The 2018 Conference USA Preview with the Game of the Year, Players of the Year, top pro prospects, big-time players who deserve a bigger spotlight, and more.
Preview 2018: Conference USA Preview
Conference USA Team Previews
There might be a stigma to being a Group of Five conference in terms of prestige, talent level, fan interest, resources and coverage, but most Power Five leagues could only wish to be as entertaining as Conference USA should be this season.
It’s a good time for the league.
For the most part, the coaching situations are stable now that UTEP and Rice have settled in with their new regimes. Those two might still have a long way to go to get back among the living, and Charlotte is still trying to find its way in the world, but the league is loaded with great storylines that carry over into this season.
The UAB shocker should keep on rolling with one of the most experienced teams in college football. The WKU passing offense will be among the nation’s best, North Texas is growing into a thrilling team that can do some damage in the non-conference world, FIU and Butch Davis are still interesting, and of course, Lane Kiffin is still the head coach at Florida Atlantic.
Marshall is coming off a terrific bowl performance and should have one of the league’s most entertaining teams, the Southern Miss and Louisiana Tech offenses will be among the league’s best again, Middle Tennessee and QB Brent Stockstill will bomb away, and coming off a mediocre season, Old Dominion should quietly be dangerous.
And then there’s the defensive side, with UTSA coming back with one of the nation’s stingier groups. Marshall, Southern Miss and Middle Tennessee will play with a little D, too.
Considering UAB and Florida Atlantic came from out of nowhere last season, and with the depth of the league this year, it’s more wide open than it might appear.
KIffin’s team will be the overwhelming favorite, but most of the league can reasonably hope for something amazing coming into the season. And the entire conference can expect a whole lot of fun.
Conference USA Team That Will Surprise
Instead of surprising, how about breaking through? That will happen if they can find a little more steady offensive pop to go along with the killer D.
The Roadrunners had a winning season but didn’t go bowling, but this year they could and should pull off the West title with Louisiana Tech and North Texas coming to town. They have to go to UAB and Marshall, but they miss Florida Atlantic and have an easy enough conference slate to have a huge year.
Conference USA Team That Will Disappoint
FIU Golden Panthers
The coaching is still elite with Butch Davis and staff at the helm, and the defense will still be outstanding, but there’s some rebuilding to do from a team that was quickly molded into a winner. The problem is the schedule with road games at Miami, WKU and UTSA, along with home games against Indiana, Middle Tennessee, Florida Atlantic and Marshall. The Golden Panthers will probably have to win at least two of those.
Game Of The Year
Florida Atlantic at North Texas, Nov. 17
This might be an interdivisional game and it might be a preview of yet another Conference USA championship rematch, but it’s also the showdown that will be the biggest on a national scale. In terms of division showdowns, FAU vs. Marshall should decide the East on Oct. 20, and Louisiana Tech vs. North Texas on Sept. 29 and/or UNT at UTSA on Nov. 24 will go a long way to figuring out the West.