2011 record: 5-7 (4-4 in Conference USA, third in Eastern Division)
The Buzz: The Pirates have the talent to stay in games and occasionally pull off upsets, but a series of poorly timed miscues haunted the team last season. East Carolina has to find a reliable starting quarterback, kick the turnover bug and play tougher defense to contend for an Eastern Division title.
2011 record: 13-1 (8-1 in Conference USA, first in Western Division)
The Buzz: Record-setting quarterback Case Keenum and successful coach Kevin Sumlin have left the program, but the Cougars are still in a strong position to avenge last season's C-USA title game loss. Quarterback David Piland, who started when Keenum suffered a season-ending injury earlier in his career, will lead what should still be a high-powered Houston offensive attack.
2011 record: 7-6 (5-3 in Conference USA, second place in Eastern Division)
The Buzz: Marshall is one of the few C-USA teams to returning its starting quarterback and coach. The combination of returning talent and newcomers should help the Herd compete for another bowl bid. Marshall is looking forward to hosting the Oct. 27 showdown with rival UCF that will likely have a major impact on the division title race.
2011 record: 2-10 (1-7 in C-USA, sixth in the East Division)
The Buzz: New head coach Justin Fuente inherited a tough rebuilding project. The Tigers lack clear, experienced leaders on both sides of the ball. Memphis' nonconference schedule is relatively favorable and the team should be able to surpass last season's two-win total.
2011 record: 4-8 (3-5 in Conference USA, fourth in Western Division)
The Buzz: Rice is working to get back to the success it had during the 2008 season, posting a 10-3 record and winning the Texas Bowl. The Owls followed it up with losing seasons, going 2-10 in 2009, 4-8 in 2010 and 4-8 in 2011. With a challenging schedule, a quarterback who has yet to prove he can take care of the football and new faces in the trenches, it will be tough for Rice to snap out of the slump and post a winning record in 2012.
2011 record: 8-5 (5-3 in Conference USA, third in Western Division)
The Buzz: SMU has thrived during coach June Jones' tenure. Jones said he believes the program has the talent needed on both sides of the ball to compete for a C-USA title. The Mustangs should get a big boost from Texas transfer quarterback Garrett Gilbert, the latest athlete expected to put up big numbers running Jones' high-flying offense.
Conference USA scouting report: What to expect for football season 2012
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