Here we go! Today we are diving into the Fun Belt, one of the best conferences to bet in all of college football, as well as Conference USA. For all of these previews, I am going to give one or two paragraphs on my overall thoughts (P5 might be longer) then hit a few rapid-fire questions with all of my bets for that conference.
Catch up on the CFB Preview Series here:
Part One: Heisman Preview
Part Two: Overall CFB Landscape
The Fun Belt is back. There was finally a bit of a shake-up with Billy Napier moving on from Louisiana to the big job at Florida. However, the landscape looks mostly the same with Laffy still the favorite in the west and Coastal, App State, and Marshall contending for the East. It should be another great year for this conference that continues to trend up.
Win Total Over
South Alabama o5.5 wins (-125)- Kane Wommack is heading into Year Two as HC here and I think they can make another jump after winning 5 games last year. The Jags return 7 starters on defense from a unit that was 6th in the nation in points allowed per quality possession. They also return 7 guys on offense including 4/5 on the OL. They also have a stud on both sides of the ball with Jalen Wayne at WR and Darrell Luter Jr. at CB. This team has two very winnable non-con games to start the year and then should be able to pick up 4 wins comfortably in conference play.
Win Total Under
Coastal Carolina u8 wins (-115)- America (except me) has fallen in love with this Coastal team the last couple of years. The mullets, the teal turf, the cocaine problem across campus- there is a lot to like about this team. However, this year they are due for a major step back. They only return 6 total starters, including only 2 on defense. Despite Grayson McCall returning, I think the rest of this team will really struggle especially early on in the season (HINT: bet Army Week One).
Arkansas State u5 wins (-125)- Year One for Butch Jone was a rough 4-8 campaign and I can’t see them topping that this year. Real CFB fans will remember Florida State legend James Blackman who is somehow still playing college football and yes, he is the Red Wolves’ QB this season. Those that remember him at FSU probably remember that he doesn’t know how to play football. This team only returns four starters from a defense that was already in rough shape.
To Win the Conference
Marshall +550- MARSHALL, MARSHALL, MARSHALL! I’ve already talked about how down I am on Coastal which means I think Marshall will be the main challenger to App State in the East. It’s year number two for Charles Huff as HC of the Herd but the team’s first year in the Belt after moving from C-USA. 4 of their 5 losses last season came by one score and I think that was some growing pains of a rookie HC.
Marshall RB Rasheen Ali is a monster and seems poised to have an even bigger sophomore season. Part of the reason Marshall is undervalued is that their Strength of Schedule, by opponent win percentage from last season, is the 12th toughest in CFB. However, based on Phil Steele’s SoS calculations Marshall actually has the most overrated schedule in all of college football as most of their opponents are due for regression.
Southern Miss 40/1- This is a dart for sure. I did want to take a shot on one team out of the West in case the Ragin’ Cajuns really blunder without Billy Napier. If that is the case, that opens up a division that has been dominated by LA-Laffy over the past few years. Troy and Southern Miss are the only teams I would back to pull it off if the Cajuns slip up and the odds gap between Troy and Southern Miss is worth taking the shot on the Golden Eagles. Frank Gore vs. everybody.
Grayson McCall 100/1- The only real Heisman contender in the Belt is the Chants’ QB. However, as I have laid out I am down on this team overall and McCall should find it harder with so many new weapons. This is not worth any kind of sprinkle.
This is a transitional year for C-USA. They lost Marshall to the Fun Belt, last year’s fan favorite Bailey Zappe left for the NFL, and the legendary Bill Clark has sadly retired from UAB due to health issues. All of a sudden, two former bottom-feeders in UTSA and UTEP are in the top-3 teams in the conference behind only a Bill Clark-less UAB. This will also be the first year the conference has a Big 12-style Championship Game with the two top teams overall making it instead of division winners.
Win Total Over
Charlotte o4.5 wins (-130)– Will Healy took over this relatively new football program in 2019 and had a magical season that involved winning 5 games in a row, inventing “Club Lit” after wins, and making the school’s first-ever bowl game. They came up just short of a bowl with 5 wins last year and I think they will at least match that this year and could achieve a bowl with an upset somewhere. The offense won’t be the issue for the 49ers who return 8 starters there including QB Chris Reynolds. Hopefully, the hire of Greg Brown at DC who has worked at big programs in the past makes the difference for the defense.
Win Total Under
MTSU u5.5 wins (-120)- This win total makes no sense to me. This team returns only two starters on offense, changed OCs, and their QB is coming off an ACL injury. I see five wins as the absolute ceiling here and think four is more likely. This may perfectly correlate with my win total over because if Charlotte can beat MTSU that could be the swing game that decides both win totals.
To Win the Conference
UTEP 23/1- UTEP and UTSA have both risen out of the mud to become contenders in this conference. While UTSA is a little more highly favored, I think they are much closer than the odds reflect giving this number a lot of value. It very well could come down to their head-to-head matchup in the final week of the season to see who will take on UAB in the championship game. If that is the case, you could also hedge your UTEP 23/1 number there.
This team returns 8 starters on defense and a stud QB on the rise in Gavin Hardison. Last year their biggest weakness was on special teams, but they filled those holes and now enter this season with their kicker, punter, and kick-returner all on one of the three preseason all-C-USA teams.
No one. (sorry DeWayne McBride)
That’s it for the first two conferences! Look out for the MAC + Mountain West preview tomorrow and catch up on the old previews linked at the top if you haven’t read them already. We get closer and closer every day, people!