clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

What Would It Take for Your Favorite Squad to Win CUSA in 2015?

In the eternally hopeful summer every team has a miracle shot at a Conference USA championship. Yes, even you Charlotte! Let's take a look at what it would take for each program to step above the competition in 2015.

Nick Mullens will look to lead Southern Miss to a successful 2015 season but he'll need to hold off a P5 transfer to keep his job
Nick Mullens will look to lead Southern Miss to a successful 2015 season but he'll need to hold off a P5 transfer to keep his job
Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Charlotte - Well, a lot, obviously. The biggest impediment for Charlotte is a young defense that couldn't get FCS offenses off the field last season. It's scary to imagine what Marshall's offense could do to a defense that gave up 63 points to The Citadel a year ago.

FIU - While FIU is probably still a year off from competing for a CUSA championship, they do have solid, young talent on the roster. A tough decision at quarterback may prove to be a moot point due to an offensive line that is losing 69 starts. If FIU's young and large OL gels together early and a clear winner emerges from this fall's quarterback battle the Panthers could shock a top-heavy CUSA East.

FAU - The Owls will need to turn recruiting wins into on-field results in order to have a fair shake at the CUSA championship. Jaquez Johnson might be the best quarterback in the conference not named Brandon Doughty but the Owls desperately need their young talent to develop rapidly.

Louisiana Tech - This one's easy-- Jeff Driskel needs to relearn how to throw the football. Louisiana Tech will run out a graduate transfer for the second consecutive year, this time pulling the former maestro of Florida's dumpster fire offense under Will Muschamp. There's no way to spin this-- Driskel had a miserable time in Gainesville, at one point losing his starting spot to a freshman. Will a step down in competition help Driskel to finally fulfill some of the immense hype surrounding his recruiting out of high school? Time will tell, but if Driskell is able to prevent the turnovers he was prone to at Florida then Louisiana Tech is in great position to beat up on CUSA this year.

Marshall - By far Conference USA's most talented roster, Marshall should be just fine despite losing all-star quarterback Rakeem Cato. Running-back-turned-bowling-ball Devon Johnson will keep Marshall's offense ticking. The defense should still be solid as it was last year. What can turn this team from a contender to a champion is a strong step up from the defensive line. Marshall is losing their top three tacklers on the line (Jame Rouse, Arnold Blackmon, and Ra'Shawde Myers) and 65% of their sack production. The next men up are large and talented but these guys will need to translate that potential into on-field success.

MTSU - The Blue Raiders are sneaky good on paper. Lots of familiar names return for MTSU-- T.T. Barber, Jordan Parker, and Austin Grammer to name a few. MTSU doesn't have any glaring weaknesses, they'll just need luck on their side. WKU or Marshall dropping a conference game early will provide MTSU a chance to step into the picture in the East.

UNT - DaMarcus Smith is going to need to become a household name if UNT is to win CUSA this season. UNT's offense was depressingly inefficient last season. If Smith comes up and wins the QB job he'll likely need to use his legs often due to a young and inexperienced offensive line filling in spots left by all-conference graduates. Smith wasn't able to join the Mean Green for sprint football so he might be prone to a slow start.

ODU - While ODU lost many of the best players from their 2014 team, they seem in a great spot to replace lost talent. ODU's success will hinge on replacing three of their top four tacklers on the defensive line. If ODU can find a pass rush to cause turnovers then their explosive offense could have even more scoring opportunities.

Rice - The Owls will need a major rehaul of their defensive line in order to regain control of CUSA West this season. Rice lost four fantastic defensive linemen in Brian Nordstrom, Zach Pratt, Dylan Klare and Christian Covington. Led by the tough and dependable Driphus Jackson, Rice should be just fine on offense despite losing some talent out wide. Can the Owls get opposing offenses off the field?

USM - I like Nick Mullens, USM's dependable yet limited junior quarterback, but TCU transfer Tyler Matthews might be the wind under the Golden Eagles' wings in 2015. If Matthews can find a way to generate big plays for USM (ranked #121 in explosiveness last year) they could accelerate their long-term rebuild and play spoiler in CUSA West.

UTEP - While UTEP returns 2013 spot-starter Mack Leftwich, I think true freshman Kavika Johnson could take this team to the next level. With a strong arm and playmaking ability, Johnson could force opposing defenses to keep men out of the box, freeing up running lanes for UTEP's monster back Aaron Jones. If the Miners' tough-nosed defense is matched with an explosive offense... watch out.

UTSA - A change in offensive philosophy could help a young UTSA squad rebuild overnight. The Roadrunners are mostly built to sustain their strong 2014 defense but a heated quarterback battle will need to produce a quick-scoring offense that puts the ball in the hands of skilled playmakers such as Kenny Bias and David Morgan.

WKU - The proverbial favorite to win Conference USA this season, the Hilltoppers still have reason to be concerned heading into the 2015 season. WKU lost four games in which they scored 34 points or more last season. Brandon Doughty and the rest of his offense are absolutely stacked. Just ridiculously loaded. But... WKU had one of the least efficient defense in the country last season (#121 in efficiency). Defenses that bad simply don't provide the consistency needed to win championships. Thankfully for WKU almost all of their defenders of note return in 2015 ready to build upon last season's efforts.