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Conference USA Mailbag: Expectations Edition

We talk hot seats, hottest butts, who’ll be the hottest quarterbacks in the future and more.

Southern Miss v Kentucky Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Who will be C-USA’s most improved team next year? (Excluding UAB) - @austinmpriest

UDD: I’m picking Charlotte in the East. A tough schedule likely won’t grant them a big increase in wins but I think the 49ers’ perception as a doormat will be wiped away this season as quarterback Hasaan Klugh polishes his big arm and play-making ability outside of the pocket.

On the West I see a tie between UTSA and UNT for the honors. Both first year coaches worked minor miracles in their first seasons and now have an additional offseason to fine tune their system and insert recruits that more closely fit their schemes.

Realistic expectations for UAB Football this year? - @OSGNelson

UDD: Anything from two to five wins is realistic for UAB. The Blazers will have games where they look like real C-USA competitors but they’ll also have some ugly games where their lack of quality FBS-caliber depth will be exposed and exploited. I would implore UAB fans to track the individual progression of their talented underclassmen more than wins and loses this year. It’s much more encouraging for the future of the program and, in all honestly, more fun as a football fan.

Old Dominion has been ranking pretty high in most of your positional reviews. What chances do you give the Monarchs of beating Virginia Tech or North Carolina? - @austinmpriest

UDD: North Carolina will be replacing a bunch of playmakers on offense, including a new quarterback now that Mitch Trubisky is in the NFL. S&P+ is giving ODU a 25 percent chance of pulling off the upset but with the game being in Norfolk I’d bump it up a bit more. Given ODU’s strong running game and awesome D-line they have a puncher’s chance in pulling off the upset as they could potentially stymie UNC’s often potent offense.

Winning in Lane Stadium however, is going to be tough. S&P+ gives ODU an 11 percent chance at pulling off the upset there. Both Tech and UNC will be breaking in new quarterbacks so you never know. If these contests were played mid-season I’d give the Monarchs a better chance seeing as how their new quarterback would be settled in. Unfortunately, due to the games taking place early in the season it’ll be a tall task for ODU to pull off an upset.

Do you believe the winner of the ODU QB battle can get the team to a bowl game? - @chrismettler19

UDD: Yes. In fact I believe the winner of the quarterback battle can play good enough to put the Monarchs in the Conference USA Championship Game.

Which team from CUSA has the worst, most annoying twitter fan base? - @TailgateSA

UDD: Tough question. Despite some former anguish from Idaho, the only school that we have real Twitter beef with is Louisiana..... Lafayette. For the most part C-USA fanbases have always been pretty fair and civil with us. Speaking from a personal standpoint and not for the site as a whole, MTSU has one fan in particular that is a bit aggravating on the Twitter machine due to his penchant for trying to instigate fights; I’ll let your imagination guess who that might be haha.

Should C-USA & other G5 schools petition for ads on jerseys, or do those deals really only work with good TV coverage? - @NathanMillion

UDD: I can only imagine the “tradition” uproars if this conversation were to actually happen. For college football and the NCAA in general, I just don’t see how they could justify it to their fans. So many things are branded in sports that uniforms seem to be the only thing sacred these days. I can’t imagine the pros out-weighing the cons in that conversation.

Might these new STADIUM games streaming on Twitter really help in an age of cable cord-cutting? - @NathanMillion

UDD: I think it will, it shows that the league is committed to staying on the forefront of streaming and is looking outside of the box to boost TV revenue. The NFL has proven that there is a market for it. So, I hope STADIUM can do a good job engaging that market and producing the games and content that people will want to watch.

Is J’Mar Smith at LA Tech the best QB in the league in 2018 and 2019? - @SixtyFortyShot

UDD: In 2018 Stockstill will still be around, so it’s gonna take a big performance to overtake him. In 2019 there’s a better chance. Smith will be a senior and both White and Stockstill will be gone.

