Much like the MAC, there is a clear dichotomy between the haves and the have-nots in Conference USA. There are several teams with a clear shot to win their divisions, while others will have trouble just getting a couple of victories. Last year, C-USA went 0-6 in its bowl games and lost four of them to the Sun Belt. Marshall and UAB are the favorites, with FAU, WKU, and UTSA among the challengers. Let's take a look at the massive conference's win totals and see where there's value.
Note: Win total numbers courtesy of DraftKings.
Conference USA East
Charlotte (Over 4.5 -115...Under 4.5 -112)
Non-Conference Games: Duke, Gardner Webb, at Georgia State, at Illinois
Schedule Notes: The 49ers have a friendly start to the season with three of four at home in September. Unfortunately, that's followed up by three of four on the road in October and a more manageable November. They have to travel to WKU and Louisiana Tech while hosting FAU and Marshall.
QB: Chris Reynolds
Roster Notes: Reynolds was solid last year and should still get the job, but watch Texas A&M transfer James Foster. The run game won't be as strong as they figure out a rotation that includes Iowa transfer Shadrick Byrd. Victor Tucker is one of the best WRs in this conference. The defense churned through the transfer portal, losing Timmy Horne to Kansas State, but replacing him with players from Notre Dame and Iowa State. The linebackers are a solid group.
Prediction: Four or five wins seem about right.
Florida Atlantic (Over 7 +105...Under 7 -134)
Non-Conference Games: at Florida, Georgia Southern, Fordham, at Air Force
Schedule Notes: November starts with a home game vs. Marshall and then a road trip to Western Kentucky. Beware the game in Virginia against ODU in between as a potential banana peel. Three of the first five are at home, so we'll see if the Owls can start off fast.
QB Battle: Miami transfer N'Kosi Perry vs. Nick Tronti vs. Javion Posey
Roster Notes: The offense ranked 115th nationally last season by scoring just 18.9 points per game. The good news is that the offensive line is intact and will be blocking for Malcolm Davidson, James Charles, and USF transfer Johnny Ford, who put up nice numbers with the Bulls. More production, particularly in the big-play department, is needed from the receiving corps. FAU's defense should be pretty good, especially since the secondary has Zyon Gilbert back after flirting with the NFL.
Prediction: I agree with the money move, as I lean to the under.
FIU (Over 4.5 +120...Under 4.5 -152)
Non-Conference Games: LIU, Texas State, at Texas Tech, at Central Michigan
Schedule Notes: There's a great chance for the Panthers to start 2-0, which is important because four of their next six are on the road. Trips include going to Marshall and Southern Miss, while WKU is heading to Riccardo Silva Stadium.
QB Battle: Kaylan Wiggins vs. Max Bortenschlager vs. Haden Carlson
Roster Notes: Last year, FIU had the worst group of quarterbacks in the country, so things have to improve there. They have a decent run game with D'vonte Price and Shaun Peterson Jr. leading the way, as well as several decent WRs, but it won't matter if the team can't block or find someone to get them the ball. Defensively, it's all about a really good secondary led by Richard and Rishard Dames.
Prediction: The under is right here, but I'm not taking it at -152.
Marshall (Over 8 -125...Under 8 EVEN)
Non-Conference Games: at Navy, NC Central, East Carolina, at Appalachian State
Schedule Notes: November is the toughest month for the Herd, who host two contenders for the crown, UAB and Western Kentucky. The road is very nice in C-USA play, and outside of App State, the non-conference portion is easy.
QB: Grant Wells
Roster Notes: Wells was a lot of fun to watch last year, with 18 touchdown passes to just nine interceptions. Corey Gammage and Xavier Gaines return as his main weapons. The run game could struggle with only three starters back up front and Brenden Knox gone. The defense was a brick wall last year and will have to do without Tavante Beckett. This side of the ball also lost Darius Hodge and Derrek Pitts, but still should be pretty strong.
Prediction: Eight or nine wins, so slight lean to the over.
Middle Tennessee (Over 5 +112...Under 5 -143)
Non-Conference Games: Monmouth, at Virginia Tech, at Liberty, at Connecticut
Schedule Notes: At least the first game is at home because six of the Blue Raiders' next eight are on the road, with trips to Virginia Tech, Liberty, and WKU in the mix. MTSU has two of its final three at home against some bottom feeders.
