Conference USA has always been home to talented athletes and exciting teams. The quality of play is often overlooked since it isn’t a Power 5 conference. In addition, these schools are often dealt losses to big name powers as part of money games. Unfortunately, this causes casual fans to frame their perception of the program based on a single result. This is a very exciting league to follow and I can’t wait for kickoff.

2021 saw great play from UTSA, Western Kentucky, UAB and others. The excitement was highlighted by the Hilltoppers relentless air assault. Quarterback Bailey Zappe threw for 5,967 yards, and he was augmented by wide receivers Jerreth Sterns (150 receptions, 1,902 yards, 17 TD’s) and Mitchell Tinsley (87 receptions, 1,402 yards, 14 TD’s). Frank Harris and the Roadrunners burst onto the national scene and captured the conference. The UAB Blazers produced a stellar defense and punishing ground game.

As we see the Power 5 conferences realign to form mega conferences, we can’t forget the ripple effect it has elsewhere. Conference USA has seen its share of movement and there is more coming. Movement for a Group of 5 conference can have positive and negative impacts.

Departed Conference USA after the 2021-22’ Academic Year:

  • Marshall Thundering Head
  • Southern Miss Golden Eagles
  • Old Dominion Monarchs

Leaving Conference USA after the 2022-23’ Academic Year:

  • UTSA Roadrunners
  • UAB Blazers
  • Rice Owls
  • North Texas Mean Green
  • FAU Owls
  • Charlotte 49ers

Coming to Conference USA after the 2022-23’ Academic Year:

  • Liberty Flames
  • New Mexico State Aggies
  • Jacksonville State Gamecocks (Coming from FCS)
  • Sam Houston State (Coming from FCS)

The 2022 Conference USA Institutions:

  • Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
  • UTSA Roadrunners
  • UTEP Miners
  • UAB Blazers
  • Rice Owls
  • FAU Owls
  • North Texas Mean Green
  • MTSU Blue Raiders
  • Charlotte 49ers
  • FIU Panthers
  • Louisiana Tech Bulldogs

I have to admit, the mascot names in this conference are fantastic.


  • UTSA QB FRANK HARRIS: He had a tremendous 2021 campaign and has the tools and playmakers to be even better this Fall.
  • Honorable Mentions: UTEP QB Gavin Hardison and UAB RB DeWayne McBride.



  • Defending Champions, so the spotlight is bright in San Antonio.
  • Can QB Frank Harris repeat a great 2021?
  • Excited to see if WR Zakhari Franklin can take his game higher.
  • They will need to replace RB Sincere McCormick and his 1,479 rushing yards.
  • The Roadrunners scored 36.9 PPG in 2021 and allowed 23.6 PPG.
  • They owned the 2nd best run defense in the conference, allowing 111 rushing yards per game.
  • Can they replace Clarence Hicks and his 10.5 sacks?
  • The defense will look toward CB Corey Mayfield and Safety Rashad Wisdom for impact plays.
  • Can the Roadrunners handle the pressure and live up to expectations?


  • Coming off a 9-4 campaign
  • Legendary Head Coach Bill Clark retired during the offseason due to health concerns. He built the program back up from scratch after it was shutdown briefly. He was a major voice in revitalizing the Blazers and getting a new stadium built. He totaled a career record of 49-26, with 2 CUSA Titles, 3 division titles and 4 bowl games.
  • The Interim Head Coach will be Offensive Coordinator Bryant Vincent.
  • The offense must improve slightly from the 29 PPG in 2021.
  • The Blazers offense is run oriented behind 2 stellar lineman, Sidney Wells and Matthew Trehern.
  • The Blazers attack is fueled by Running Backs DeWayne McBride and Jermaine Brown.
  • The defense allowed 22.8 PPG in 2021, which was 2nd in the league. It is slightly inflated by the 56 points they allowed to the Georgia Bulldogs. If you remove that game, they allowed 20 a game.
  • This teams destiny is tied to their running game and maintaining a stellar run defense.
  • Can the Blazers go from good to great in 2022?


