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2021 C-USA predictions


East

West

Western Kentucky: 8-4 (7-1)

UTSA: 10-3 (7-1)

Florida Atlantic: 8-4 (6-2)

UAB: 8-4 (7-1)

Marshall: 6-6 (5-3)

Louisiana Tech: 7-5 (6-2)

Charlotte: 5-7 (4-4)

Rice: 4-8 (3-5)

Middle Tennessee: 5-7 (3-5)

Southern Mississippi 4-8 (3-5)

Florida International: 2-10 (1-7)

UNT: 4-8 (3-5)

Old Dominion: 1-11 (0-8)

UTEP: 4-8 (1-7)




Conference Champion: UTSA


CUSA Run-through

The things that probably caught your eye were Western Kentucky on top of the East, Marshall with the big regression, and UTSA with the breakthrough. UTSA, another super senior team (but lacking the Cinderella capability of the others I mentioned earlier in the preview) has one of the most manageable schedules in CUSA. The non-conference games against Illinois and Memphis, on the road, will be difficult, but this Roadrunner team kept it close with the majority of their opponents last season, including teams like BYU (more on the Cougars and the rest of the Independents in a bit) and UAB.

And speaking of the Blazers, a West division lock the last few seasons, they could certainly find themselves on top of the West again, but UAB is a much stronger home team than they are a road team. Having road games against Georgia, Tulane and UTSA could add up for them. UAB gets a key non-conference matchup at home against Liberty, but that will be hard - even at home.

The most underrated QB transfer this offseason was not Charlie Brewer, McKenzie Milton, or even Anthony Russo - it was Bailey Zappe. The former Houston Baptist QB, and now Hilltoppers QB, lit up every defense he played last season, including a power five opponent (on the road no less). With Zappe came his top three receivers from HBU, and these players, that had so much success last year against everyone they played, will surely take advantage of a down CUSA East division with playing FAU, who has questionable QB play, at home.

Marshall was a team in 2020 that had a great defense (and will again) but a QB and offense that only performed well against the weaker defenses they faced. And now entering the 2021 season, the Thundering Herd will have a new coaching staff, as well as a handful of position questions due to a few of their better players exiting by way of the transfer portal. While I still believe the Herd gets to a bowl game, it is hard to imagine the same success, especially with a tricky non-conference slate. (We saw how CUSA performed in the non-conference last year.)

And when you talk about teams who are better than their record indicates, look no further than the Mean Green. A decent roster, but with one of the most difficult schedules in the group of five, UNT would be fortunate to get five wins. And watch for UTEP to have a winning record after the second weekend in October. But then the Miner’s schedule gets more difficult.

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