Cyrus: Buy. Charlotte suffered through some growing pains last year but I still like the potential the 49ers have to offer. Nice city surrounded by a fertile recruiting area. They remind me a lot of FAU. I still see a tough season in the upcoming year but I like their future.
Fletcher: Buy. There's no where for the 49ers to go but up, right? They'll be better in the coming year - and will continue to progress incrementally - but "better" for the time being for UNCC will be things like not losing to MTSU 73-14. Cyrus says the 9ers remind him of FAU, and they remind me a little bit of WKU. It took a few years to get the Hilltoppers there, and it'll be the same for Charlotte.
Jared: Buy. Charlotte is probably still going to be terrible for another two years but they have a lot of selling points as a program. As Cyrus pointed out, they're located in a great city without any other DI competition. Surrounded by fertile recruiting grounds, someone is going to have a lot of success there in the future.
Cyrus: Push. They still have an awful athletic director and low attendance numbers but they play in the best location in C-USA. That alone will always give them the benefit of the doubt. Still don't know what to make of Ron Turner but the talent he's acquired makes me believe FIU can start a streak in bowl game appearances in the near future.
Fletcher: Buy. The Panthers return key offensive pieces and will be four years in the Ron Turner era. There will still be some growing pains, and while I don't necessarily expect FIU to compete for a title, they'll prove to be improved and, at the very least, fun to watch.
Jared: Sell. I still haven't gotten over FIU running Mario Cristobal out of town. I have no faith in the leadership of the program although I'm completely willing to buy FIU after a shake up in their administration.
Cyrus: Buy. Best stadium in South Florida. A school that's prioritizing football. A coach that can recruit with the best of 'em. FAU now has the talent to compete. Its only a matter of time before FAU is competing for conference championships.
Fletcher: Buy. FAU might be the biggest surprise in C-USA East this year. 2015 was riddled with disappointment (outside of nearly beating Florida, that was cool), but they're the types of disappointments that can be fixed on the field right away. The Owls will make some noise this year.
Jared: Buy. I'm a big, big believer in FAU's potential and I think they're a key piece in what could be a Conference USA resurgence. The campus and facilities are top notch, their student base is starting to buy in to the program, and the Owls have had a good amount of success on the recruiting trail. Once FAU finds a great quarterback they're going to make some noise.
Marshall Thundering Herd
Cyrus: Buy. Marshall has the best tradition in C-USA and like it or not they are the flagship school for the conference. Having good facilities also helps. Doc Holliday continues to bring in the best class year after year and in most cases Marshall will be near the top in C-USA standings whether he's the head coach or its someone else.
Fletcher: Buy. The Herd came off a championship season losing a program quarterback in Rakeem Cato, and still were able to win 10 games and do so with relative ease. The Herd have themselves a quarterback in Chase Litton and boast C-USA's best recruiting class who will take the field this year. The Herd are dangerous. And I am afraid.
Jared: Buy. Some times it feels like Marshall is playing on easy mode. They compete year in and year out and succeed on taking risks on talented athletes that other universities pass over for academic/behavioral reasons. I think Doc Holliday is there to stay too.
MTSU Blue Raiders
Cyrus: Buy. One of these season Rick Stockstill will breakthrough and bring home a conference title and this season may be the year. MTSU got themselves a rare head coach who appears to be staying there for the long haul. As long as he's there they will always contend for bowl games.
Fletcher: Push. *all the MTSU fans scroll down cuz the Hilltopper fan is talking* MTSU rode a hot hand to end last year, only to lay an egg in the Bahamas. But, in some regards, getting a bowl game with the start the Raiders had was a victory in and of itself. Like Marshall, the Blue Raiders underwent a QB change (although for different reasons) and found some success. And, while MTSU is on the cusp of being a top-tier C-USA program, they're still well behind WKU and Marshall. At least in 2016.
Jared: Push. MTSU just can't seem to break through. The combination of Richie James and Brent Stockstill will have them beating on the door of a CUSA championship for the next three years but WKU and Marshall offer such stiff competition.
Old Dominion Monarchs
Cyrus: Buy. For a young program ODU has tremendous fan support as Foreman Field is routinely sold out. The Tidewater region is underrated in terms of producing football players and ODU should be able to capitalize by selling early playing time at an up-and-coming school.
Fletcher: Push. I really want ODU to be good. They surprised me with their first year in C-USA behind Taylor Heinicke but lost Heinicke, and a couple more games in 2015. The Monarchs were money in close games last year, but struggled against teams clearly better than them. I see 2016 going either way for the Monarchs.
Jared: Buy. I love ODU. They're located in an underrated talent bed, are investing in facilities, and have a locked-in fanbase. Aggressive out of conference scheduling will keep ODU relevant in their region. I think it's just a matter of time before ODU becomes one of the premier programs in C-USA.
Cyrus: Sell. Can WKU be a consistent winner after Brandon Doughty? What if Jeff Brohm leaves? Too many questions surround WKU. Not recruiting at a great level during the most successful stretch during their time in FBS also has me concerned.
Fletcher: Push. Yes, Brandon Doughty is gone. But, there is still a ton of offensive talent - including a returning offensive line to protect whatever quarterback the Tops go with next year. WKU will regress next year for the first time in nearly half a decade, but when an 8 or 9 win season is a "regression," things are okay.
Jared: Sell. I might be getting into "hater" territory here but I'm of the opinion that WKU's success is tied to just two men-- Brandon Doughty and Jeff Brohm. I can't picture WKU sustaining success if Brohm were to leave and the Hilltoppers may struggle to replace Doughty in the short term. WKU is not a football school and their stadium needs some serious upgrades.