The College Football News 2021 Conference USA preseason rankings along with a quick take on every team.
This is NOT a ranking of where the teams are going to finish. This is based on how good we think the Conference USA teams are going into the 2021 season.
2021 CFN Conference USA Preseason Rankings: East
1. Marshall Thundering Herd
Quick Take: It’s one of the most interesting Group of Five teams coming into the 2021 season – it’s Conference USA title or bust. New head man Charles Huff has to pull the Herd offense out of the nosedive that screwed up 2020, and he’s got the parts in place to do it – especially for the passing game. If the D isn’t the best in the conference, it’s second.
Marshall Preview | Schedule
2. WKU Hilltoppers
Quick Take: The Hilltoppers will be deep in the hunt for the Conference USA title – at the very least, they’ll be among the top three teams. The pass rush will be a killer, but the real fun comes with an upgraded passing game. WKU took the parts from a big-time Houston Baptist air show to revamp the O.
WKU Preview | Schedule
3. Florida Atlantic Owls
Quick Take: Willie Taggart should have his Owls in the mix for the Conference USA title. The lines are among the best in the league, the special teams should be great, and if the quarterback play is fine, everything is there to come up with a big season.
FAU Preview | Schedule
4. FIU Golden Panthers
Quick Take: After an ugly 2020, Butch Davis should have a whole lot more success in 2021. It starts with one of the league’s most talented secondaries, a good kicking game, and a promising ground game that should take more control of games.
FIU Preview | Schedule
5. Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders
Quick Take: The Blue Raiders will be in for a weird season. The team isn’t all that great, but it should push for a bowl game with a whole lot of winnable games built into the slate. The secondary is good thanks to the best group of safeties in the league, but can the offense keep up the pace?
MTSU Preview | Schedule
6. Charlotte 49ers
Quick Take: The 49ers should have a decent passing game, but can the defense hold up? There’s experience, and the coaching is solid, but the schedule doesn’t have a lot of breaks – the 49ers miss most of the easier teams from the West.
Charlotte Preview | Schedule
7. Old Dominion Monarchs
Quick Take: Welcome back, ODU football. After taking last year off, and with head coach Ricky Rahne having to wait a season to get his era going, this is Conference USA’s biggest wild-card team. What’s going to work right away? The offense should get going early on.
ODU Preview | Schedule
NEXT: 2021 CFN Conference USA Preseason Rankings: West
2021 CFN Conference USA Preseason Rankings: West
1. UAB Blazers
Quick Take: It’s a bit of a push to call this the best UAB team yet under Bill Clark, but it’s not going to be all that far off if the skill guys can quickly rise up. The defending Conference USA champ is experienced and talented, but it might be an early grind with a whole lot of September tests.
UAB Preview | Schedule
2. UTSA Roadrunners
Quick Take: After a breakthrough bowl season, the Roadrunners can shoot for even more with a veteran team boasting a whole lot of good parts. RB Sincere McCormick is a star behind a good line, and the defensive back seven and special teams will be a rock.
UTSA Preview | Schedule
3. Louisiana Tech Bulldogs
Quick Take: After a dud of a year when the offense stalled way too often, the Bulldogs at least return experienced. The defense will be the star, though, with the league’s best linebacking corps and a terrific safety tandem to anchor the secondary.
La Tech Preview | Schedule
4. North Texas Mean Green
Quick Take: Can the offense rise up and overcome a rough – but slightly improved – defense? Throw in a sneaky-tough schedule without a whole lot of sure-thing wins, and this could be a rocky year. However, the O line is good and the scoring should come in bunches – every game should be fun.
UNT Preview | Schedule
5. Southern Miss Golden Eagles
Quick Take: One of the league’s biggest wild cards coming off a strange 3-7 season, the Golden Eagles might not be all that great, and there are major flaws – the lines have to be a whole lot better – but the record will be fantastic against a more-than-manageable slate.
USM Preview | Schedule
6. Rice Owls
Quick Take: If the Owls can finally get the offense to work, this is a bowl bound team that’s going to be a thorn in everyone’s side. There’s nothing scintillating about the Rice attack, but the defense, special teams, coaching and experience should be enough to be a problem.
Rice Preview | Schedule
7. UTEP Miners
Quick Take: Here’s the problem – most of Conference USA is loaded with experience and talent. There are a few winnable games, and the ground game should be okay, but the defense doesn’t have enough top-shelf parts.
UTEP Preview | Schedule