Now, to be in the conversation, we’ll need to see what he can do as a year-long starter. He has shown a lot of promise so far, and La Tech has a great quarterback coach in Tim Rattay. So he certainly has the potential to be the next great C-USA quarterback, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

Can WKU 3-peat as conference champs or does someone else take them down? - @rosdeutscher

UDD: This got me thinking how often this feat has been accomplished. The G5 teams to win three straight conference titles are: Arkansas State (2011-2014), Boise State (2002-2006) and (2008-2010), North Texas (2001-2004), Marshall (1997-2000) and Troy (2006-2010). More teams than I expected.

The Tops have a talented roster with the best quarterback in the conference but I think the transition of having a new coaching staff will be too much in the long run. While it wouldn’t shock me too much to see WKU win C-USA East, I’d be really surprised if they won C-USA again this year and don’t see it happening.

What kind of jump does UTSA make in year 2 under Wilson? - @Hbomb_com

UDD: The Roadrunners should continue to make steady progress forward as more of Frank Wilson’s recruits enter the program. UTSA has a skilled senior quarterback and very few question marks on the roster. The out-of-conference schedule this season is much more manageable than those in the past so it should prevent some of that early season fatigue UTSA has shown in the past. I wouldn’t expect UTSA to go from six to 10 wins over one offseason but the Roadrunners should put up a strong fight for the West division of C-USA.

What is USM's ceiling? - @TadKosciuszko

UDD: About the same as any good football team without an all-conference talent at quarterback. The position is just too important in this sport to elevate to top 30 status without a bonafide gun-slinger under center. I think USM could pull off nine wins this season thanks to an advantageous schedule but road games against Louisiana Tech and UTSA have me thinking eight wins is more realistic.

As far as the long term picture, the Golden Eagles’ ceiling is competing for conference titles annually while being a top-25 team that is capable of knocking off an occasional P5 team. Under Jeff Bower we’ve seen what Southern Miss is capable of so it just takes the right coach for the Golden Eagles to win big. In year two of the Hopson era, we’ll see if the Golden Eagles will look closer to those glory days.

Should CUSA have one specific weekend for all football rivals to face each other, and if so, which weekend would be ideal? - @bootlegbentley

UDD: It hurt to see the conference move the rivalry games out of rivalry weekend but I understand the reasoning. Attendance was falling. Also not many people were tuning in due to the chase for the the College Football Playoff capturing nearly everyone’s attention. As an FAU fan, when the Shula Bowl between the Panthers and Owls was moved from the season finale to the conference opener I was furious.

But after a few years I actually liked it and I’m kinda upset it got moved out of that spot this year. My vote would be to have the majority of the conference’s rivalry games take place as the conference opener as it can be seen as a tone-setter for conference play while giving it an level of importance. If you’re really aiming for a weekend, I’d say moving all the rivalry games to the season opener would be a great way to boost ratings and attendance as everyone is itching for some football. The hype to start the season against a hated rival would be intense and the level of importance would be extremely high.

Which CUSA coaches have the hottest seats? - @MDV483

UDD: You gotta think Sean Kugler and David Bailiff have got some warm bottoms in 2017. At least Bailiff has had a few good seasons to maybe keep himself alive, but Kugler has had just one winning season, a 7-6 finish. Both coaches really need to win this year. The question is, do these two ADs have the guts to pull the trigger?

And then you have Doc Holliday. Now, he absolutely should not be on the hot seat. But, you know, politics. It is disconcerting how fall and how fast Marshall fell off the cliff, but after three straight double digit win seasons, it SHOULD take more than one bad year to put pressure on a guy. Still, another bad season could be just the excuse needed to sent Doc on a permanent holiday.

If you were to simulate the CUSA season where every position on every team is played by a clone of that teams mascot, who would be champion? - @JoelTheTailor

UDD: This is a great question, and you were right to come to us with this. The writers discussed it at length, but ultimately the answer has to be Marshall, right? For USM, you have 11 eagles on the field, for WKU that’s 11 hilltoppers on each side of the ball. But for Marshall that’s an entire HERD playing every position.