QB: NC State transfer Bailey Hockman
Roster Notes: Asher O'Hara left to go play with his brother at FCS Sacramento State. Hockman is an intriguing option at quarterback, and coordinator Brent Dearmon will try to improve the offense after calling plays at Kansas. Seven of the top eight receivers return as well as Chaton Mobley at running back. The defense was bad in 2020, but the whole unit is back and led by Reed Blankenship and DQ Thomas.
Prediction: I like the under here, but not at this price. Shop around.
Old Dominion (Over 3.5 -139...Under 3.5 +110)
Non-Conference Games: at Wake Forest, Hampton, at Liberty, Buffalo
Schedule Notes: Not exactly an easy start to the year with four of the first six contests on the road. The Monarchs host WKU and Louisiana Tech in October while getting several winnable games in November.
QB Battle: Stone Smartt vs. Hayden Wolff vs. D.J. Mack
Roster Notes: The Monarchs were one of the few FBS teams that didn't play during the 2020 campaign. Not only that, but they have a brand new head coach in Ricky Rahne who had to somewhat navigate the year off. Transfers from West Virginia, Georgia, and Penn State should help out. We'll see what Rahne can do and how much he'll bring over from Penn State, where he was the Nittany Lions' offensive coordinator. The defense lost a ton of talent to the transfer portal and could be in for a rough season.
Prediction: The under is a solid play at that price.
WKU (Over 5.5 -134...Under 5.5 +105)
Non-Conference Games: UT Martin, at Army West Point, Indiana, at Michigan State
Schedule Notes: Getting Indiana at home is really nice for the Hilltoppers. They close with a road game at Marshall on Nov. 27 and get a lot of easy C-USA games at home.
QB: Houston Baptist transfer Bailey Zappe
Roster Notes: The Hilltoppers added HBU's QB, top three receivers, and offensive coordinator, and now their offense is legit. Their style in the FCS level produced a ton of points and a lot of fun. They weren't the only additions, with Buffalo TE Zac Lefebvre coming over as well. The run game got its own transfer portal help in Adam Cofield from North Dakota State. DeAngelo Malone is back up front to terrorize quarterbacks. WKU had six members of the secondary transfer out, while players from Michigan State and North Carolina came in.
Prediction: Over Over Over Over Over Over. WKU is my favorite bet in the whole FBS.
Conference USA West
Louisiana Tech (Over 4 -180...Under 4 +140)
Non-Conference Games: at Mississippi State, Southeastern Louisiana, SMU, at NC State
Schedule Notes: After the opener against an SEC school, the Bulldogs have four of their next six at home. They get UTSA and North Texas at home while playing at UAB in C-USA play.
QB Battle: Luke Anthony vs. Aaron Allen vs. Austin Kendall
Roster Notes: The Bulldogs tag-teamed Anthony and Allen at quarterback last season and it was fairly effective. That could be the approach again, although Anthony is still making his way back from a gruesome leg injury he suffered late last season. West Virginia transfer Austin Kendall also is in the picture. Smoke Harris, Griffin Herbert, and Isaiah Graham are a solid trio of WRs. The top two RBs are gone, but Appalachian State transfer Marcus Williams Jr. came in. On defense, 10 starters are back, although one of their losses is Milton Williams, who is now with the Philadelphia Eagles. The pass rush needs to be stronger.
Prediction: I really wanted to play the under, but I can't. Nor can I play the over at -180. Pass completely.
North Texas (Over 4 +110...Under 4 -139)
Non-Conference Games: Northwestern State, at SMU, at Missouri, Liberty
Schedule Notes: It's an odd schedule with the four non-conference games spread out over the team's first seven weeks. The Mean Green have a stretch of four road games over six weeks beginning in late September.
QB Battle: Austin Aune vs. Kason Martin vs. North Carolina transfer Jace Ruder
Roster Notes: Ruder is an intriguing prospect, although Aune is the most familiar with the system — plus he had 13 touchdowns to four interceptions last season. Mike Bloesch takes over as the primary play-caller on offense after sharing the duties last season and he'll also continue to coach the offensive line. The weapons are there to make things work depending on how good the signal-caller is. Phil Bennett is now the coordinator on defense, and he's got a bunch of starters back. Problem was that they were brutal last year.
