21 for 2021 college football preseason topics: How do the college football Group of Five conferences – AAC, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West, Sun Belt – rank going into the season?
In many ways it was a big 2020 for the Group of Five conferences.
From Cincinnati rolling out of the American Athletic Conference, to the big early wins by the Sun Belt, to a few shocking breakthrough teams by the MAC and Mountain West champions, it was a good season in an awful year.
The conferences started to receive more respect, but can it all translate into more fun seasons in 2021?
Here’s our look at where all the Group of Five conferences – American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West and Sun Belt – appear to be.
College Football Conference Rankings Group Of Five: 21 For 2021 Preview Topics, No. 5
5. Conference USA
There’s mediocrity overall and too much dead weight at the bottom.
The stunning collapse of Marshall at the end of last year was the real story of the 2020 conference season, but UAB was able to come through when it got its shot to win the Conference USA title.
In the end, though, just four teams finished with a winning record – UTSA and Florida Atlantic joined the Thundering Herd and the Blazers.
On the plus side for the league, this might be the best UAB team yet under head coach Bill Clark. It’s loaded with experience and talent, and Marshall – under new head coach Charles Huff – should be back to form after the clunker of a finish. Those two teams will be great, but they’re not alone.
2021 Conference USA Team Previews
East Charlotte | FAU | FIU | Marshall
MTSU | Old Dominion | WKU
West Louisiana Tech | North Texas | Rice
Southern Miss | UAB | UTEP | UTSA
2021 CFN Preseason All-C-USA Team
2021 CFN C-USA Top 30 Players
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CFN C-USA Preseason Rankings
Expect a whole lot more out of a WKU team that’s going to have an offense to go along with the great defense, and expect Florida Atlantic to take another big step forward under Willie Taggart in a strong-looking East.
UTSA should be every bit as strong as last season in the West, and Louisiana Tech should be far better with more of an offense.
And then it gets dicey.
Teams like Southern Miss and Rice will be fighters – they should be in the mix to go bowling – but can Middle Tennessee get the program back to form after a few rough runs? Can FIU be night-and-day stronger after a winning season?
Old Dominion is coming back after opting out on 2020, Charlotte has a tough slate, and UTEP is once again going to struggle, but don’t be shocked if the Monarchs or 49ers rise up and surprise a bit.
Even so, overall there’s just too much missing to push past the rest of the pack. It doesn’t help that this is one of the strongest seasons ever for …