Conference USA has a bit of momentum after a 4-1 postseason last year. Last year C-USA's East Division featured Marshall, which was one game away from a perfect season. Key personnel losses will make a second run at perfection a tough task for the 2015 version of the Thundering Herd. In fact, the turnover throughout the conference should result in some good competition and possibly a new team atop the C-USA mountain.
There are seven teams in Conference USA's East Division. This article will apply the win totals from one online sportsbook and discuss if there is any value in these numbers. A selection is made based on the team's schedule, in which the games are broken down into three categories - easy wins, toss-ups and certain losses. Most conference games are in the toss-up category unless there is a clear difference in talent.
Note: Over/under odds courtesy of 5Dimes Sportsbook
Conference USA East Division
(Over 2.5 wins -130...Under 2.5 wins -110)
Record Last Year: 5-6
Returning Starters: 13 (7 on offense, 6 on defense)
Offense: The 49ers will be brand new to everyone in the conference as they make the jump from FCS to FBS. Things start with Kalif Phillips, who rushed for almost 1,500 yards. Matt Johnson is back under center after tearing his MCL last year. He's got his top two wideouts back and an offensive line with three returnees as well.
Defense: This is a unit that allowed over 30 points per game against FCS competition. Larry Ogunjobi leads the way with five sacks. Safety Branden Dozier was the team's leading tackler last year with 86 and he's back as well.
Schedule: This is all brand new for the 49ers, who play Georgia State, Presbyterian, Temple and Kentucky out of conference. They play three of four at home in October, but flip it around and have three of four on the road in November.
Selection: Charlotte will be in for a long season. They have never beaten any FBS-level teams. I just don't have a feel on this team like we did when Texas-San Antonio made the same jump. That was a veteran team with Larry Coker. This is a squad led by Brad Lambert. I'd stay away as the low win total number could be achieved.
(Over 5 wins -130...Under 5 wins -110)
Record Last Year: 3-9, 2-6
Returning Starters: 11 (6 on offense, 5 on defense)
Offense: Jacquez Johnson threw for over 2,000 yards on offense, but is without leading receiver Lucky Whitehead. Johnson has Jenson Stoshak and Kalib Woods on the outside and both are capable, but won't match up to Whitehead's production most likely. The left side of the offensive line is strong and should open holes for Buddy Howell and Jay Warren.
Defense: This was a horrible defense last year that gave up over 30 points in eight straight contests to close things out. This was with cornerback D'Joun Smith who was underrated. He's gone now as well as Andrae Kirk and Damian Parms. This unit will be just as leaky as it was last year.
Schedule: A road game at Tulsa starts things off for FAU with home games against Miami and Buffalo to follow. The fourth non-conference game is in November and it's at Florida as part of a rough finishing stretch. Marshall and Rice both come to Boca Raton in October.
Selection: Small lean to the over, but it's a suggestion that lacks confidence. FAU figures to pick up at least one win in September before a home-friendly October. Johnson is capable of winning a game or two, but this defense is capable of losing just as many, if not more. The Owls were one of my favorites last year as an underdog. They'll be a team that's going to play in a lot of overs.
(Over 6 wins +155...Under 6 wins -195)
Record Last Year: 4-8, 3-5
Returning Starters: 14 (6 on offense, 8 on defense)
Offense: The Panthers bring back Alex McGough under center and he'll be relying on a solid run game. Anthon Samuel comes over from Bowling Green and he makes a nice combo with Alex Gardner. McGough also gets his security blanket back in tight end Jonnu Smith, who caught 61 passes last year.
Defense: The Panthers can get to the quarterback with Michael Wakefield and Denzell Perine, who combined for almost 15 sacks last year. This unit brings back the majority of its linebackers and secondary so the Panthers should be pretty fierce.
Schedule: Four of the first five are on the road including contests at UCF, Indiana and Louisiana Tech. The Panthers do get a breather with NC Central at home in September. The final non-conference game is at UMass on Oct. 3. This is not a friendly slate at all.
Selection: The under is the play here, but not at that price. It's hard to make any case for this team winning seven games especially considering the rough start. UMass is a winnable game, but I really like the Minutemen. If you can honestly make a case for the over, then go for it, because you won't get a better price.
(Over 10 wins -105...Under 10 wins -135)
Record Last Year: 13-1, 7-1
Returning Starters: 11 (6 on offense, 5 on defense)
Offense: Rakeem Cato is gone and in steps transfer Michael Birdsong who was solid for James Madison. Birdsong will have Devon Johnson in the backfield and Davonte Allen as well as Deon-Tay McManus on the outside. The offensive line brings back an experienced crew for the most part. There will be a bit of a step down, but maybe not as much as we think.