Prediction: Four wins are about right.
Rice (Over 5.5 -143...Under 5.5 +112)
Non-Conference Games: at Arkansas, Houston, at Texas, Texas Southern
Schedule Notes: The Owls don't ease into the season, with three very tough games out of the gate. November features home tilts with WKU and Louisiana Tech to go along with two winnable road trips.
QB Battle: Wiley Green vs. Nebraska transfer Luke McCaffrey
Roster Notes: The offense started out hot in 2020 but finished with a whimper, managing just 53 points in their last three contests. Austin Trammell is gone from the wide receiver position, but Bradley Rozner is back after opting out last season. The running backs need to be better after accounting for zero rushing touchdowns. Rice's defense lost its leading tackler, who transferred to Missouri. The Owls were very good against the run but struggled at times against the pass.
Prediction: Five or six wins seem to be where I land, so no play.
Southern Miss (Over 5.5 -125...Under 5.5 EVEN)
Non-Conference Games: at South Alabama, Grambling, Troy, at Alabama
Schedule Notes: There's a decent chance the Golden Eagles start out 3-1 before attacking the conference portion of their schedule. They get UAB and North Texas at home while having to play at UTSA and Louisiana Tech.
QB Battle: Trey Lowe III vs. Louisville transfer Tee Webb
Roster Notes: Lowe was one of three QBs to play for Southern Miss last year. The Golden Eagles have their top two RBs back in Frank Gore Jr. and Darius Maberry. The WR corps should be pretty solid as well, although Tim Jones is gone. Defensively, plenty of starting experience returns with the only losses coming in the secondary. It is tough to see Jacques Turner leave as he transferred to Louisville.
Prediction: The over is a decent lean here.
UAB (Over 7.5 -162...Under 7.5 +126)
Non-Conference Games: Jacksonville State (Montgomery, Alabama), at Georgia, at Tulane, Liberty
Schedule Notes: The Blazers do not play their first true home game until Oct. 2 when Liberty comes to town. That contest starts a stretch of four of five at home before closing with two of their final three on the road.
QB: Tyler Johnston III
Roster Notes: The offensive line is almost back intact, and that's big for the ground game that won't have Spencer Brown. Johnston and Bryson Lucero took turns last year at quarterback and will try to survive without wideouts Austin Watkins and Myron Mitchell. The defense loses edge rusher Jordan Smith but returns its top two tacklers, Kristopher Moll and Noah Wilder. The secondary is stout.
Prediction: The over is right, but not at that price.
UTEP (Over 3 +125...Under 3 -162)
Non-Conference Games: at New Mexico State, Bethune-Cookman, at Boise State, New Mexico
Schedule Notes: Three of the first five games are at home, and they are quite winnable. The Miners also get Louisiana Tech and UTSA at home and UAB on the road.
QB: Gavin Hardison
Roster Notes: The Miners were able to run it well last year despite mediocre QB play. Deion Hankins had nine touchdowns on the ground with 2018 leading rusher Quardraiz Wadley back as well. Jacob Cowing and Justin Garrett form a solid 1-2 punch at wide receiver. The defense was a mixed bag last season; it gave up 40 points or more three times but also 21 or fewer four times. Six starters are back.
Prediction: Small lean to the over here as I think they can get a few wins early.
UTSA (Over 8 +100...Under 8 -125)
Non-Conference Games: at Illinois, Lamar, at Memphis, UNLV
Schedule Notes: Opening with Illinois is interesting considering the Illini's recent struggles and new coaching staff. October features road trips to WKU and Louisiana Tech. The team closes out with two of their final three at home.
QB: Frank Harris
Roster Notes: Sincere McCormick is back after accounting for nearly 1,500 yards on the ground. He's got the OL intact and Harris under center after providing solid play in 2020. The team needs more from its WRs, led by Zakhari Franklin and Joshua Cephus. Safeties Rashad Wisdom and Antonio Parks headline a defense that returns every starter. There's a lot of talent up and down the D.
Prediction: Eight wins are about right.