How many is a herd? A quick check on Google, and indeed Merriam-Websters did not offer a specific answer, but even if you define a herd as “two,” that’s 22 bison on offense vs 11 roadrunners (or whatever) trying to stop them. As the NCAA rulebook has rules for “too many men on the field,” but nothing about bison, we presume this would be a lock. (Side note: We didn’t see it listed, but we’re pretty sure the rulebook DOES have rules about setting fire to opposing players and/or eating them, which is why we didn’t go with the Blazers).

But now you might be thinking, “Well, bison don’t have thumbs, they couldn’t snap the ball.” And if you’re willing to take it that far, you’re just ruling out all the non-human mascots, which isn’t very fun of you and also discriminatory. If it were just the mascots with opposable thumbs, sure, it’s a Niners/Miners title game, but I like the idea of “11 position herds” too much to award the title anywhere but there. So, to put it more succinctly: The herd is the word.

I'm a senior at La Tech and wanna go to a NY6 bowl. Can that happen this year? - @notthefakeWDL

UDD: It’s not impossible, but I wouldn’t be holding my breath. If Tech can go undefeated they would have a good shot. Obviously, they have to win C-USA to even qualify. Assuming Tech could do that (which they certainly could, although it’s no guarantee), the key schedule-wise is Mississippi State and South Carolina. They aren’t Kansas, but they aren’t Bama, either. An NY6-bound G5 team should be able to beat both, and they’re just good enough for the committee to take notice. Having State at home helps, as well. But Tech would have to beat both to have a decent enough resume. It’s hard to find a loss that could be overcome, other than maybe WKU on the road. Fortunately, C-USA should be a stronger league this year, which helps strength of schedule. Lastly, it depends how the other G5 champs perform, which there’s no telling.

TL;DR: Maybe, but don’t go buying tickets just yet.

Which coaches have the hottest seats? (as in their butts) - @austinmpriest

UDD: There’s only one clear choice here... the “daddy” of Conference USA, Bobby Wilder.

What this season will stop UNT from winning the west of Conference-USA and why is it recruiting :( - @AustinFromUNT

UDD: I wouldn’t say this is a failure on UNT’s part so much as UTSA just doing it better. You know who the 2017 UNT squad out-recruited? The 2016 UNT squad. Look, they went from one win to five in a single year, and if Littrell can make a bowl game with McCarney’s players, he’s a lock from now until forever. Once he has some actual history built up, expect the recruits to take note. The West may not be UNT’s in 2017, but it’s as close as it’s ever been, really.

Which CUSA team has the toughest non-conference schedule, and which team is most likely to have the best record this season? - @The97Revolution

UDD: The toughest non-conference schedule easily belongs to Middle Tennessee. No one else has three power 5 teams on their schedule, and they are all three in a row, two straight on the road. Now, Vandy and Cuse aren’t exactly powerhouses, but three straight is rough no matter what.

As for who is going to have the best record, it’s gotta be between La Tech and WKU. Pretty much whichever team has the better season is probably gonna have the best record. WKU’s advantage is that they get Tech in Bowling Green, and have an easier pair of power 5 opponents. Tech’s advantage is that one of their power 5 games is at home, and they get their two biggest division title challengers at home (USM and UTSA). WKU gets MTSU at home, but has to play at ODU. Note that MTSU could win the conference and not have the best overall record because of their non-conference slate.

What does CUSA need to do to get more national respect? Have teams go 12-0? Or the bottom be better? - @ramincol

UDD: A combination of the two. As an example, look at our fellow G5 conferences, the MW and MAC. Boise State has about as much national respect annually as any Power 5 team, and last year the MAC’s Western Michigan took the NY6 spot despite the MAC not generally being considered one of the better football conferences.

I’m not sure either of these examples have really resulted in more national respect, but they don’t hurt. If the bottom of the MW or MAC (or CUSA) could manage a few more wins, that’d be good, but what really seems to do it is parity. Not “parity” as in “every conference team wins six games,” but the parity you see in P5 conferences, where there’s not just one team dominating, but the top two or three or four are knocking off top competition. Or, to put it in fewer words, “If one team cracks the Top 25, it earns respect for that team. If multiple teams crack the Top 25, you got a power conference on your hands.”