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2017 Conference USA S&P+ Projections: Western Kentucky is still the team to beat in C-USA

Jeff Brohm may be gone but the numbers suggest the Tops aren’t going anywhere.

NCAA Football: Western Kentucky at Miami (Ohio) Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

With the football season over with we are getting very close to our favorite college football preview series as Bill Connelly has released his advanced stats projections for the 2017 season.

Let’s take a look at where Conference USA teams stand as we enter the offseason.

2017 Conference USA S&P+ Projections

Team Rank Recruiting Impact Returning Production Weighted-5 Year Proj. S&P+
Team Rank Recruiting Impact Returning Production Weighted-5 Year Proj. S&P+
Western Kentucky 51 91 24 64 4.1
Louisiana Tech 82 89 90 65 -5.4
Southern Miss 84 82 84 92 -5.7
Middle Tennessee 89 84 89 101 -6.9
UTSA 91 86 85 110 -7.2
Old Dominion 93 118 74 122 -7.7
FAU 99 80 97 107 9
Marshall 101 78 118 53 -9.4
FIU 104 92 98 117 -10.4
North Texas 106 114 100 106 -11.1
Rice 120 124 120 100 -14.3
UTEP 126 123 125 118 -16.8
Charlotte 127 119 126 130 -20
UAB 130 105 130 124 -28.2

Observations

NCAA Football: Old Dominion at Florida International
Who will be this year’s Old Dominion and rise from the middle of the pack?
Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports
  • It’s great to have UAB back.
  • Western Kentucky is easily the class of the conference as they are 31 spots ahead of the next C-USA team. Other teams in C-USA are going to get love in the offseason and the preseason media poll will probably pick Middle Tennessee to win C-USA East again, but Bill’s numbers believe the title still goes through Bowling Green in Mike Sanford’s first year as head coach.
  • FAU and FIU fans should be extremely excited about the state of their football programs but both fanbases might want to temper expectations a bit. These numbers are just another reminder that neither have yet to live up to expectations in C-USA.
  • Conference USA has made great strides and has come a long way from being the first league Bill previewed in his countdown series last year (Bill usually starts from worst conference to best) but the league still has a long ways to go. Half the league is ranked 100th or worse in S&P+ with FAU (99), Old Dominion (93), and UTSA (91) straggling to avoid the mendoza line.
  • The middle of the conference is pretty even as there isn’t much separation from the fifth best team (UTSA) to the 10th (North Texas) as only 15 spots separate the two. That type of parity made for some wild contests and slight upsets in 2016 and the numbers believe we should expect to see the same in 2017.
  • Similar to last year, I think one team in the middle of the pack is going to take a major step forward. In 2016 it was Old Dominion who seized the moment as the Monarchs won 10 games. This year you could make the case for anyone to make that step forward or pick the Monarchs to do so again.
  • Charlotte is near the bottom but keep in mind that as great as Bill’s numbers are they do no favors to upstarts as the weighted 5-year stat drags Charlotte down due to the 49ers not being in the FBS for a majority of that time frame.