Defense: There's a lot gone from last year's top-20 unit. The front seven has only two returnees and neither were that good at rushing the passer. There are several seniors so you have to hope that their experience pays off.
Schedule: A home game against Purdue kicks things off with games against Ohio, Norfolk State and Kent State to follow in September. The MAC opponents are on the road making them slightly tougher. It's a manageable conference slate as well with a road game at Western Kentucky closing things out. Last year the two played a 67-66 game won by the Hilltoppers.
Selection: I like the under for the Thundering Herd. Road games at MTSU, Kent State and Western Kentucky should present the best chances for a loss. They'll roll through the rest of the schedule and make another bowl appearance.
(Over 7 wins -105...Under 7 wins -135)
Record Last Year: 6-6, 5-3
Returning Starters: 13 (6 on offense, 7 on defense)
Offense: Austin Grammer is under center and he had 23 touchdowns last season. This group scored less than 20 points just twice last year. The Blue Raiders will need to ride a real good run game with Shane Tucker, Jordan Parker and Jeremiah Bryson.
Defense: The numbers were ugly for the MTSU defense last year. It should be a lot better as a veteran unit led by T.T. Barber and Kevin Byard. There could be as many as eight seniors getting the start for Rick Stockstill's defense.
Schedule: The Blue Raiders travel to Alabama on Sept. 12. They also get Jackson State, Illinois and Vanderbilt early on in the season. Ironically, they alternate home and road games all year long.
Selection: I lean to the over and would like it more at plus money. MTSU has a great home schedule and should pick up wins at Florida Atlantic and UTSA. The Blue Raiders will be better than last year. Stockstill is a good coach and have these guys pointed in a good direction.
(Over 4.5 wins -145...Under 4.5 wins +105)
Record Last Year: 6-6, 4-4
Returning Starters: 11 (7 on offense, 4 on defense)
Offense: Taylor Heinicke is gone and that's the biggest hole that needs to be filled of almost any team in this conference. He meant the world to the Monarchs and now the keys are being handed over to Shuler Bentley. Ray Lawry rushed for 16 touchdowns last year and will be counted on again this year. Zach Pascal and David Washington return at receiver, but they will have to fill the hole left by Antonio Vaughan.
Defense: This was honestly one of the worst defenses in FBS. ODU allowed 56 points to Marshall, 66 to Western Kentucky and 46 to NC State. Even worse is that this side of the ball only has four returnees. There will be immense growing pains, but it's not as if they didn't have enough last year.
Schedule: The highlight of the year will be Sept. 19 when NC State comes to Norfolk. Before then ODU plays at Eastern Michigan followed by a home game with Norfolk State. Appalachian State wraps up the September three-game home stretch. Games against Marshall and Western Kentucky could get ugly.
Selection: Slight lean to the over although that means Bentley takes the job and runs with it. ODU has winnable conference games against Charlotte and Florida Atlantic at home. One can make the case for the under, but it's not one of my favorites.
(Over 7.5 wins -130...Under 7.5 wins -110)
Record Last Year: 8-5, 4-4
Returning Starters: 14 (7 on offense, 7 on defense)
Offense: One of the most fun offenses in the country to watch brings back a ton of pieces. Brandon Doughty threw for almost 5,000 yards and 49 touchdowns last year. He'll be joined once again in the backfield by Leon Allen, who added 13 touchdowns of his own. Jared Dangerfield and Taywan Taylor are two more weapons on the outside. This team scored over 50 points four times last year.
Defense: This side of the ball was 121st in terms of scoring defense, allowing 39.9 points per game last year. WKU brings back a lot, including Nick Holt and his 111 tackles. Cornerback Wonderful Terry, one of the best names in the conference, is back as well. He had two interception returns for touchdowns in 2014.
Schedule: The Hilltoppers play at Vanderbilt, LSU and Indiana to go along with a home contest against Miami (Ohio). WKU plays four road games in October with some pretty tough opponents.
Selection: I really like the over for WKU. This offense will roll and the defense will get better. The schedule is real tough and if you lean to the over like I do then you think this team has the pieces to win on the road. Doughty is a lot of fun and on a bigger program, he'd be in the Heisman race.
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Josephs prefers non-Power 5 college football and may be the only one wagering on the Sun Belt. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.