CollegeFootballNews.com Preview 2017: Conference USA Rankings
The 2017 CFN Preview ranking of all the Conference USA teams.
Where do the Conference USA teams rank going into the season? This is NOT a ranking of how the teams are projected or predicted to finish. This is a ranking of how good they all appear to be going into the fall.
Preview 2017: Conference USA Rankings
The year’s ultimate free-pass team, it doesn’t matter what the Blazers do other than get the program back together and start playing again. The skill players should be okay, but they won’t have any room to do much of anything behind a rough O line. There will be plenty of brutally ugly moments, but don’t be shocked if the Blazers are more than just competitive as the season goes on.
Can the lines do more? Hasaan Klugh is a good-looking quarterback, and the linebacking corps should be a strength and the safeties are great, but stars have to quickly emerge on the defensive front and the receivers have to start doing more.
Just how much have the Owls improved after the 2016 nightmare? The quarterback play has to be stronger, and the lines have to be able to hold up – neither side of the ball worked last year. Where are the offensive playmakers? Where are the sure-thing defensive all-stars? The team needs to find something it does at a relatiely high level.
The Miners could turn out to be one of the league’s bigger stunners. The O line has the upside to be great, and the backfield might be just good enough to take advantage of the time. The defense isn’t going to be strong enough up front, and the receiving corps is missing the killers, but a few upsets will mean a bowl game.
The overall talent might not be in place, but the Roadrunners will crank out one of the league’s toughest teams. Joshua Tauaefa will make a push to be the top linebacker in the league, but he’s not alone among the defensive talents. The receiving corps is fine, and Dalton Sturm is a veteran quarterback, but UTSA will have to grind compared to the league’s explosive teams.
9. North Texas
The Mean Green secondary has a few potential all-stars – it’s the team’s biggest strength – while the offense has a stud in RB Jeffery Wilson to work around. The offense might not be explosive enough, and the special teams and defense will have to wins games at times, but there’s a lot to build on after a bowl season.
Easily the league’s biggest X factor, Marshall might just be good enough to bounce back from a disastrous 2016 and be in the league’s title chase – or that could be the indication of where the program really is. The passing game will be fine, and the secondary boasts a nice pair of cornerbacks, but the lines are shaky and the rushing attack has to quickly emerge.
7. Florida International
How good a team is Butch Davis taking over? It should be strong enough to push for a winning season with the league’s best linebacking corps and a fantastic group of running backs to steady the offense. The lines are mediocre, and the passing game needs more stars, but the results should be stronger.
6. Florida Atlantic
Lane Kiffin will get a ton of press because he’s Lane Kiffin, but he also has a decent team in place to potentially go bowling. The running backs are outstanding and should make the lives of the new coaching staff easy, while Florida State transfer De’Andre Johnson – if he wins the job – should be the league’s most talented quarterback. The O had better be great to make up for a problem of a D.
5. Middle Tennessee
With the the return of QB Brent Stockstill and the league’s best receiving corps, the offense will be as explosive as any in the conference. The defense, though, will be the issue, especially up front against the run. There might be decent factors in the linebacking corps, but the Blue Raiders will have to win in shootouts.
4. Southern Miss
After not quite being the major factor in the Conference USA race it was supposed to be, Southern Miss should be in a battle for the title with the the league’s best secondary to anchor the D, and a do-it-all star RB in Ito Smith to carry the offense. The pass rush should be a killer.
3. Old Dominion
After a breakthrough season – granted, against an easy schedule – now the Monarchs appear to be ready to keep it all rolling and do even more. Replacing QB David Washington is a problem, but Ray Lawry should be among the league’s top running backs and the secondary is in place to hang around with the league’s high-powered passing games.
2. Louisiana Tech
While the Bulldogs have to replace almost all the key parts of the high-octane passing game, the defense should be able to pick up the slack right away with a killer pair of ends in Jaylon Ferguson and Deidrick Canty. The air show won’t go away – it’ll just need a little tweaking.
1. Western Kentucky
It won’t be easy, but this is still the league’s biggest player. Even with the loss of head coach Jeff Brohm to Purdue, and with most of the top receiving weapons done, this is still a loaded team good enough to retake the Conference USA title. The running backs will be the stars of the offense – when QB Mike White isn’t rolling – while the defense will be the most talented in the league.