2017 Conference USA Prespring Rankings & 3 Key Storylines

2017 Conference USA Prespring Rankings & 3 Key Storylines

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2017 Conference USA Prespring Rankings & 3 Key Storylines

Conference USA Prespring Preview, Rankings, Key Storylines


Ranking and breaking down the Conference USA teams as the spring football season starts to kick in.


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What does each Conference USA team have to work on this spring? What are the main storylines? How good are the teams going into the key part of the offseason? Ranking all the Conference USA teams based on how they look now, and what each team needs to do.

– CFN Prespring Rankings & Lookaheads No. 1 to 130
Conference USA Schedule Analysis & Top Games

2017 Conference USA Prespring Rankings & 3 Key Storylines

14. UAB Blazers

– Everything is wide open. With the program starting over again, the position battles will really and truly be position battles.

–  How many of the JUCO guys can rise up and be counted on right away? The Blazers need to manufacture experience.

– What’s the identity going to be? There might be ideas, but until the coaching staff really and truly knows what it has to work with, it can’t start figuring out what the team can build on.
Full Prespring Analysis

13. UTEP Miners

– The passing game has to start to work. It was too easy to rely on RB Aaron Jones, but now the Miners have to start throwing it to keep up the pace.

– Where are the defensive playmakers? The D has to find one thing it can count on to do well, and find a few difference-makers.

– How much more pressure will there be this spring and offseason? Head coach Sean Kugler needs a big year – there might not be much building for the future.
Full Prespring Analysis

12. Florida International Golden Panthers

– It’s all about the Butch Davis era kicking off. He’s got just enough experience to work with to hope for a big turnaround right away, but he’s known mostly as a top recruiter, not necessarily his on-field talents.

– The O line needs the most early work. With three starters gone, it’ll be the first job of the coaching staff to get more physical up front.

– Score, score, score. Where are the offensive difference-makers? After averaging just 24 points per game, Davis has to find firepower.
Full Prespring Analysis

11. Charlotte 49ers

– The offensive line and running game will get the focus on one side of the ball. RB Kalif Phillips is gone along with three linemen. And …

– Four starters have to be replaced on the defensive front seven, with Larry Ogunjobi gone off the nose and two starters on the front three done. That’s not a plus for a D that wasn’t all that great to begin with.

– The quarterback play and passing games have to be better. It all ties together – Charlotte couldn’t throw, and the O couldn’t convert third downs.
Full Prespring Analysis

10. Rice Owls

– What can the Owls do really, really well? There’s a bunch of experience to rely on, but is there any talent? Considering almost all the twos are back, the position battles have to be open.

– The quarterback play has to be stronger. Tyler Stehling is gone, but JT Granato worked as the backup. Someone has to emerge as the main man.

– Pass defense, pass defense, pass defense. The Owls had the nation’s least efficient secondary.
Full Prespring Analysis

9. Florida Atlantic Owls

– Alright, Lane Kiffin. Time to show off that talent that made you the USC, Tennessee, and Raider head coach. There’s enough talent in place to win right away if the coaching is up to snuff.

– How good is DeAndre Johnson? Is he going to be worth the controversy and past problems? Talent-wise, he’s a special quarterback prospect – he could’ve been starting for Florida State.

– How quickly can Kiffin improve the defense? The Owls had one of the nation’s least-efficient pass defenses, but all four starters return.
Full Prespring Analysis

8. North Texas Mean Green

– How good will the receiving corps be? Two of the key parts are gone – Thaddeous Thompson and Kenny Buyers – but this is a good young group that needs to bust out this spring.

– The penalties have to stop. The Mean Green aren’t good enough to get hit with more than seven flags a game.

– What can the offense do well and rely on? That receiving corps has potential, but can the O run the ball? How about the passing efficiency?
Full Prespring Analysis

7. UTSA Roadrunners

– The needle is pointing way, way up under Frank Wilson after getting to a bowl game last season, and now the pressure is on to do even more. This year’s team might be even better.

– The secondary wasn’t all that bad, but the safeties now have to be replaced. The loss of Michael Egwuagu and Jordan Moore hurts.

– Can the penalties slow down? The Roadrunners got hit for over seven flags and close to 60 yards per game – among the worst in the nation.
Full Prespring Analysis

6. Marshall Thundering Herd

– It might be one of the biggest spring sessions in Conference USA. Was 2016 just a blip, or was it a sign that the program is on the way down? The Herd could use a strong offseason and several sharp practices.

– How fast can the receiving corps step up? The unit is starting from scratch after a not-that-bad year for the passing attack. Everything, though, revolves around the …

– Defense. There wasn’t any last season. While the offense has to prove it can score again after a nightmare of a time over the second half of the year, the nation’s 107th D has to find a calling card. It has to do something right.
Full Prespring Analysis

5. Southern Miss Golden Eagles

– The offensive line needs to find three new starters. This might not be the team’s biggest concern early on, but nothing else will work unless the front five comes together quickly this spring.

– QB Nick Mullens is gone. Keon Howard stepped in for a stretch last season, but Mullens was the one who made the attack go. This is one of Conference USA’s most important position battles.

– Can the Golden Eagles figure out a way to improve the turnover problem? The nation’s fourth-worst team in turnover margin, this obviously has to change.
Full Prespring Analysis

4. Old Dominion Monarchs

– Now it’s time for the Monarchs to go from being a good team that got to a bowl game, to a great team that can win the conference title. This isn’t just a newcomer anymore – Old Dominion has to go in with the Conference USA power program attitude.

– Everything is in place to be even better – except for the quarterback situation. David Washington carried the team to a huge season, and now it’s Game On for the gig.

– It might not seem like much, but the punting game is going to matter more and more. A disaster last year as ODU, the punting game went from averaging over 40 yards per kick to under 38. The Monarchs had the seventh-worst punting game in college football.
Full Prespring Analysis

3. Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders

– Can the defense prove that the back half of last season was just an aberration? The Blue Raider D allowed 42 points or more in six of the last eight games, and was embarrassed in the bowl loss to Hawaii. That might a problem considering …

– The defensive front has to undergo an overhaul. All four starters up front are done. They weren’t productive enough, and the D was awful, but the team needs to replace the experience.

– The team needs the spring to get the O line back in place. Three starters are gone – keeping QB Brent Stockstill healthy is all that matters.
Full Prespring Analysis

2. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers

– It’s asking way too much for WKU to do that again offensively without Jeff Brohm around. What will Mike Sanford bring to keep WKU amazing?

– QB Mike White needs new offensive playmakers to have fun with. RB Anthony Wales, WRs Taywan Taylor and Nicholas Norris, and NFL OT Forrest Lamp are gone. It’s going to be an interesting spring.

– Just how good is White? He had a magnificent year under Brohm, but he’s going to have to make everyone around him shine. He’s the star now. This is his offense to run.
Full Prespring Analysis

1. Louisiana Tech Bulldogs

– Is it the system or the players? The tremendous offense has to move on without QB Ryan Higgins and receiver Trent Taylor and Carlos Henderson. There might be plenty of good prospects to get excited about, but they’ve got to shine in spring ball.

– Can the secondary get better without S Xavier Woods and CB Prince Sam? Teams are going to keep bombing away on the Bulldogs to try keeping up. The D was the second-worst in the nation in giving up first downs.

– The offense didn’t need to kick all that often – just 34 times – but there were issues allowing 15 yards per return. Louisiana Tech had the nation’s second-worst punting game, and now both punters are gone.
Full Prespring Analysis

CFN Prespring Rankings & Lookaheads No. 1 to 130
– Conference USA Schedule Analysis

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