Friday, August 4, 2017

College Football: Season Preview: Conference USA

Fair warning:  I'm not in love with my projections for this conference. I'm OK with the two teams I have one top, but I'm struggling with Western KY's overall record.  The problem is that I just cannot find a game where I say "they're going to lose", although I fully expect them to with a new coach.

When the dust settles I fully believe that Western Kentucky will end up the conference champion by besting Louisiana Tech in the Championship game.

Here's how I see it going:

Conference Standings:
Louisiana Tech 9 3 Western Kentucky 10 2
UTSA 9 3 Middle Tennessee 8 4
Southern Miss 7 5 Old Dominion 7 5
Rice 3 9 Marshall 6 6
North Texas 3 9 Florida Atlantic 4 8
UAB 2 10 Florida International 3 9
UTEP 1 11 Charlotte 2 10
Wins Division Wins Division
Conference Championship:
Western Kentucky Over Louisiana Tech
Bowl Teams: 7
CFP: None
Big Six None
CFP 2: None
Others: Western Kentucky
Southern Miss
Middle Tennessee
Louisiana Tech
Old Dominion
Most Underrated: UTSA
Most Overrated: Florida Atlantic
Coaches on Hot Seat: UTEP, Rice

I'm going to spend a little bit of time on Western Kentucky.  Yes, Jeff Brohm has gone on to lose at Purdue, and yes they lost some on defense, but they still have QB Mike White returning and a host of play makers for him to get the ball to. They also return 3 offensive linemen from a group that was very good last year.  New DC Clayton White is an up and coming coach, and they seem to have enough talent (especially in the secondary, to be good once again.

Then there's this:  Out of conference they play Eastern Kentucky, Illinois (which will be better but not good IMO), Ball State and Vanderbilt. I can see them running the table there. Plus, they get La Tech, and Middle Tennessee at home.  Will they make a New Year's Six bowl if they run the table?  No, because the bottom half of C-USA is pathetic, but is it possible they do?  Yes.

In the West I think La Tech gets surprised a little bit by a UTSA team that's going to be highly underrated this year, and pretty good to boot. After that Old Dominion is still a good football team, and I think Doc Holliday saves his job by finishing 6-6 and making a bowl game.

Now for the elephant in the room: Lane Kiffin. Kiffin's MO in the past has been inheriting good teams and flushing them down the toilet. Despite this many pundits believe that he's going to somehow transform Florida Atlantic into a power overnight.  I just don't see it.  He's recruiting (relatively) well and I think he'll eventually get enough character risk/high talent guys to play for the Owls so they compete, but I don't see it this year.

Rice and UTEP will be looking for new coaches in the offseason, and UAB is just happy to be here. Southern Miss is back on the rise, but North Texas, Florida International and Charlotte have a LOT of work to do.

Prediction: UTEP will win ESPN's "Bottom 10" award as the worst team in the country, just beating out Texas State.

OPOY: Brent Stockstill (MTSU)
DPOY: Jaylon Ferguson (La Tech)
COY: Mike Sanford (WKU)

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