USA South football is just around the corner, and as is my custom, I am posting my predictions one day before (ok...two days before) the USA South Coaches Poll is released.Before I tell you how I think they will finish for the 2015 season, I thought I would look back at how I did in 2014,
I predicted the following finishing order, and the number in () is where they actually finished:
1. Maryville (3)
2. Methodist (4)
3. CNU (1)
4. Huntingdon (2)
5. LaGrange (6)
6. Ferrum (9)
7. NCW (5)
8. Greensboro (7)
9. Averett (8)
It, as you can see is not an easy job predicting, but there is one thing I am 100% certain of, and that is that Christopher Newport will not repeat as USA South Champion. Yes the Captains are gone, moving this year to the New Jersey Athletic Conference. This to me is a big deal for the rest of the conference, and will go a long way toward leveling the playing field.
So how will they end up? Conventional wisdom would say that everyone may just move up a slot, but I don't think it will be quite that simple. Here is a quick assessment of what I think each team will bring to the table. (Listed alphabetically)
This year, Averett will look to build on their 2-8 season, and make it tougher for the rest of the conference. While at first blush it may be easy to see Averett in the cellar this year, I am not so sure that this is how things will work out. There is a good amount of talent returning, and I am thinking this will be an upset minded group. I am not looking for them to be in contention, but they may make some unexpected noise.
For me there are still too many question marks as we approach the beginning of the 2015 season. And while there seem to have been some solid recruits landed, I have to wonder about the overall competitiveness.
I think Ferrum will be more solid on defense, and I look for this unit to gain confidence as the season progresses. Look for the non conference schedule to be difficult, but it is the conference games that count. I currently see Ferrum as a mid pack team at best, but if there is some new size and speed in the offensive scheme, there could be an upset or two.
This is a team that I have expected improvement in over the last couple of years, and while there have been bright spots, they have not been able to put forth a consistent winning streak. Look for more of the same as I see the Pride in just about the same place this year as last year. They will have close games, and may even pull off an upset, but I think it is likely they will finish near the bottom of the pack.
With three wins last year, they did show improvement, but the defense has to step it up in a big way for the attack to be more balanced, and for them to truly compete for the title.
The Hawks finished second in the conference to CNU, and are looking to take the championship this year. With quite a few holes to fill due to graduation, Huntingdon will have to get the returners from the 2014 team to step up. I look for this to be a solid team, and definitely a contender. They will be a tough opponent for all concerned, and may well represent the conference in the playoffs.
The other Panthers will be a strong team this year, and I expect them to really deliver the goods as the season goes on. They were, to me a better team than their record indicated, and with some improvement on the defensive side of the ball, they will stir things up for sure. Look for this team to be in the running, and to surprise some folks. Definitely not a push over.
With a new head coach at the helm, look for more of the same from the Scots.....success. I am expecting this team to again be a huge force in the conference, but change in the coaching staff can sometimes bring a different approach, and new schemes and plays to learn. I am not looking for there to be big changes, and I am fairly certain that the Scotts will be in the hunt to return to the playoffs.
The Monarchs finished last season with a 6-4 record, and lose their no.1 quarterback from last year, Max Reber to graduation. I am not sure who will replace him, but it is likely the Monarchs will be quite strong, and in the mix at the end of the season. This is a team that will be strong on both sides of the ball, and will not be an easy opponent for anyone.
North Carolina Wesleyan
Looking to improve on a 5-5 record, the Bishops will be looking to fill holes left by graduation. This is a team that is hard to read, but they will cause a commotion if given an opportunity. Gone is the star running back Alston. That is good news for opponents, but there will be plenty of talent on the field. Expect the Bishops to battle hard for a conference title, and while they may not get there this year, They could definitly have an effect on the outcome.
And now my predictions!
8) Averett University
7) Greensboro College
6) Ferrum College
5) North Carolina Wesleyan
4) Maryville College
3) LaGrange College
2) Methodist University
1) Huntingdon College
It all starts Sept. 4th! I can't wait!