Conference-USA is one of the most fascinating conferences in all of College Football heading into 2021.
UAB and Marshall look to return to the C-USA Championship Game, but the quick improvement from UTSA and the continued success from Florida Atlantic make for stiff competition.
Elsewhere, several teams are looking to move out of the basement of the conference like North Texas and UTEP, while Western Kentucky overhauled their offense in the offseason.
Two teams caught my eye heading into the year, for different reasons, and I’ll play on them.
Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook
It was a tough 2020 for WKU, finishing 5-7. Despite winning their last three regular season games, coach Tyson Helton saw enough and revamped the offense that struggled to break 20 points all season.
Helton inked the Houston Baptist offensive coordinator Zach Kittley, quarterback Bailey Zappe and his three top targets. HBU was a revelation when they played FBS competition, including two impressive showings against two C-USA opponents, North Texas and Louisiana Tech.
In a four game 2020 season, Zappe averaged over 450 yards per game and passed for 18 touchdowns.
After going 5-7 in a year where the offense was outside the top 100 in yards per game and points per game, I expect the Hilltoppers to round into form in 2021 with Kittley calling the shots and Zappe carving up defenses.
For reference, the 567 yards Zappe threw for against Texas Tech this season, 567 yards, was the most by an FCS team against an FBS team.
It’s a bold move by Helton, but I’m bullish on a team that has a very manageable schedule.
They are set to be considerable favorites in three games against UT-Martin, Charlotte, and Middle Tennessee at home. After that, I see their new and improved offense challenging teams that have struggled in recent seasons such as Old Dominion, FIU, and Rice.
They may need an upset along the way against someone like FAU at home, but I’m buying into the air raid offense and think that it will lead to a huge learning curve for the rest of the conference.
WKU can surprise some teams and end up in the C-USA Championship Game once again.
Conference-USA is a tough conference to project with a crowded middle and a volatile bottom, but I’m not sure why people are buying into ODU in the first year of games from Ricky Rahne.
Rahne was signed to coach last season but Old Dominion opted out of the entire season. While he has started to recruit well and landed some transfers, this team is playing from behind the eight ball when it comes to on-field product.
Rahne has a skilled quarterback in UCF transfer Darriel Mack Jr., but the team only has three returning starters from the 2019 roster on the defensive side of the ball.
The team should have an easy win against FCS opponent Hampton, but again we don’t know much about this ODU team, and I’m willing to fade the idea that Rahne will have this team humming right away.
Getting a cheap price on this under is a play for me in what could be a somewhat unpredictable conference with a team that hasn’t played in two seasons and just starting a rebuild now.