Preseason Power Rankings: Conference USA
Please note that power rankings are meant to rank teams based on current team strength on a neutral field. It is not necessarily a projection of where I think teams will finish or who has a better resume. It is forward thinking but does not factor in strength of schedule, schedule breakdown, etc.
ICYMI Other Conference Preseason Power Rankings:
2021 Conference USA Preseason Power Rankings
- UAB: Bill Clark loves to coach defense and this year he has nine starters back. The Blazers have Phil Steele’s #2 D-Line, #1 Linebackers, and #1 Defensive Backs in the conference. They also open a brand new home stadium which should bring some enthusiasm to the program.
- Marshall: The Thundering Herd have a new head coach in Charles Huff (a Nick Saban protégé) after a somewhat surprising firing of Doc Holliday. They lost some good players to the transfer portal but do still bring back 15 starters and a strong defense. They bring back QB Grant Wells who should be one of the better QBs in the conference, along with their top 6 pass catchers from 2020 and an experience offensive line.
- Florida Atlantic: Unlike the days when Lane Kiffin was on their sideline, this year defense should be the strength for Willie Taggart’s FAU team. They have brought in Mike Stoops has the new defensive coordinator and have what appears to be a really strong front seven coming back. How far this team will go will depend on how much offense they can generate. They will need to figure out the QB position as they have Nick Tronti and Javion Posey coming back from last year.
- UTSA: I think the Roadrunners have the best player in the conference in Running Back Sincere McCormick. I’m excited to see if they can pull off the upset at Illinois in Week 1 (but Illinois has an advantage in that they have Week 0 game to get the kinks out). They have 21 starters back and will look to continue to build upon the momentum that they generated last year under HC Jeff Traylor.
- Louisiana Tech: Skip Holtz is a veteran head coach that has been at Louisiana Tech for a long time. This will be one of his more experienced teams with 17 returning staters and some transfers that he added. QB Luke Anthony should be back from his injury and they added a RB Marcus Williams from Appalachian State. This looks like a team that could go either way this year.
- Western Kentucky: The Hilltoppers will be a fun team to watch this year as they added a bunch from the explosive FCS Houston Baptist Team: OC Zach Kittley, QB Bailey Zappe, and their top 3 WR. Hopefully this will boost an offense that struggled last season. They will play at a faster pace that should be fun to watch.
- North Texas: The Mean Green return 9 starters on an offense that average 513 ypg and 34.4 ppg last year. The defense might be the worst in the conference however. Expect plenty of shootouts but the defense will have to improve if they want to make a serious run at the CUSA Western Division.
- Southern Mississippi: 2020 was a crazy year for Southern Mississippi as they had 3 head coaches. Hopefully that circus is over as they bring in Will Hall former Tulane OC). They have a stud RB in Frank Gore Jr (yes… his son. Feel old?). The defense needs to make major strides and they have to get QB figured out as they lost Jack Abraham to Mississippi State.
- Middle Tennessee State: The Blue Raiders added a Power 5 transfer QB in NC State’s Bailey Hockman. They should make big strides with him under center. The defense was brutal last season but they do bring back 10 starters. On paper this looks like another team that will find itself in plenty of high scoring games.
- Florida International: It’s tough to put too much stock in Butch Davis 0-5 2020 season as they had 45 players miss between 25-55 days of practice or workouts due to covid. This year’s team has 19 starters back and added some transfers. They have an experienced offensive line and might be able to fight back into the middle of the pack in the conference.
- Rice: They recently added Nebraska transfer QB Luke McCaffery. I’m not sure how good he is but his play will go a long way in determining how good this Rice team is. The defense (particularly the secondary) could be really good.
- Charlotte: Charlotte went hard in the transfer portal this offseason after a disappointing 2020 season. They added 7 transfers including Texas A&M QB James Foster who has a good chance at winning the starting job. They are trying to plug their leaky defense with transfers but I don’t know how well that is going to work out. They don’t look great on paper to me right now.
- UTEP: They replaced both coordinators this offseason but it looks like the losing is going to continue for UTEP again this year. Their LB corps and secondary look especially weak and there is nothing super exciting offensively to offset that.
- Old Dominion: ODU was one of only three FBS teams that didn’t play at all last Fall so they are tougher to evaluate. It’s been 21 months between games for them. They have a young team and they don’t have a single position unit that ranks in the top 10 in the conference according to Phil Steele.