Conference USA Football Preview: Hello 49ers


Conference USA is the new home of the Charlotte 49ers in football. The league has thirteen members with the return of UAB coming in 2017 to make the league an even fourteen. Its membership is an eclectic group of teams who used to claim other addresses. Western Kentucky, Middle Tennessee, North Texas, FIU, and Florida Atlantic were once Sun Belt teams. UTSA and Louisiana Tech were once WAC teams before the WAC imploded. Old Dominion and Charlotte were promoted from the ranks of FCS recently.

More from North Carolina Sports

The core of the conference still remains with Marshall, Southern Miss, and Rice. Southern Miss is in year two of a rebuilding project. Rice has been a bowl team in recent years, but the standard of Conference USA continues to be the Thundering Herd from Huntington, WV. Despite the loss of Rakeem Cato, the Thundering Herd still rely on the recruiting of Coach Doc Holliday to provide the power on the field. The Herd are hoping running back Devon Johnson can continue last year’s production when he ran for 1700 yards.

With Marshall looking to replace its quarterback, best receiver, and linebacker, observers are looking away from the Thundering Herd in picking the potential East Division champion. The Conference USA media poll liked Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers are in year three of a process that started with Bobby Petrino’s only year as the head coach. Jeff Brohm, his replacement, has continued to build with that system. Fourteen returning starters are the reason for optimism including quarterback Brandon Doughty and running back Leon Allen. A Petrino style offense looks to score a lot of points.

More from Old North Banter

In the West, Rice and Louisiana Tech should duel for the top spot in the division. Advantage goes to Tech where Skip Holtz has finally found some the winning magic that he had at East Carolina. There are weapons at receiver and running back, but the man who will take the snap is in question. Look of Florida transfer Jeff Driskel to emerge with the job.

The Owls will counter with a quarterback, Driphus Jackson, but a lack of receivers. They will attempt to make up for that on the ground as their five best runners return to action.

The 49ers will find some tough growing in their first year, but is worth noting that the competition is not prohibitive. The FAUs and FIUs can be had if the 49ers play together and don’t turn the ball over. That optimism is not going to override my better judgment though and Charlotte will still be looking up at the rest of the division to begin.

Live Feed

Best Expert College Football Bets for Friday's Conference Championship Games (Trust Oregon in PAC-12 Title Game)
Best Expert College Football Bets for Friday's Conference Championship Games (Trust Oregon in PAC-12 Title Game) /


  • Liberty Football: 3 bold predictions for vs. New Mexico State in C-USA titleSaturday Blitz
  • New Mexico State vs. Liberty Prediction, Odds, Trends and Key Players for Conference USA ChampionshipBetsided
  • Former NJCAA National Coach of the Year Greg Heiar leads MAC Cardinals to a perfect startBusting Brackets
  • College Basketball: Week 2 mid-major power rankings for 2023-24Go Joe Bruin
  • New Mexico State vs. Louisiana Tech Prediction, Odds, Trends and Key Players for College Football Week 9Betsided
  • Conference USA Predicted Finish:

    East Division
    1. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
    2. Marshall Thundering Herd
    3. Middle Tennessee State Mustangs
    4. Florida Atlantic Owls
    5. Florida International Panthers
    6. Old Dominion Monarchs
    7. Charlotte 49ers

    West Division
    1. Louisiana Tech Bulldogs
    2. Rice Owls
    3. Southern Miss Golden Eagles
    4. North Texas Mean Green
    5. UTEP Miners
    6. UTSA Roadrunners

    Championship – Western Kentucky OVER Louisiana Tech

    Next: Charlotte 49ers Season Preview