2012 schedule is tough early with three straight road games that could set the tone for the whole year. A season-ending game at Marshall could decide the East.

3. UCF (last season: 5-7) 
Things went south quickly for the Knights last season. After a 2-0 start, UCF didn’t win consecutive games for the rest of the season. The program was sanctioned by the NCAA this offseason, which includes a bowl ban for 2012. Even if George O’Leary gets back to above .500, he might be gone after this year — unless he gets back to nine or 10 wins.

4. Southern Miss (last season: 12-2; won Hawaii Bowl) 
The defending C-USA champions will dip this year with only a dozen or so returning starters combined with a completely new coaching staff. The good news is the Golden Eagles don’t have to play Houston or Tulsa.

5. UAB (last season: 3-9) 
Former Arkansas offensive coordinator Garrick McGee starts his tenure at UAB with a tall task ahead. The team returns just 11 starters, but among them are key offensive pieces. Things will be rough in McGee’s first year, but not as bad as …

6. Memphis (last season: 2-10) 
One of college football’s worst programs also breaks in a new coach with ex-TCU co-offensive coordinator Justin Fuente. Fuente has to move forward without quarterback Taylor Reed. Outside of a season-opening game against Tennessee-Martin, the Tigers may not win another game for the rest of the year.

West Division

1. Tulsa (last season: 8-5; lost Armed Forces Bowl) 
Tulsa has fielded a deceptively good football for the past couple of years. The Golden Hurricane went 10-3 in 2010 under Todd Graham and followed that up with an 8-5 campaign a year ago with an excruciating out-of-conference slate. Nebraska transfer Cody Green is eligible to play this season.

2. Houston (last season: 13-1; won TicketCity Bowl)
The Cougars lose a lot in quarterback Case Keenum and coach Kevin Sumlin. The passing game, Houston’s bread and butter, takes a hit, but leading rusher Charles Sims is back. Sumlin built a solid program at Houston that new coach Tony Levine won’t see much of a drop off in his first year.

3. SMU (last season: 8-5; won BBVA Compass Bowl) 
June Jones almost went to Arizona State this offseason … and then he didn’t. The Mustangs should be glad, and the team has picked up former Texas quarterback Garrett Gilbert, who will be able to play right away.

4. Rice (last season: 4-8) 
David Bailiff‘s stock at Rice is dropping. After a 10-3 season in 2008, the Owls haven’t won more than four games in the last three seasons. Bailiff promises Sam McGuffie will be more involved in the offense this year.

5. UTEP (last season: 5-7) 
Like Bailiff, Mike Price‘s seat is getting warm. Price hasn’t finished with a winning record with UTEP since 2005. The Miners return 13 starters from a year ago, but the 2012 schedule is pretty tough from beginning to end.

6. Tulane (last season: 2-11)
Whereas Rice and UTEP may be getting new coaches after this year, Tulane is entering Year 1 with Curtis Johnson. The wide receivers coach for the New Orleans Saints since 2006, Johnson is an interesting hire. While Johnson knows the area and should be able to recruit, the rebuilding process for the Green Wave will take a while.

CFT’s C-USA champion: Tulsa

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Interested in our other 10 conference projections along with Division 1-A (FBS) Independents? View ‘em all below by clicking the individual links or our projections landing page HERE. And don’t forget to check out CFT’s preseason Top 25.

ACC
Big East
Big Ten
Big 12
MAC
Mountain West
Pac-12
SEC
Sun Belt
WAC
Independents

Georgia DB Tray Bishop arrested on felony charge for alleged recording of sexual act

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Georgia freshman defensive back DetravionTray” Bishop was arrested on Wednesday on charges of felony eavesdropping/surveillance. The charges stem from an incident from this past fall, according to a report from Chip Towers of DawgNation.com. Bishop, who promptly turned himself over to the authorities after a warrant for his arrest was issued, has already been released from a county jail on a $5,700 bond.

The arrest follows an investigation by University of Georgia police responded to a complaint filed by a woman in April. The woman claimed Bishop recorded a sexual act between the two without her consent back in November.

“The complainant wished to report that there was a student going around showing people a sex tape of her … without her consent,” the police report said, according to the DawgNation report. “… A subsequent investigation into this incident led us into determining that the crime of unlawful eavesdropping occurred on [Nov. 5]. The investigation showed that Detravion Bishop had recorded [victim’s name] inside his dorm room without her permission and without her knowledge.”