  • QB Gavin Hardison is the key….he threw for 3,218 yards and 18 Touchdowns last year, but he also had 13 Interceptions. If he can improve his touchdown to interception ratio, the Miners will be in a good spot.
  • The Miners live in the air, but they will need to replace the top 2021 target Jacob Cowing, who transferred to Arizona. Keep an eye on Wide Receivers Justin Garrett and Tyrin Smith to rise up and showcase their skills.
  • In an effort to balance the offense, expect RB Ronald Awatt to see an increased workload.
  • The Miners scored 25.12 PPG in conference play, but they gave up 25.2. This must change if they are to challenge for the title.
  • The Miners defense was the 2nd best in the conference based on yards allowed. They gave up 339 yards a game, 204 of which were in the air.
  • This defense is built around 2 stud defensive tackles; Praise Amaewhule and Keenan Stewart.
  • The linebacker corp has a lot of talent, spearheaded by Trice Knight (5th in CUSA with 101 tackles in 2021) and Breon Hayward.
  • Can the Miners blend a stellar defense and efficient offense into victories?


  • Will this be the season that the offense takes off?
  • The 49ers averaged 27.2 PPG in 2021, which was 9th in the league.
  • They averaged 404 Yards Per Game (5th in C-USA), 253.6 of which was in the air.
  • They had a balanced offense in terms of yards, totaling the 6th best passing attack and 7th best ground game.
  • QB Chris Reynolds….can he take the next step from 2,680 passing yards, 26 TD’s and 9 INT’s?
  • Can the ground game improve…RB’s Shadrick Byrd and Calvin Camp combined for 245 carries, 1,218 yards and 7 TD’s. They also had an impact in the passing game. This pair will be relied on heavily and if they can improve the team’s fortune’s might follow.
  • They also have a pair of very talented Wide Receivers returning this Fall in Victor Tucker and Grant DuBose. Tucker had a phenomenal 2019, but has not matched that production the past 2 years, can he return to form? DuBose burst onto the scene during his freshman campaign with 892 yards and 6 TD’s, so expectations are high for him.
  • The real question marks for this program are on defense. They gave up 34 points a game as well as 465 yards a game. 204 of those yards per game were allowed on the ground.
  • DE Markees Watts led the team with 6 sacks and the team only had 17. They need to find a pass rush in 2022.
  • Another element of the defense that needs to improve is forcing turnovers, they only forced 14 last year.
  • The success of this team is based on program growth on both sides of the ball.


  • North Texas at UTEP (Week 0)
  • UTSA at MTSU (Week 5)
  • UTEP at Charlotte (Week 5)
  • Western Kentucky at UTSA (Week 6) 2021 C-USA TITLE GAME REMATCH
  • MTSU at UAB (Week 6)
  • Charlotte at UAB (Week 7)
  • FAU at UTEP (Week 8)
  • UAB at Western Kentucky (Week 8)
  • UTSA at UAB (Week 10)
  • Louisiana Tech at UTSA (Week 11)
  • UTEP at UTSA (Week 13)


  • The Sun Bowl at UTEP


-This campaign will be much tougher with 5 to 7 schools equipped to reach the top. Since the league has moved to 11 schools, the conference is following the trend of eliminating divisions. I expect UTSA, UTEP, UAB, FAU and Western Kentucky to battle it out. When the dust settles, i think the conference will mimic classic cartoons and the UTSA Roadrunners will emerge victorious.

Buckle up and tune into Conference USA for an exciting season!

Don’t forget to tune into The Irrational Confidence Podcast (@IRConfidencePod on Twitter) for weekly college football preview and recap episodes. We’re available on all podcast platforms and the Spinnable Sports YouTube page.


Host of The Irrational Confidence Podcast and Contributor to Spinnable Sports #CollegeFootball #NFL #MLB #NBA #NHL #EPL #UCL On Twitter @SS_2FRESH

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