Florida Atlantic – under 7.5 (-110) – 1*
I can’t possibly bring myself to bet the Owls again, but they have some real signs of a bounce back this year. For starters, they had five losses by one possession last year. The other two losses were at Oklahoma and UCF.
But they’re hurt by the loss of stud RB Devin Singletary. They thought they were getting Deondre Francois, but that ended up not working out as Francois is at Hampton. Not sure what to make of the defense, as they had a big drop-off last year despite returning ten starters.
The schedule is easier this year, but there will be a lot of close games again.
Marshall – over 7.5 (-190) – 1*
The Thundering Herd have a lot coming back, but I can’t justify swallowing that juice when their best asset from last year – the front seven – has been depleted.
The front seven was already going to have a lot to replace, but the late transfer of their best pass rusher – Ty Tyler – was a big blow.
Florida International – over 7.5 (+105) – 4*
I feel like I’m missing something – and that’s very possible – but getting $1.05 on the dollar seems crazy to me.
To begin with, the Panthers have won eight regular season games in each of Butch Davis’s first two seasons. Now they have eight starters coming back on each side of the ball, they’re among the most experienced teams in CFB, the home schedule is kind of a breeze, and Davis has recruited ridiculously well the past couple years to fill in his two-deeps.
James Morgan came in as a transfer QB last year, took over for a three-year starter, and somehow might’ve improved the position. He’s got all four of his RBs back and together they make one of the best groups in the C-USA. He loses his top WR CJ Worton, but it’s not a huge loss. Worton caught 37 passes and yet there’s still five (5) guys coming back that caught at least 24. Morgan distributes it well. Also back are three starters from the O-line.
The defense had little returning last year and still got better. The run defense wasn’t great, but a horrid game against Devin Singletary and FAU really skewed the numbers. The secondary was awesome when it really mattered and nearly the entire unit is coming back. Given that FIU his improved in nearly every area each of the last two years under Davis, it’s not unreasonable to think the run defense will be better this year.
We’ll start with the easier part of the schedule: six home games in which right now they’d be favored by at least a touchdown in all of them, and probably double digits.
The road schedule is less forgiving. They have to play at Marshall, FAU, MTSU, Tulane, and LA Tech. They also will play the crosstown battle with Miami.
It’s a tough road schedule for sure, but this is also a team that was 5-1 away from their home stadium last year. They were also 6-0 ATS in those games and covered by an average of 12.8 PPG.
Middle Tennessee – under 5.5 (-165) – 1*
It’s a new era as Rick Stockstill loses his four-year starting QB who also doubled as his son, Brent. The top RB and WR are back, but they also have to replace three starters on the O-line. The defense will probably be able to tread water, but they might have to be better than that if the Blue Raiders are getting back to a bowl.
The road schedule features Michigan, Iowa, North Texas, and FAU. They also have Duke, Marshall, and FIU at home.
Old Dominion – over 4.5 (+170) – 1*
Almost worth the gamble when you consider they get Norfolk State, ECU, WKU, UTSA, and Charlotte at home.
This is the most production Bobby Wilder has had to replace since the Monarchs joined the FBS.
Western Kentucky – under 5 (+110) – 2*
There’s a lot of production coming back, but I can’t find a shred of evidence of why I should believe in Tyson Helton as a head coach. He was the OC at Tennessee last year where they averaged 22.8 PPG. Before that he was the QB coach under his brother at USC for a couple of years. He was the OC here under Jeff Brohm when they were lighting the world on fire, but Brohm is really his own OC.
Charlotte – over 4.5 (+110) – 2*
Hard to bet against new HC Will Healy. He took over maybe the worst program at either the FBS or FCS level – Austin Peay – and won eight games in his second season. Known for his recruiting prowess, the 49er program might not feel the Healy Effect for a year or two, but Charlotte is in a much better spot than AP was.
Southern Miss – over 7.5 (+125) – 1*
USM has ten starters coming back from their incredibly young, incredibly boring offense that they had a year ago. QB Jack Abraham led the country in completion percentage, but also finished nearly dead last in yards per completion. They should be improved with so much production coming back and their entire offensive line.
The defense was the star of the show last year and I wouldn’t expect much to change with a lot of their best players coming back.
The schedule is the big hiccup here. Before it even gets to October the Golden Eagles have to play Mississippi State, Alabama, and Troy on the road.
UAB – under 7.5 (-110) – 2*
The last two years have been a miracle and Bill Clark is still a great coach, but this team ranks 130th out of 130 in returning production. It’s too hard to actually bet against them after the past couple years, but Clark should win National Coach of the Year again if they win eight games.
North Texas – over 7.5 (-140) – 1*
It’s easy to be excited about the offense as they bring back the best three-headed monster in C-USA with QB Mason Fine, RB DeAndre Torrey, and WR Rico Bussey. All of Torrey’s backups are still around and Jaelon Darden makes for a nice WR2.
The defense has heavy losses at LB and CB, though. The D improved greatly last year and kept them in a lot of road conference games last year when the offense didn’t really deliver.
Louisiana Tech – over 7.5 (-125) – 1*
The Bulldogs regular season wins the last five years: 8, 8, 8, 6, 7.
The offense should be better after a subpar season. They’ve got QB J’Mar Smith, their top two backs, and leading receiver Adrian Hardy back.
The defense is almost assuredly going to take a step back, though. They only have five starters back and they lost All-American Jaylon Ferguston, who had 17.5 sacks last year. It’s almost impossible for a program like La Tech to maintain with that type of attrition.
UTSA – over 2.5 (-185) – 1*
The offense can’t be worse. They’re the best of this trio of cellar dwellers.
UTEP – under 3 (-140) – 1*
If they lose to Houston Baptist, fold the program.
Rice – under 2.5 (-210) – 1*
I think the juice speaks for itself. They’ll be double-digit dogs in ten games.
BEST BET TO WIN C-USA
I’m not sure that the schedule sets up the best for the Panthers, but I think they have the highest floor in the conference and I’ll take that in this league full of parity.