In this week’s edition of “Conversations with Clayton,” I chat with Underdog Dynasty’s managing editor Cyrus Smith. Cyrus is SB Nation’s leading expert on Conference USA football. SB Nation’s Underdog Dynasty is your home for the best Group of 5 football coverage in all of entire sports media.
In this wide ranging interview, Cyrus and I discuss the state of the Group of 5 football conference, the chances that Cyrus’ alma mater Florida Atlantic will finish in the Top 25 this year and the pleasures of NCAA Football 14.
Clayton Trutor (CT):How did you get involved with sports writing?
Cyrus Smith (CS): Ever since I was a kid I’ve always followed sports. The writing came to me a bit later. My high school teacher read one of my papers and really liked it. He ran the school paper and told me he needs a sports editor. Ever since then I was hooked. My family members always told me I’d be in the media in some capacity following sports and I always was against it. I find it funny that I’m here now.
CT: What are your current power rankings for the Group of 5 conferences?
CS: AAC-MWC-CUSA-MAC-Sun Belt.
CT: How do you see Conference USA shaping up this year?
CS: I just started my preview series on C-USA. That’ll guide my perception of the conference in 2018. I think the middle of the conference will still be muddled, similar to last year but the bottom is starting to rise. FAU is the runaway favorite though. Teams 2-7 you can pick out of a hat.
CT: Will Florida Atlantic end the 2018 season nationally ranked?
CS: Yes. The Owls will finish at least 10-2.
CT: Which new Group of 5 head coach will have the biggest impact on his program in 2018?
CS: I really like Sonny Dykes at SMU. Dykes was in over his head at Cal but being back in Texas should do him well. I don’t find him particularly noteworthy as a head coach due to how terrible his defenses were in Berkley but I definitely think he can generate 8-9 wins a season there which would be huge for SMU. To me he’s like Skip Holtz. A fine head coach for a G5 team but in the P5 he’s kind of a minus. I’d be shocked if he’s not in Dallas for the long haul, which in my opinion every AAC team wouldn’t mind some stability as long as they earned a NY6 bid every three or so years. I think Dykes can do just that at SMU.
CT: Among the head coaches in the Mountain West, who would win a Royal Rumble?
CS: Give me [Bryan] Harsin. Long and Tedford would be out before it even started though.
CT: As a Florida Atlantic man, how would you rate your relative animosity toward the other FBS programs in Florida?
CS: Being that I went to high school about five minutes away from UCF, I’ve never liked them and didn’t even entertain the idea of applying there. I find their fan base very annoying too. With that said, a few of my friends are Knights so I’m never too upset at their success. Something about UCF irks me though. I found myself deciding between FAU and USF, so the Bulls have always been fine in my book as I enjoyed my campus visit there.
Out of all the P5 schools in Florida I lean Miami’s way which is weird because I never cared for Miami before I went to FAU. I guess Howard Schnellenberger changed that. A lot of FAU fans tend to root for Miami as well so perhaps that’s why too. For me its always been a little brother vibe, but a respectful one between the two schools. Miami fans don’t tend to like FIU either so they’re fine with me. Have always disliked UF and that won’t ever change due to the Tebow years. FSU I’m indifferent towards. FIU is trash, though I’m happy they are finding success in football just like we are.
CT:Which Group of 5 player has the best shot to win the Heisman Trophy in 2018?
CS: McKenzie Milton and Devin Singletary.
CT: Describe your greatest sports video game victory of all time.
CS: NCAA Football 14. Ranked match. UCLA vs Mizzou. I was UCLA. Hail Mary on the last play of the game to win. Damn I miss that game.
CT: When you think of “Cincinnati,” you think of ___________
CS: Basketball. K-Mart. Lance Stephenson. Bob Huggins and now Mick Cronin. I enjoy watching Cincy’s tough brand of basketball and find myself rooting for the Bearcats come tourney time. For football I think about when that QB mocked Rutgers’ chopping wood schtick a while ago.
Follow Cyrus on Twitter: @CoolCyWrites
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