The teams in Conference USA were all over the map last season in terms of both experience and data points. FIU and Rice only played five games. UTSA and Western Kentucky played a full 12-game schedule. Marshall, Louisiana Tech, North Texas, and Southern Miss played 10 games. Old Dominion didn’t play at all.
It was a strange college football season across the country, but it was especially weird in Conference USA. It leaves bettors with a lot of lingering questions as we head into the season.
What also makes this conference tough is that there are some clear bottom-feeders, as you can see from the odds, but the top of the conference winds up looking a little bit different on an annual basis. Marshall and UAB have been pretty consistent, but we’ve seen WKU and FAU have some really strong years recently.
We also have some new coaches, a lot of new coordinators, and just a generally high amount of turnover in the conference, so picking a team to win Conference USA is not an easy task.
Conference USA Football Championship Odds
THE PRESEASON CONFERENCE USA ODDS
Marshall is one of the teams with some big coaching turnover, as longtime head coach Doc Holliday is no longer with the program. Charles Huff comes over from the Alabama coaching staff, so we’ll see how that goes in Huntington. Southern Miss is a long shot, but also has a new head coach in Will Hall.
The trendy team is UTSA, who had the benefit of playing 12 games last season and seems to be recruiting at the highest level in the conference. The Roadrunners return 21 starters and a lot of guys got really valuable experience and playing time. The only big issue for UTSA is that UAB also resides in the West and Bill Clark is probably the best head coach in the conference. As you can see, UAB and UTSA are lined pretty closely and nobody else in the West is given a good chance based on the odds.
The East Division may be the spot to look for a long shot. Marshall should be solid again, but life without Doc Holliday is uncharted territory for this program. That could open the door for a team like FAU or even Western Kentucky, as the Hilltoppers have an exciting transfer QB in Bailey Zappe and the other key components of the explosive Houston Baptist offense. This will be a much different team this season.
The odds are pretty spread out overall in this conference, though, as anything could happen, however it is hard to go too far down the board because there are teams that simply recruit better, have more talent, and also do better on the JUCO recruiting trail year after year.
CONFERENCE USA FOOTBALL HANDICAPPING
Conference USA has been a pretty balanced league for the last several years. UAB has won two of the last three Conference Championship Games and has played in three straight, so that program is on a bit of a heater right now, but we’re not that far removed from North Texas and Louisiana Tech making some noise from the West Division.
In the East, three different teams have won the league over the last seven years. Western Kentucky was in back-to-back C-USA title games in 2015-16. FAU has won two of the last four. Middle Tennessee State even made an appearance in 2018.
Keep in mind that this is not a neutral-site championship game. It is on the campus of the team with the better record or more of the tiebreakers if necessary, so there will be a home field advantage element to deciding a winner. That means that you want to compare schedules and see where a team’s toughest games are in hopes of picking the team that will be at home in the title game.
The home team has lost two of the last three times, but the home team won six in a row from 2012-17.
It is also worth noting how much weaker this conference got when teams like Houston, UCF, and SMU left for the AAC. We’ve still had a fair amount of parity in Conference USA, but there are some programs that have been clearly better than others, like WKU, UAB, and FAU.