Conference USA's West Division isn't as talented as its East brethren, which means this is a wide-open race. Louisiana Tech and Rice figure to lead the way with Southern Miss and UTEP as potential wild cards.
There are six teams in Conference USA's West 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 West Division
Louisiana Tech Bulldogs
(Over 8 wins -115...Under 8 wins -125)
Record Last Year: 9-5, 7-1
Returning Starters: 13 (7 on offense, 6 on defense)
Offense: Everything on this side of the ball starts with Kenneth Dixon carrying the football. Last year he had 28 touchdowns with 22 of them coming on the ground. Florida graduate transfer Jeff Driskel figures to win the starting quarterback job and if he does, he'll have three returning wide receivers to throw to. The front line also is strong so the offense could be just as productive as last year's (37.4 ppg).
Defense: The Bulldogs were 17th in the country against the run, holding opponents to just 118.2 ypg. Xavier Woods and Kentrell Brice are both playmakers in the secondary while the front line returns several starters. The potential problems occur at linebacker where reshuffling will occur.
Schedule: Louisiana Tech has a home game against Southern before it plays five of the next eight on the road. The Bulldogs travel to Kansas State and Mississippi State out of conference. The final non C-USA game is at home against the Sun Belt's UL Lafayette.
Selection: Small lean to the under for Louisiana Tech, who may be a bit road weary to start the year out. The non-conference slate should give the Bulldogs two wins, but they have some swing games later on in November. Coordinator Manny Diaz's departure will hurt this defense.
(Over 5 wins -120...Under 5 wins -120)
Record Last Year: 4-8, 2-6
Returning Starters: 9 (4 on offense, 5 on defense)
Offense: This was one of the worst passing attacks in the country last year. North Texas brings back Andrew McNulty under center, but he threw seven interceptions compared to just six touchdowns in six games. He's got a few weapons in seniors Marcus Smith and Carlos Harris. The Problem is that the offensive line is going to be young. This unit could struggle.
Defense: Chad Polk leads the returnees with 5.5 sacks. He has help in Austin Orr and Sir Calvin Wallace up front. The rest of the defense is going to be pretty young and may struggle to start the season out.
Schedule: Yikes. The Mean Green play at SMU, Iowa and Tennessee out of conference. They do have one home game against Portland State. Three of the first four and three of the last four contests are all on the road.
Selection: Big-time lean to the under for the Mean Green. The youth on this team will struggle big time with the massive road stretches. The offense doesn't have too many pieces and the defense is in rebuilding mode. It could be a long year in Denton.
(Over 7.5 wins -115...Under 7.5 wins -125)
Record Last Year: 8-5, 5-3
Returning Starters: 7 (5 on offense, 2 on defense)
Offense: If Driphus Jackson can get healthy, then this unit should be able to produce some points. Jackson had 24 touchdowns for the Owls last year and he'll have Jowan Davis and Darik Dillard back to keep defenses honest on the ground. The receiving corps needs some work after losing Jordan Taylor.
Defense: Rice returns just two starters from last year's defense. The front line lost two big pieces and will have to rely on some younger players. Alex Lyons led the team in tackles last year and will be counted on once again this season.
Schedule: Wagner kicks things off in before three straight road games including tilts at Baylor and Texas. The last non-conference game is Army in October when the Owls play three of four at home.
Selection: Slight lean to the under. While the offense should click early, the defensive issues could hold Rice back. Road games against Big 12 opponents as well as Florida Atlantic will prove problematic. I'm not as optimistic as Vegas on this team.
(Over 4.5 wins +115...Under 4.5 wins -155)
Record Last Year: 3-9, 1-7
Returning Starters: 10 (7 on offense, 3 on defense)
Offense: Another long year could be coming for this unit. Nick Mullens and Tyler Matthews are potential signal-callers and they'll have a veteran offensive line to work with. Running back Ito Smith is just 5-9 and led the team with 536 rushing yards last year. Southern Miss will need more from the ground game this season if it hopes to move the ball with any success.
Defense: The Golden Eagles ranked 109th in the country last year at 35.4 points per game allowed. This year's unit may be just as rough with just three returning starters. Picasso Nelson hopes to paint a masterpiece from the secondary.
Schedule: Southern Miss welcomes Mississippi State to Hattiesburg to open up the year. After that probable loss the Golden Eagles host Austin Peay before road games at Texas State and Nebraska. They have tough road games at Marshall, Rice and Louisiana Tech in conference.
Selection: The money move towards the under is the correct side. This is another team that will struggle to slow anyone down defensively. Much like last year, the offense will be a problem and Todd Monken's seat will get even hotter.
(Over 6 wins -120...Under 6 wins -120)
Record Last Year: 7-6, 5-3
Returning Starters: 11 (6 on offense, 5 on defense)
Offense: Quarterback Jameill Showers is gone after a solid 2014 campaign. Mack Leftwich will be under center and will be glad to have running back Aaron Jones to hand off to. The junior accounted for over 1,500 yards last year and should be able to find holes behind one of the best offensive lines in the conference.
Defense: The Miners run a solid 4-2-5 defense and were one of the best against the pass last year, holding opponents to under 200 yards passing per game. This is an underrated group that could get pressure with Nick Usher and Roy Robertson-Harris up front.
Schedule: Three straight on the road start things off for the Miners. Included in that stretch are games at Arkansas and Texas Tech. The other two non-conference games are Incarnate Word and New Mexico State. Starting in October, UTEP alternates home and road games in conference.
Selection: The under is the play here but it's close. UTEP could go 0-3 before its first home game on Sept. 26. Getting FAU, Rice and Louisiana Tech at home will help, although each team presents their own challenges.
(Over 2.5 wins -170...Under 2.5 wins +130)
Record Last Year: 4-8, 3-5
Returning Starters: 3 (0 on offense, 3 on defense)
Offense: Last year's veteran team has turned into a ton of youth this year. UTSA struggled down the stretch, losing four of its last six and mustering just 80 points in those games. It's rare to find a unit on either side of the ball that returns no one from last year. Such are the perils of being a relatively new program.
Defense: The defense returns just three starters. Drew Douglas leads the way after making 72 tackles last year. The Roadrunners held four opponents to 20 points or less last year.
Schedule: Larry Coker's bunch will be tested with road games at Arizona and Oklahoma State to go with home contests against Kansas State and Colorado State. Three of four tilts in October are on the road before three of four home games in November.
Selection: I tried real hard to take the under. The lack of returnees is highly concerning, plus the real rough start in September. Normally I'd have no problems with the under, but Coker's presence may be a help. He's 23-23 in four years at the school. I wouldn't be mad if you took the under especially at the value 5Dimes is offering.
— 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.