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  • Eye Test Analytics

2021 C-USA Football Preview

Predicted Order of Finish

East Division

1. Marshall- HC Doc Holliday was let go after 8 bowl appearance in 11 years, Charles Huff who has a quite a resume but no head coaching experience inherits a formidable roster, C-USA Freshman of Year QB Grant Wells returns along with a talented group of receivers, 7 starters return from a dominant defense that led the country in points allowed in 2020, a date at Middle Tennessee October 9th could decide the East Division

2. Middle Tennessee St- second team All-Conference USA QB Asher O’Hara made a surprising departure to Sacramento St, the Blue Raiders were able to pick up a viable replacement in Bailey Hockman who left NC State after starting 9 games and passing for 2,008 yards last year, Hockman will battle junior Chase Cunningham for the starting spot, there will be an abundance of talented receivers to throw to, the defense in 2020 was nothing to write home about but 10 starters return including a strong secondary led by safeties Reed Blankenship and Gregory Grate, could overtake Marshall if defense improves

3. Florida Atlantic- HC Willie Taggert turned around Western Kentucky, and had a very

successful four year run at South Florida, however the bloom may be off the rose as Taggert has compiled a 500 record over the past four seasons at three different schools, former Arizona head coach Mike Stoops takes over a defense that return 9 starters from a stout unit that finished 10th nationally in points allowed, experience and talent is everywhere on offense but the Owls remain unsettled at QB heading into the season

4. Western Kentucky- QB Bailey Zappe takes over an offense that was anemic in 2020 after following offensive coordinator Zach Kittley from Houston Baptist, Zappe threw for 1,833 yards in just 4 games last year, the defense finished 28th nationally last year in total yards allowed per game but overall took a small step back from 2019 and now will be under new coordinator Maurice Crum, a bowl game is within reach but will be a challenge with so many new faces on the staff and on the field

5. Charlotte- Will Healy is one of college football’s young rising coaches turning around Austin Peay and taking Charlotte to a bowl in his first season, the 49ers were one of a handful of C-USA teams in 2020 strongly affected by the pandemic with 5 games being cancelled, Senior QB Chris Reynolds returns but could be pushed by Texas AM transfer James Foster, defense struggled mightily against the run and brings back only 1 starting linemen, favorable conference schedule makes bowl bid a possibility

6. FIU- 2020 was a disaster after making 3 straight bowl appearances under Butch Davis, 3 different quarterbacks saw action in a pandemic shortened 5 game season, the position remains unsettled heading into the season, new D coordinator Everett Withers takes over a defense that finished 117th against the run in 2020 but brings back a talented secondary

7. ODU- almost impossible to predict what will happen, the Monarchs opted out last season

and still have yet to play a game under new HC Ricky Rule, the offense was atrocious the last time it saw the field in 2019, incumbent QB Stone Smartt will battle UCF transfer D.J. Mack Jr. and Hayden Wolf for the starting job, the defense was respectable in 2019 and returns its leader senior linebacker Jordan Young

West Division

1. UAB- hard to believe HC Bill Clark hasn’t been swooped up by a power 5 school after 4 straight bowl berths following a two year shutdown of the football program in 2015/2016, the Blazers head into 2021 looking to win its third C-USA title in four seasons, the defense is loaded with 9 returning starters from a unit that finished 7th nationally in yards allowed per game, senior QB Tyler Johnson III returns at QB along with 4 linemen but depth and talent are lacking at receiving and must replace RB Spencer Brown

2. Louisiana Tech- the Bulldogs look to challenge UAB for the West Division title after a mediocre 5-5 season that ended with two blowout losses, QB Luke Anthony is set to return after a compound fracture in his leg but will be challenged by Aaron Allen for the job, the defense was subpar in 2020 unable to stop the run while giving up almost 35 points a game, but returns 10 starters and 2 All-Conference safeties

3. UTSA- Not a lot of people last year saw 7-5 coming in Jeff Traylor’s first season as coach, led by a potent rushing attack, and a stingy defense Roadrunners finished 5-2 in conference good for second in the West Division, practically the entire team returns including first-team all-conference running back Sincere McCormick and a handful of all-conference honorable mention defenders, Senior QB Frank Harris returns but will be pushed by Josh Adkins after finishing 90th in passing last season

4. Rice- the Owls appeared primed to take the next step last year in HC Mike Bloomgren’s third season, Covid-19 however forced the cancellation of seven games on the schedule, 2 dominant road wins against Southern Miss and Marshall showed just how capable last year’s team was, gone from that team though are QB Mike Collins who started 3 games, and defensive leader linebacker Blaze Alderidge, Wiley Green who has starting experience and Weber St transfer Jake Constantine will battle for the starting job under new coordinator Marques Tuiasosopo, the non-conference schedule is tough but if the offense clicks look for a continued upward trend

5. North Texas- after back to back 9 win seasons in 2017 and 2018 the Mean Green have endured back to back 4 win seasons, the fall has been due largely to an ineffective defense which led HC Seth Littrell to revamp his staff, former Baylor DC Phil Bennett takes the reins on defense welcoming back eight starters, QB Austin Aune returns after splitting time with Jason Bean last year but could be pushed by North Carolina transfer Jace Ruder, the O-line is one of the team’s biggest strengths

6. UTEP- despite posting a 5-27 record in three seasons under HC Dana Dimel there is optimism heading into 2021, the defense which returns eight starters was much improved last season ranking in the top 40 nationally in rush yards allowed per game, QB Gavin Hardison returns and will have a solid O-Line and plenty of playmakers to work around, a soft schedule early could help propel the Miners to bowl eligibility

7. Southern Miss- 2020 was a train wreck, the Golden Eagles went through three head coaches and saw their staring and backup quarterbacks both leave the program, former Tulane O coordinator Will Hall takes hoping to bring stability back to Hattiesburg, the offense will turn to RB Frank Gore Jr and an experienced O-Line for production while it tries to settle on a QB

Buy- Middle Tennessee

Sell- None

Best Bet- Middle Tennessee OVER total wins

Coach of the Year- Bill Clark UAB

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