Georgia head coach Kirby Smart has responded to the situation, expressing concern over the circumstances Bishop is caught up in.

“We are investigating the matter and it’s important that we gather all information relevant to the situation before we determine what policies may come into play,” Smart said in his statement. “Then we can take appropriate action if necessary.”

Bishop was a three-star recruit in Georgia’s Class of 2017, according to his Rivals profile. Bishop red-shirted last season.

Broker offers free Nebraska tickets if Huskers win Big Ten

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Nebraska fans now have an extra incentive for hoping their beloved Cornhuskers win the Big Ten this season, if they buy their tickets from the right ticket broker.

Ticket Express is offering a promotion to Nebraska fans that will refund all ticket purchases made before June 1 if Nebraska wins the Big Ten this upcoming season. The refund promo is good for single-game tickets as well as season packages.

Nebraska has played for the Big Ten championship once since joining the Big Ten in 2011, and it did not go well. Nebraska was blown out by Wisconsin in the 2012 Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis, 70-31. Nebraska’s last conference championship was won in 1999 under current Ohio head coach Frank Solich, when the Huskers were still at the top of the Big 12. Solich, by the way, will be welcomed back to Nebraska for an event next January for a service award from the Football Writers Association of America.

Nebraska is coming off a 4-8 season and faces a difficult schedule in the first season with new head coach Scott Frost. Nebraska’s schedule is arguably the toughest in the Big Ten this season with road games at Ohio State, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Michigan, and Iowa and a home crossover game with Michigan State. Just getting to the Big Ten championship game out of the West Division would be a pleasant surprise this fall, let alone topping the East Division champion in Indy.

Ticket Express liekly has an insurance policy to recoup the losses should things go Nebraska’s way, but this feels like a solid promotion with little risk for the broker.

Another Ohio State player reportedly to transfer to FCS program

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No, we’re not repeating a story. For the second time today, it has been reported a player is transferring from Ohio State to a school at the FCS level. This time it is defensive back Wayne Davis, who will reportedly transfer to FCS powerhouse James Madison of the CAA.

JMU beat reporter Greg Madia of the Daily News-Record in Harrisonburg, Virginia reported the transfer news on Friday afternoon. The report cites a quote from Davis’s high school coach confirming the transfer is in progress. Paperwork still needs to make the transfer official, but that may just be a formality that is settled within days.

Because Davis would be moving to a FCS program, he will be eligible to play right away this fall and not have to sit out a season. His addition to the roster would certainly give the James Madison secondary a boost. Davis was a four-star recruit out of Norfolk, Virginia in the Class of 2016. He will have three years of eligibility at James Madison beginning this fall.

Earlier, linebacker Jared Drake announced his decision to transfer from Ohio State to Western Illinois.

Bill Mallory, Indiana’s all-time winningest coach, dies at age 82

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Former Indiana head coach Bill Mallory, 82, has passed away. Mallory passed away after not improving from brain surgery this week. Mallory was Indiana’s all-time winningest college football coach and also coached at Miami Ohio, Colorado, and Northern Illinois.

Mallory had to undergo brain surgery this week after falling on Tuesday. After no improvement following surgery, Mallory was placed in hospice care on Thursday. His son, current Indiana State head coach Curt Mallory, announced the medical updates via Twitter.

Mallory began his coaching career at Bowling Green in 1960. After five seasons with the program, Mallory took on an assistant coaching job at Yale in 1965 and then Ohio State in 1966 under Woody Hayes. Mallory soon became the head coach at Miami Ohio in 1969 and went on to coach at Colorado and Northern Illinois before wrapping up his coaching career with the Hoosiers from 1984 through 1996. After going 0-11 in his first year in Bloomington, Mallory improved the program and took Indiana to six bowl games in eight years. Indiana finished ranked in the top 25 in 1988 for the first time since Lee Corso did so in 1979. Mallory’s 68 wins at Indiana remain the most in school history, as do his two bowl victories.

Following a loss to Michigan State in 1987, with the winner taking a trip to the Rose Bowl, Mallory entered the Michigan State locker room for one of his signature moments.